"Bones Brigade" was greeted with a hero's welcome at Sundance, where the Film Sales Co. quickly sold its distribution rights in Australia and Japan. Peralta bypassed all of Hollywood's theatrical deals covering the U.S., however, and brought on Topspin Media — a software firm providing a self-service platform that primarily helps music artists including Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor and Eminem independently release and market their music. Job one: to bring the film straight to the Brigade's core demographic.
Topspin first initiated a campaign that allowed fans to download the Bones Brigade's long out-of-print 1987 skateboarding video "The Search for Animal Chin" in exchange for a relatively tiny opportunity cost: an email address. That transaction allowed the company to create a database of Brigade aficionados and early adopters — a crucial first step in Topspin's direct-marketing push.
From there, the firm began marketing the film on Instagram, compelling fans to send in more than 10,000 of their own photos of Bones Brigade-related imagery. That, in turn, helped funnel traffic to BonesBrigade.com, where the faithful could purchase movie tickets and DVDs.
More important, it capitalized on fans' deep-seated nostalgia for '80s skateboarding, offering Bones Brigade merch and even the chance to organize special prerelease screenings of the film. Average transaction on the site: $115 — a price point substantially higher than any single DVD sale or iTunes purchase.
"For $750 you can host your own screening," Moczydlowsky noted. "You can screen it for one night for up to 500 people. You can sell tickets and keep the proceeds."
Each Bones Brigade member took to their own social media accounts to stump for the movie as well. But in what may be the most game-changing aspect of its prerelease promo push, there have been approximately 50 "quasi-theatrical" screenings, some in connection with Vans, a sponsor of the movie, across North America, as well as in England, Belgium, Holland, Spain and Germany.
"We've hosted limited public screenings as one-night events," explained Andrew Herwitz, president of Film Sales, which is handling North American theatrical distribution duties on "Bones Brigade." "Sometimes a group rents out a skate shop and shows it there. It played at Toronto's Hot Docs film festival so cinephiles could interact with it. Other times it plays at more significant venues, real movie theaters."
"You find the theater," Peralta said. "We'll book it and Topspin will sell tickets through our website."
Brigadesman Tony Hawk, long considered skateboarding's most transcendent athlete, has been regularly talking up the film to his 3.2 million Twitter followers and attended six fan-instigated screenings.
"The way this has been done, I definitely think the fans feel closer to us," said Hawk. "Also, they know this is very personal for us. We're not just turning on a PR machine."
Also thanks to Topspin, Peralta went from having a nonexistent digital footprint to maintaining a 10,000-strong Instagram presence and interacting with potential ticket buyers daily via social media.
And unlike his previous films, the writer-director-producer owns the rights to "Bones Brigade" so the upside is all his. Exhausting as it all has been, the experience has made Peralta fundamentally rethink his methods.
"The merchandising component is becoming part of my thinking for the next film," he said. "It adds another element: What do I have to strategically do to make it work for the next one?"
Then there's Peralta's relationship with the studios: "I don't know if I'll go back to the old way again."
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