Kickstarter funding brings 'Veronica Mars' movie to life

Sarah Rappaport, special to
Veronica Mars crowdfunders 'enjoyed the ride'
Veronica Mars crowdfunders 'enjoyed the ride'

Seven years after the TV show was taken off-air, the "Veronica Mars" movie hits theaters and on-demand services on Friday thanks to crowdfunding service Kickstarter.

Over 90,000 fans of the "Veronica Mars" TV show, which aired from 2004-2007, opened up their check books to the tune of $5.7 million to make the film a reality. The original Kickstarter campaign was for $2 million, but the contributions nearly tripled the original ask.

(Read more: Let thegreat crowdfunding revolution begin ... soon)

Kelsey McNeal | CBS Photo Archive | Getty Images

Rob Thomas, the film's director and co-writer said that he had been trying to get the "Veronica Mars" movie off the ground for years, and crowdfunding seemed like its last hope.

"I had seen a friend of mine raise $10,000 to fund an album he was making and I started wondering what would happen if we tried to raise a couple of million dollars to fund the 'Veronica Mars' movie. At the time the largest Kickstarter project ever was $900,000 and my fear was that $2 million was a ridiculous amount of money to ask for," Rob Thomas told CNBC.

(Read more: SECplaces restrictions on crowdfunding)

"We raised the first million dollars in the first four hours, and in 12 hours we had hit our goal of $2 million," Thomas said.

Part of the way Thomas, and the film's star Kristen Bell, attracted funding to the project was through Kickstarter Perks. Depending on the amount of money donated, funders received perks from T-shirts to tickets to the red carpet premiere. A donor who pledged $10,000 for the film even got a walk-on speaking part.

Everybody can invest in equity crowdfunding
Everybody can invest in equity crowdfunding

So is crowdfunding the next big thing in film financing? Not necessarily, according to some experts.

"Crowdfunding only serves as a marketing gimmick for larger projects with stars or franchise IP (intellectual property) attached to it," says Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer Peter Kaufman.

"Fundraising serves the dual purpose of raising some funds but for projects with so-called 'bankable elements' like 'Veronica Mars,' a project with franchise IP or projects involving recognizable talent like Zach Braff or Spike Lee. It's all about tapping into an existing fan base that wants to support and in some ways be a part of these projects. These kinds of projects often offer walk-on roles or end title thank you credits as an incentive," he said.

James Dyer, editor-in-chief (digital) for film magazine Empire, takes a similar view.

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"There has been a landslide of projects using Kickstarter for funding since Veronica Mars made its target, most of which will never get off the ground. I do think it's a valuable tool for funding projects that have no other way to raise the funds but equally it only works if you can generate an upswell of interest (by,say, having a pre-existing TV show with a rabidly enthusiastic fan base)," said Dyer.

He thinks the film will be a critical success, although it's hard to say whether it will make a significant profit.

"Thomas is a great writer with a gift for crackling dialogue and suitably serpentine mystery plots so I suspect it will do well critically. With luck it's accessible enough to break out of the TV's fan base," Dyer said.

By Sarah Rappaport, special to