I saw Veronica Mars, thanks to a $35 donation, 3 websites, 2 apps and an $8 movie ticket

Gigaom

Let’s begin with a disclosure/disclaimer: I was a fan of Veronica Mars when it first premiered in 2004, and remained a fan through its three-season run. While I was disappointed when it was canceled, I didn’t spend the seven years since mourning it too much; in fact, it wasn’t until the morning that series creator Rob Thomas unveiled his record-breaking Kickstarter campaign for a film-length follow-up that I realized how much I wanted to see that movie.

So, like 25 percent of the film’s more than 91,000 backers, I contributed to the campaign at the $35 level, and over the last year I have thus received a T-shirt, stickers and almost 90 Kickstarter emails from Thomas about the progress of the project. Friday, I received the final rewards from my pledge — digital copies of the film and the screenplay. I also went to see the movie at a movie theater. It’s been a long day with Veronica Mars.

$35 donors got to log into some websites!

On Wednesday (Kickstarter campaign status update #88), it was announced how exactly us donors would be receiving our copies of the movie:

In the end, Flixster was the only service able to provide download codes to all of our backers, in all countries, on the same date, without restricting where the movie could be screened or sold. (Which, if you ask us, is pretty awesome.) If it was possible to let you choose your preferred download service, we would.

That wording might suggest that the reason for this decision was down to technical issues — except that Flixster/UltraViolet is not the only way to digitally distribute a film.

The issue, in this case, is likely the fact that Flixster is owned by Warner Bros. — the studio which has held the rights to Veronica Mars from the beginning, and was actively involved in creating the Kickstarter campaign and producing the film.

As someone who prefers iTunes, streaming, or copyright-free digital downloads, this meant a descent into DRM hell.

First, Flixster. While I’d previously downloaded the iPhone/iPad app before, this was the first time I’d ever had reason to use it to watch media — it’s how I look up movie showtimes.

Because you don’t need to log in to a Flixster account in order to look up movie showtimes, I couldn’t remember my password and had to reset it. (And oh, it turns out that Flixster gave me a free copy of the 2003 Nicholas Cage movie Matchstick Men at some point in the past. Thank you, Flixster!)

Once I was logged in, I was then asked to link Flixster to an Ultraviolet account, which I set up for the first time. That’s where I hit a technical snag, where my attempt to link the UltraViolet and Flixster accounts didn’t appear to work, and when I tried to start the process over, my activation code for the digital download was rejected as already used.

So I Googled “UltraViolet,” found the official UltraViolet website, and tried logging into that — it worked, and some navigation through Flixster’s website eventually linked the two accounts, with both of my new movies appearing in my Flixster library across all devices.

$35 donors still had more work to do, to watch it on television

I then attempted to actually start watching Veronica Mars. On my iPad, the opening scene loaded up quickly (once I updated the Flixster app to the most up-to-date version), but when I tried mirroring the iPad directly to my TV via a digital AV adapter and HDMI cable, Flixster recognized that I’d connected a secondary display, and refused to play because of “licensing and studio restrictions”. So my best option became the VUDU app for PlayStation3, which would load up all of my UltraViolet content.

I’ve used VUDU once before (after getting a free credit), so I had an account for the service. But my new UltraViolet account wasn’t connected to it, so I returned to my computer to log into VUDU via browser and address that issue.

Once accomplished, VUDU did update almost instantly, and streaming was smooth. But that’s three different accounts I had to log into or set up, to play Veronica Mars (a movie I technically helped make possible) on my television.

From a business/strategy standpoint, this makes a lot of sense: In order to watch Veronica Mars, Warner Bros. made me figure out how all of this works, and I’m now in theory set up to purchase more movies from these services.

On the other hand, I am now very, very appreciative of the simplicity of iTunes. And I’m not the only one — other donors have been quite vocal about all of this, leading Thomas to send out his 89th Kickstarter update late Friday night:

We understand that some of you prefer other platforms or services for watching digital content… If you paid for a copy of the movie a year ago, we don’t want you to have less choice and freedom than people who decide to buy it today. And we definitely don’t want you to end up paying twice just to see the movie on your preferred service.

Please know that Warner Bros have given Customer Support a lot of freedom to help make things right, so if you’re having issues, please let them know: they’ll do their best to either help get Flixster working to your satisfaction, or, if you prefer, to provide an alternate solution.

Because, right now, if you want to buy or rent Veronica Mars, you can do it via Amazon, or iTunes. (Amazon has the better pricing.) You may not get the satisfaction of helping make the movie happen. (Or a t-shirt.) But on a technical level, you might be better off.

$35 donors received the screenplay

While waiting for an app to update, I also downloaded my copy of the script, which was (according to the official notification) “personalized.” Personalized! Such a thoughtful, caring way of warning me that the PDF I received from Deluxedigitaldownload.com was watermarked and, therefore, I would be liable if my copy ever leaked.

$35 donors wore their t-shirts to the movie theater

A month ago, I bought tickets with a group of fellow Mars fans to attend opening night at one of the AMC theaters showing the film in Los Angeles.  I won’t say too much about the movie itself (except there’s a solid self-depricating Kickstarter joke in there), but it’s a real movie, professional and well-made, and seeing it in the theater was fun. Especially because the audience was full of “Marshmallows” who cheered when their favorite characters appeared on screen, who laughed at all the jokes and who applauded regularly and often.

A few of them also wore their official Kickstarter t-shirts, and at least half the theater lingered all the way through the credits. And at the very end of the credits is a note thanking the movie’s Kickstarter backers for making the film possible. Those there clapped loudly, and a woman behind me shouted “We did it!” The applause? It got louder.

I wouldn’t say Veronica Mars‘s return went perfectly. But I definitely feel like, in the long run, my $35 was well spent.



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