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The race to be the next 'Veronica Mars'

The project raised millions on Kickstarter. Consider Hollywood’s interest piqued.

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The night before he launched the Kickstarter campaign to make a Veronica Mars movie, creator Rob Thomas couldn’t sleep. He’d generally felt optimistic about the fund-raising gamble, which sought to amass $2 million and bring the canceled but beloved TV show to the big screen. But at that moment, he was plagued by doubt. ”Oh my God. What if the fan support that Kristen [Bell] and I have been feeling for the last six years is really just 20 loud people?” he recalls thinking.

Fortunately, the campaign went better than anyone could have imagined. The Veronica Mars movie effort, which was announced on EW.com, reached its $2 million goal in less than 11 hours, thereby guaranteeing that Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, which had already inked an agreement with Thomas, would market and distribute the resulting film. In fact, as of press time, they’d raised a staggering $3.7 million with 25 days left in the monthlong fund-raising period, and Thomas has set a new goal in his head: ”Anything over $5 million, I’m pretty damn happy.”

Mars‘ incredible success has, at least theoretically, opened the door for more cult faves to get the Kickstarter comeback treatment. Thomas has previously said he’s spoken with Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller about launching a similar initiative. Chuck star Zachary Levi has been vocal about wanting to make a film version of his nerdy action comedy. ”Veronica Mars, like Chuck, is a Warner Brothers [property],” Levi tells EW. ”Because Warner Brothers has now opened that gate, I feel confident in being able to get the same results for a Chuck movie.” And Joss Whedon has already had to shoot down speculation over a potential Firefly reunion. (He’s busy in the Marvel universe, and Nathan Fillion is booked up with Castle.)

There’s interest, sure. But will there really be a wave of productions following the Mars model? ”I’m not sure if most of our dead shows could be turned into a $2 million indie,” says one Hollywood agent. ”Not sure about the budget, and not sure anyone would care.” Another issue? The formidable legwork required to strike the Warner Bros. deal and run a massive Kickstarter campaign. ”It’s been a year and a half of unpaid toil,” admits Thomas, who estimates that 30 percent of the money raised will go to fulfilling Kickstarter rewards (including everything from digital editions of the script to T-shirts to private screenings of the film). And that’s a point Thomas would gladly make to anyone who thinks it’s gauche to ask fans to ”donate” to a studio production. ”[Supporters] get a product in return,” he says. ”You’re getting stuff I think you would pay for anyway. You’re just prebuying it, and by prebuying it, you’re showing the studio that there is enough market interest to [make] this movie worthwhile.”