By Sahil Patel
CollegeHumor is set to release its first full-length feature film this week. And foregoing the traditional practice of launching the film in theatres and marketing it via traditional media methods, the comedy site plans to distribute it directly via on-demand digital platforms like iTunes and Amazon, and will market the film using its social media channels.
The independent film, “Coffee Town” (trailer below), is written and directed by Brad Copeland (“Arrested Development,” “Wild Hogs”) and stars Glenn Howerton (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), Ben Schwartz (“Parks & Recreation”), Adrianne Palicki (“Friday Night Lights”), Steve Little (“Eastbound & Down”), and Josh Groban (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”).
The film tells the story of a man (Howerton) who telecommutes from his favorite coffee shop. When he discovers plans to turn the coffee shop into an upscale bistro, he plots with his friends to stage a fake crime, which would prevent the transition from happening.
CollegeHumor plans to release “Coffee Town” on Tuesday, July 9, across digital outlets like iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and PlayStation. The hope is that CollegeHumor, which has an established audience, will be able to market the film to its audience, without needing to spend marketing dollars on traditional media campaigns, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We think that there are some movies that need to buy a lot of TV ads and be in 3,000 theaters to be successful,” CollegeHumor co-founder Ricky Van Veen told the LA Times. “But something like ‘Coffee Town’ we believe can find an audience without those bells and whistles.”
This is because “Coffee Town” is a smaller film (the Times reports that the budget was below $1 million), which means producers and filmmakers are not under pressure to generate huge grosses to justify a giant production and marketing budget.
Direct distribution something to keep an eye on, as indie filmmakers look for other ways to get their projects financed and distributed beyond the old Hollywood/studio system. Last week, the filmmakers behind “Some Girls,” a romantic dramedy starring Adam Brody (“The O.C.”) and Kristen Bell (“Veronica Mars”) debuted on Vimeo’s new On Demand offering. We’ve also seen comedians like Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, and Jim Gaffigan release comedy specials directly online, instead of a cable channel like HBO. And even studios like Sony and Disney are testing this model out (albeit in other countries).
So direct distribution is definitely a conversation worth having as the film industry tries to stay level with changes in content consumption. Still, if this past weekend’s box office numbers are any suggestion, there is still a lot of money in putting a film out in 3,000+ theaters. So it’s more likely that the smaller indie far, such as “Coffee Town” and “Some Girls,” pave the way for future filmmakers.
And to be fair, it’s not like CollegeHumor is completely ignoring traditional media. The site plans to screen the film in select theaters before hosting its official premiere at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal on July 27. Van Veen also noted to the LA Times that a future cable release is not exactly out of the question.
“Coffee Town” is produced by Van Veen and Kathryn Dean.
Check out the red-band trailer: