Mamo #345: Veronica Mamo

10 years after Serenity, what do we make of the latest fanbase-cum-motion-picture boondoggle, Veronica Mars, and its digital-download boondoggle, UltraViolet? Plus conversation about The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ghostbusters III, Star Wars VII, and more vidja game movies. Also, be careful: we speak out about Apple, which apparently carries vast cosmic karmic consequences.

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Matthew Fabb

In taking about box office for Veronica Mars it only opened in 291 theatres. This was because no movie theatre chain would carry the movie regularly since it was out on video on demand at the same time and theatre chains demand a 90 day delay before release dates. So the way Warner Brothers got around this was they actually rented out the theatres in AMC in the US. That said, it was still small enough that if you weren’t in a major city you weren’t going to see it. So a lot a fans who were too far just watched their own version or bought a version.

Anyways, on the opening weekend, it managed the highest theatre average than any other movie in the top 10. That said, the movie did have a huge drop the second weekend. Still I think it could have had a bigger opening weekend if it had opened to a larger number of theatres, as it wasn’t going to be something fans would just wait for when it’s available online.

The creator Rob Thomas has said that so far signs are good for a possible sequel.

As a fan of smaller niche material, I like the idea of Kickstarter with fans buy a bunch of merchandise and help provide enough money to make a movie. Yeah, it’s crazy for say the 10,000 range where a fan buys themselves a speaking role, but the majority of the money came from fans getting things like t-shirts, dvd/blu-rays, posters.

The whole UltraViolet & Flixster was a quite the mess. When the kickstarter launched it was just announced that it would be a digital release. People didn’t know it would be UltraViolet or perhaps some might have not gone for that. You could apparently buy it from another outlet, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, etc. and then ask for a refund from the UltraViolet help desk.

I’m a fan of the series and I absolutely loved the movie and it seems most fans really enjoyed it as well. I would love to see more smaller niche series sell this way to fans to fund it. I remember back in the day, Joss Whedon tried to get small Buffy movies for straight-to-DVD but he couldn’t convince anyone to give him the budget for it despite how well the series sold on DVD. There’s many more examples that I think this could be a model for.

Dan Heaton

Matthew beat me to the comment about it only being 291 theaters. The analysis that I’ve read has been positive about its box office performance. Since they don’t report VOD sales, it’s possible that it did pretty well overall. I paid $7 to watch it through Amazon Instant (with mixed results), and I know others who did the same.

While I don’t have an issue with anyone disliking the film (there are some issues even for fans), the idea that it’s a failure and show that this formula doesn’t work isn’t really the point for me. It didn’t cross over, but playing on such few screens meant that it wasn’t playing for a lot of people who wanted to see it.


There is a key difference between not getting DVD production and not getting streaming. If you hand your content over 1 DVD manufacturer, they don’t have leverage to dictate prices. Apple can dictate prices with iTunes, something any savvy business wants to avoid.

I agree UV and other services are terrible. But I understand from a business standpoint why movie studios don’t hand over their IP to Apple.

Matthew Fabb

Veronica Mars was available from Apple iTunes and other such online stores, it was just not available for Kickstarter backers. From a business perspective it meant Warner Brothers was able to keep a larger amount of money going through UltraViolet. Going through the Google Play store or Apple iTunes would have meant handing over 30% of the money collected. Money that was spent making the movie in the first place. I’m not sure Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas thought that through when he originally set up the Kickstarter.


That is a good point of clarification.

The point of the podcast was why not hand over digital distribution to someone who knows what they are doing (ie. iTunes or Google) rather than use Ultra Violet? Then the point was made that DVD production would never be undertaken by the studios themselves.

My counter argument is that DVD production has a lot of options. If DVD maker A is not giving you a good deal, go to DVD maker B. iTunes is so poweful that they can state here is the cut you will receive for $9.99 movie. There may be some negotiating room for Pixar or Star Wars, but your average movie has not leverage ability with Apple.

So of course the studios don’t like that system and want to try UV. Its not they don’t understand limitations in physical media and don’t understand them in the digital realm.

But if they want to fight Apple and Google, they need to make a service that is as good or better.