Lionsgate Digital has partnered with artist and entrepreneur Todd Goldman in a web series whose message seems to be that watching movies can get you killed … at least if you're a family of trailer-dwelling, gleefully moronic low-lifes.
But the flip side of the message, and the reason Lionsgate is venturing into a new arena with "Trailer Trash," is that the entertainment company thinks there's significant money on the internet — that it's not just as a means to promote film and television properties, but as a way to develop and monetize new ventures.
"We've seen that it's possible to make real money off Hulu," said Curt Marvis, Lionsgate's president of digital media. "And with the onset of pads and other devices, we think there are real opportunities that we want to explore to attract a new audience."
In the past, Marvis told TheWrap, Lionsgate has used new media as a way to promote and extend its film and television properties, which include "Weeds" and "Mad Men" on the TV side, and an array of films that range from genre outings like "Crank" and "Hostel" to the more high-toned likes of "Crash" and "Rabbit Hole."
"We've been very active in selling our movies and TV series through digital channels, including Hulu and YouTube," he said. "But we know those channels also present opportunities for original projects, so we've been trying to figure out where we could play in the new media workspace."
The company's first venture is "Trailer Trash," a foul-mouthed and violent web series that marks a collaboration with Goldman, a controversial artist known for the slogan-bedecked clothing in the David and Goliath line, and for the book "Boys Are Stupid, Throw Rocks at Them!" (In 2007, Goldman reached a settlement with a web cartoonist who charged that Goldman had plagiarized his work.)
"He's a very irreverent, very outspoken artist in terms of his point of view, and we thought that would be a good fit with the Lionsgate identify," Marvis said.
In the web series, which began less than a month ago and is currently scheduled to run exclusively on Hulu until April 11, the central characters start many episodes watching films as diverse as "The Shawshank Redemption," "Cast Away," "Transporter" and "Narc." They're inspired to recreate what they see on screen, with destructive and often fatal consequences.
As with Kenny from "South Park," a gruesome death in one episode is no barrier to the characters returning in the next.
Based on the user reviews, the series is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition: of the 11 reviews, seven give it the lowest rating, one star, and two give it the highest, five stars.
Although Marvis says Lionsgate is making money selling ads on Hulu, the company also plans to expand the "Trailer Trash" franchise well beyond that site once that exclusive run ends.
"It will still be available on-demand on Hulu," he said, "but we're also going to start to move it into syndicated distribution in late April and early May. It was always designed to be an advertiser-supported series, and to really monetize it we'll need to expand and extend it on the web beyond Hulu."
By the end of 2011, he added, "I'm very confident that it will be a profitable show."
Lionsgate has plans to develop additional properties in a similar manner, he said, although specific projects have yet to be chosen.
"We're going to try to be smart about it, and cautiously aggressive," he said. "We're not really looking at this as an experiment. We're looking at it as expanding into an area where we think we can make some money."
"Trailer Trash" episodes and trailers are currently available exclusively at Hulu.