College Humor is putting out a feature film July 9 (via Verge), and it stars a bunch of people you might recognize, including Glenn Howerton (Dennis from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), Adrianne Palciki (from Friday Night Lights), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), Steve Little (Eastbound and Down) and Josh Groban (yeah, the pop opera singer). It’s called Coffee Town, and it’s about a coffee shop aspiring to become a fancy bistro.
The film is something of an experiment, from its direct-to-digital release to its marketing campaign, which will be managed strictly through College Humor’s social media channels. The idea is to prove what it can accomplish by targeting its core demographic, the younger, digital native audiences that Hollywood would like to court so badly.
College Humor is famous for its skits and short videos, not for longer films. And while the movie will be screened in select theatres before an official premiere at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal at the end of this month, it’s the experiment in leveraging social media and College Humor’s existing mass fan base that’s exciting here.
Others have shown that eschewing traditional distribution models can result in big success, in comedy especially. Comedian Louis C.K. distributed his comedy special via his website by direct download for $5 per copy, with no DRM or strings attached. The special netted him over $1 million in gross profits, and an Emmy, so it’s safe to say that experiment panned out.
Coffee Town isn’t revolutionary in terms of its premise, as it sounds like a standard “guys get up to hijinks” affair, with the affable Groban starring as the buffoonish villain of the piece. It’s probably not going to win any academy awards. But it could be a proving ground for feature movies made outside the Hollywood system – and that’s reason enough to watch.