After collecting a record-breaking $2.4M on Indiegogo two years ago to become one of the top crowd-sourcing funds ever in film for its live-action, sci-fi movie Lazer Team, the Austin-based Rooster Teeth can now tout that the film has sold $1M in pre-sales for a theatrical release. And, no, that’s not a typo. It’s actually done so via an interesting distribution model that has grabbed the millennials and online junkies. Basically, cinema on demand. Rooster Teeth, the company behind this film, hooked up with another Austin-based firm — crowdsourcing company called Tugg — which has allowed them to get the movie into theaters and pre-sell tickets online. The screenings are taking place in theaters worldwide from Canada to the U.K. and Australia/New Zealand. And the fans are coming out in droves.
In essence, the fans for Lazer Team are driving the success of the film in theaters by buying up tickets to get screen time all over the world. So, if I am a fan, in say, St. Louis and I want to see the film, I would contact Tugg online and say we want to see the film in Missouri. If the pre-sales meet a certain threshold, Tugg will then work with the fans to bring the film to St. Louis.
“The crowdsourcing mechanism eliminates the risk for the exhibitor because of pre-sales. It also creates a very social environment. Unlike a traditional process of buying a ticket, the ticket buyers here become a team and activate their own channels to create an audience for the film,” Tugg CEO Nicolas Gonda told Deadline. “In this case, the content owner is also able to communicate directly to the ticket buyers and can incentivize the first generation in various ways. So, for Lazer Team, Rooster Teeth gave (ticket buyers) discounts and coupons to their online store as well as promised cast and crew appearances around the world to events that sold out quickest.” Spots where they sold the quickest? Burbank, Austin, Seattle, Cincinnati and Sydney. And yes, cast and crew are showing up to meet fans.
In Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. moviegoers were lined up around the block to see the showing of Lazer Team. How are they doing this? First of all, there were double the amount of ticket buyers to backers for Lazer Team as the popularity for the title has grown over the past two years. Rooster Teeth has more than 25 million subscribers across its network of channels and are promoting to their fans through that. For Tugg events, Gonda notes that where they have sold 20 tickets immediately, 90% of the time they will definitely sell at least 125 tickets. In Australia, they had 800 fans show up for one showing.
This is not the first time an non-traditional distribution model has established itself. Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F from FUNimation opened in a smattering of theaters last year in a sporadic run and the fan turnout fueled its box office and kept the movie in theater longer than anticipated. It played over the initial plan of a week and garnered $8.4M, surpassing Disney’s total domestic grosses of Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle ($4.7M) and The Wind Rises. It was impressive, given that the Disney movies were in theaters many weeks. Resurrection F became the first indie in the Top 10 highest-grossing Anime films domestically.
The key to the success of Lazer Team? Gonda hits the nail on the head: “This is providing a communal experience for fans of online content,” he said. Something fans rarely get outside of conventions.
In 2014, Tugg closed its Series A funding in a round led by production and distribution company Broad Green Pictures. The additional money has allowed Tugg to expand its sales force and development efforts as part of a multi-year product plan. It’s so far is paying off.
In fact, demand in the U.K. led Tugg to screen the film both there and in Ireland through a collaboration with National Amusements, ODEON, Empire and Vue cinemas. Then, in response to the success of that screening, they expanded into 60 theaters. Some are running the film for one week, others (because of the demand) for longer.
Tugg also added 150 showtimes in February in cities around the U.S. Tugg launched at South by Southwest four years ago.
Rooster Teeth Prods. is well-known in the online world and is Fullscreen’s production company. The studio is behind both Red Vs. Blue (the longest-running web series to date) and also Immersion, which is a show that tests video game concepts in the real world. The company also created an annual gamer/Internet convention in Austin called RTX, which takes place every year the first week of July. They also lay claim to producing the animated series RWBY and say its the first western anime series to be distributed in Japan. How? Through Warner Brothers Home Entertainment/Japan.
“Lazer Team’s success is a testament to the power of the Rooster Teeth community,” said George Strompolos, Founder and CEO of Fullscreen, and Executive Producer on Lazer Team. “We are reimagining what a modern studio can achieve and look forward to bringing more great content like Lazer Team directly to fans worldwide.” Lazer Team will debut on YouTube Red in early February.
So what the heck is Lazer Team? The film is about four small-town losers who stumble across an alien crash site containing a battle suit. One round of bickering and a quick scuffle later, they each find themselves wearing a piece of the suit, which has genetically bound itself to them. Now, they must work together as one to save humanity. With the government chasing after them and desperate to remove their new equipment at any cost, the foursome must learn to use a strange alien device meant for only one person, train for a battle against an omnipotent enemy, and not kill each other in the process. They may not be strong, smart, or talented… but, hence, the Lazer Team.
The action comedy was directed by Matt Hullum and written by Burnie Burns, Chris Demarais, Josh Flanagan, and Matt Hullum. The film stars English actor and The Slow Mo Guys creator Gavin Free. Burnie Burns, Michael Jones, Colton Dunn, Allie DeBerry, and Alan Ritchson also star.