David Cross launches his new movie as pay-what-you-want download

There have been a number of direct-to-consumer experiments over the past year or two, both from musicians — including the BitTorrent bundle that Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke offered for his latest album — and other artists such as comedian Louis CK. Now there is one that involves a full-length movie, from writer/director David Cross, which is being offered as both a pay-what-you-want BitTorrent bundle and as a regular theater experience in which moviegoers will be able to pay whatever they want for tickets.

The movie, called HITS, premiered at the Sundance Festival last year and is about the impact of TV shows like American Idol and The Voice: the main character, Katelyn, wants to win a spot on The Voice — but instead, her father Dave is the one who winds up becoming a social-media celebrity, after an outburst at a local town hall meeting ends up on YouTube and goes viral, and the media eventually descend on the small town of Liberty, N.Y.

In addition to offering the movie as a BitTorrent bundle — something the company launched last year — Cross has launched a Kickstarter campaign as a way to help offer the film as a pay-what-you-want theater experience as well. As of January 8, the project had already raised $36,000 of its overall target of $100,000 from more than 500 backers, with 26 days to go.

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The filmmaker and comedian — who has appeared in films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Men In Black, as well as TV shows like Arrested Development — says on his Kickstarter page that after the movie premiered at Sundance, he had a number of offers from distributors but none were compelling enough, so he decided to experiment by offering his movie directly to fans, for whatever they felt like paying.

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”We want you to decide how much tickets cost and you pay artists directly, not distributors or studios. This is an experiment, a first of its kind to see if we can make it more sustainable for both fans, and filmmakers.”[/blockquote]

The bundle will be available for download starting on February 13. Cross told the Wall Street Journal his experiment was inspired by what Yorke did with BitTorrent — a project that almost certainly raised several million dollars — and also what his friend Louis CK has done several times, by offering one-off comedy specials directly to fans in return for a donation. For his first such project in 2011, the comedian made more than $1 million in less than two weeks.

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”I hope it does its small part to translate into people discovering or manufacturing their own alternative models for distributing their art. This is inspired in great part by doing what Thom Yorke did, what Radiohead did, and what Louis CK did.”[/blockquote]

As part of his Kickstarter campaign, Cross has offered to become a godfather to the child of anyone who pledges $7,500 to the project — although he warns in the description of the campaign that there is “no legal obligation to do anything more than be Godfather in name only. There is no obligations to attend services, provide advice or actually ever talk to or meet your child.”