Kristen Bell and Rob Thomas launch ‘Veronica Mars’ movie Kickstarter campaign

A “Veronica Mars” movie has hovered somewhere between rumor and fantasy ever since the CW canceled the Kristen Bell teen detective drama back in 2007. The show’s creator Rob Thomas has tried to get a film spin-off made on several occasions, and says that he and producer Joel Silver once came close before Warner Bros., which owns the rights to the show and its characters, decided it wasn’t worth the money it would cost to make, market and release such a film.

But rather than let the dream die altogether, Thomas has come up with an outlandish idea that will either fail spectacularly or get the movie made – and if he succeeds, may change the future prospects for many beloved but low-rated projects.

Thomas is going to try to fund a “Veronica Mars” movie on Kickstarter.

As first reported by Entertainment Weekly
, “Veronica Mars” fans will be able to contribute money directly to the project via the crowd-funding website – here’s the “Veronica Mars” movie page – and starting today, everyone has 30 days to generate the $2 million minimum necessary to get the movie (which Thomas would write and direct) made, and to get production started in time that Bell could film it during her hiatus from Showtime’s “House of Lies.” If the project doesn’t meet that goal within the time limit, no one pays anything and the movie idea goes away forever.

“I have never fallen so deeply in love with a character,” Bell told EW. ” We all became so close, and the cancellation of the show left a huge hole in my heart. I would have put on Veronica Mars: The Circus to bring it back.”

In addition to having a chance to see Veronica, Keith, Logan, and the rest of the gang again for the first time in years(*) – with a story likely tied to Veronica’s 10-year high school reunion – fans who contribute money will get a variety of rewards depending on how much they contribute. (Based on what I know of Kickstarter rewards, the $35 price point – which includes a digital download of the movie the Monday after it’s released – seems like it will be the most popular.) You can read the full list of rewards on the Kickstarter page, and there’s also an NSFW video (which I’ve embedded below) – featuring Bell, Thomas and a few other familiar faces – that explains how this will work. The scope of the movie will depend on how much money is raised: on the Kickstarter page, Thomas explains the $2 million minimum “probably means cross words are exchanged at the class reunion. Three million? We can afford a full-on brawl. Ten million? Who knows… For some reason the Neptune High class reunion takes place on a nuclear submarine! A Hobbit shows up! There”s a Bollywood end-credit dance number! I”ve always wanted to direct Bill Murray. We”ll figure out something cool.”

(*) Short version for those who didn’t watch it back in the UPN or CW days: “Veronica Mars” was an unlikely, and often brilliant, blend of teen drama and film noir. Bell played Veronica, high school student in a California beach town where everyone was fabulously wealthy or poor (before there was Occupy Wall Street, there was Neptune), who picked up detective skills from her ex-sheriff father Keith (Enrico Colantoni) and helped classmates with small problems while also investigating major crimes like the murder of her best friend Lilly (Amanda Seyfried). The final season took Veronica and friends to college, and as a Hail Mary attempt to convince the CW to renew in spite of low ratings, Thomas pitched a major revamp that would leap forward several years and feature Veronica as a rookie FBI agent.

Towards the end of his essay on that Kickstarter page, Thomas notes, “So this is it. This is our shot. I believe it’s the only one we’ve got. It’s nerve-wracking. I suppose we could fail in spectacular fashion, but there’s also the chance that we completely revolutionize how projects like ours can get made.”

This could, indeed, be a huge moment for beloved cult series and movies. If it works, this could change the game for fans of canceled shows with a similar profile, where the overall audience wasn’t big enough to keep it on the air, but passionate enough to fund some kind of follow-up project like this. (Before Dan Harmon was fired from “Community,” he had several Twitter discussions about the idea of financing additional seasons – or, at least, a movie – in the event NBC didn’t renew the show.)  This has been tried on a smaller scale – Jane Espenson raised $60,000 to help fund the second season of her web comedy “Husbands” via Kickstarter – but if Thomas can get his $2 million (or, he hopes, much more than that) than it’s easy to imagine others trying to follow his example.

What does everybody think? If you’re a “Veronica Mars” fan who’s wanted that movie – or even a fan of some other project you’d love to see get the Kickstarter treatment – are you going to put your money where your mouth is? Or do you feel like a show owned by a big company like Warner Bros. shouldn’t have to rely on the customer to provide the budget for even a small project like this? And do you think this show is the ideal canary for this particular coal mine, or would some other cult hit be a better test of whether the Kickstarter model can work for TV?

UPDATE: At the time I’m writing this (1:14 p.m. Eastern, after the campaign launched around 10:37 a.m.), they’ve already raised $573,644, and I imagine that number to be significantly higher even by the time I finish the paragraph. That’s more than a quarter of the way to the initial goal in less than 3 hours. The momentum will inevitably slow – possibly as late as tonight – but it’s hard to imagine a circumstance where the movie doesn’t get funded at this point. Now, the only question is how high the budget will get.

UPDATE #2: Well, the campaign cleared the $1 million barrier in under 5 hours, a new Kickstarter record, and is closing in on $1.5 million as I type this at 5:34 p.m. Eastern. They will likely clear the $2 million barrier within the next day (if not within the next few hours). All Thomas, Bell and company have to do now is sell their fans on the movie will be at that $2 million budget versus, say, $5 or even $10. But there will be a “Veronica Mars” movie of some kind being filmed this summer.