Does the Crowdfunded ‘Veronica Mars’ Movie Represent the Future of Hollywood?

Kristen Bell returns as the titular character in the Veronica Mars movie. Credit: Warner Bros.

The Veronica Mars movie is the result of what may be the most successful crowdfunding campaign in history. Screenwriter and Mars creator Rob Thomas teamed with star Kristen Bell to raise funds on Kickstarter one year ago and came away with $5.7 million to cover production costs for a movie. Last weekend, the film opened to $1.99 million in grosses while playing on 291 U.S. screens via Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) distribution network. Is this model the future of genre filmmaking?

Host Ellen Bowman puts the question to analysts Nathan Alderman and Tim Beyers in this week's episode of 1-Up On Wall Street, The Motley Fool's web show in which we talk about the big-money names behind your favorite movies, toys, video games, comics, and more.

Nathan says there's a lot to like about the model. With a pre-sold audience and paid-up production costs, the risk to distributors such as Warner Bros. is minimal. Meanwhile, fans get a greater say in funding the sorts of content they want to see, when they want to see it. A win-win for all, or so it would seem.

In the case of the Veronica Mars movie, Nathan says he purchased a same-day-as-theaters digital download encoded with the "UltraViolet" cloud-based digital rights management system, and it didn't like the cable he was using to attach his computer to his TV. What should have been a high-definition experience on a newer widescreen played back in disappointing standard definition.

Tim notes that distribution is bound to get trickier in the on-demand era and Hollywood's strictures aren't likely to ease the transition. Yet it's also worth remembering that we've seen the fund-first model work many times before -- except that it's not usually crowds of fans but deep-pocketed stars who fund projects directly via their own production companies. Either way, it's likely we'll see more self-funded films in the years ahead, Tim says.

Now it's your turn to weigh in using the comments box below. Have you see the Veronica Mars movie? Do you think it's a win for Warner? Please watch the video as Ellen puts Tim and Nathan on the spot, and be sure to check back here often for more 1-Up On Wall Street segments.

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