The Marshmallows turned out in droves this weekend to check out the theatrical debut of Veronica Mars. The Kickstarter-funded, cult TV show adaptation opened to a cool $2 million from 291 theaters (265 in the U.S.), earning the pic a spot on the top 10 according, to initial estimates.
The PG-13 pic was also released simultaneously on VOD — free for Kickstarter backers who’d contributed $35 or more to the record-breaking campaign, but also available for purchase or rental through digital download services such as iTunes or Amazon. The industry has not gotten into a mode where they share VOD earnings, but the multi-platform availability clearly did not dissuade fans from making the trek to the theaters.
But, is it a success?
In a note to Kickstarter backers coinciding with Friday’s release, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas wrote: “My number one goal for Veronica Mars was to make our fans happy.” He added: “Do I still hope Veronica Mars does well in movie theaters, and sells a hundred billion copies on opening weekend? Of course I do. And is there a number I’ve discussed with Warner Bros. that would make it easier to start talking about a sequel? Of course there is. The more audience we can show for Veronica Mars, the better the odds that we’ll get to do this again in the future.”
Warner Bros.’ executive vice president of theatrical distribution Jeff Goldstein was happy with the opening, telling EW: “Our result starting with our Thursday fan events was $260K. You add that together with our weekend for a total of $2 million from 291 theaters? That’s pretty significant.”
This might not change the model for filmmaking and distribution as we know it, but Warner Bros. does have a few takeaways. “We recognize going forward that there’s room in the marketplace for huge movies, medium movies, and boutique films for a very specific audience,” says Goldstein. The biggest obstacle with this particular model was convincing movie theater owners to take a gamble and show the film theatrically, knowing that it would also be available on VOD — and free for many backers, who are arguably the most passionate of the fan base. AMC came through, and Goldstein says it was “hugely successful” for the chain.
“In so many of their complexes, Veronica Mars was the No. 1 movie for the entire weekend, far exceeding the next closest movie,” says Goldstein. “It’s not the number of theaters, it’s the quality of the theaters and the number of seats you can make available so that the patrons in the area can go see the movie. That’s what happened this weekend — they flocked.” The per theater average was about $6,945.
As for sequel possibilities? “We haven’t had that conversation yet,” says Goldstein. “We wanted to get through this weekend and then sit down and figure out where we’re going.” That includes looking at VOD numbers, which may actually be released. Take note, Marshmallows — everyone may be staying mum on what magic number they needed to hit, but there could be an answer soon. Goldstein says: “In a week we’ll have a better sense.”