Bring Back Mystery Science Theater 3000 Campaign Lands on Kickstarter

Bring Back Mystery Science Theater 3000 Campaign Lands on Kickstarter

Joel Hodgson is crowdfunding a new, twelve-episode Mystery Science Theater 3000 season via Kickstarter.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a beloved TV classic inspired by a simple premise: A janitor and his robot companions watch terrible, real-life B movies and crack jokes for the entire runtime. The series quickly found a devoted fanbase, and ran for twelve years before cancellation. Sadly, due to various licensing issues, the MST3K team has been limited in the number of episodes it could re-release on DVD. But series creator and actor Joel Hodgson has found a great solution - make new episodes! Which is why he's started the "Bring Back Mystery Science Theater 3000" Kickstarter campaign, seeking over $5,000,000 to produce a new season of feature-length episodes.

MST3K originally ran for 197 episodes across multiple television networks before it was finally cancelled in 1999. While its cast and creators have reunited for successful follow-ups like RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic, they've never quite been able to secure enough funding to bring back the original series. So Hodgson is bypassing the producer model entirely, turning to fans to secure the licensing rights for more episodes.

"So the fanbase becomes the new evil overlords?" Tom Servo says in the Kickstarter pitch video. "Why it's actually a new dimension of horror!"

Obviously, there are still some challenges ahead. Licensing agreements are a difficult beast, meaning a new MST3K season would need some serious cash behind it. The campaign's $2 million minimum would allow for three full-length episodes, but additional funding would let Hodgson unlock a complete twelve-episode run. That's also the point where Hodgson can better negotiate producer interest, fueling new MST3K episodes well into the future.

Of course, the MST3K Kickstarter campaign will have its own stretch goals and rewards. Outside of T-shirts, mugs, posters, and other merchandise, a few backers will be able to keep the Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot figures used in specific episodes. But for the majority of fans, I suspect $5 million will be worthwhile just to see the old gang riff on B movies once again.

Source: Kickstarter

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But Joel, you weren't that funny! There's only so many times a guy can add 'Death' and 'Dying' to the end of kids' lines before we realize he's not good at writing.

If you bring back Mike, that might be worth investing.

$2 million for 3 episodes? Is crow literally made of gold?

I'm so game for this. There's a fansite that basically acts as a fan community index to youtube rips of all of the episodes that I have totally been abusing since I found. I've watched rifftracks and cinematic titanic, but there's just something kind of magical in the satellite of love framing device.

Sadly, I don't have money to put behind this project, but considering it just started and they are already at 400k I think they'll manage. Hopefully, they can beat the stretch goals and pull a whole season out of this. I mean, jesus, look at how much that space flight sim cult has pulled in and it's only returned alpha demos a year after it was supposed to be finished.

I'm really amused to already see skepticism about the money they are asking for when we've been more than happy to throw far more money than that at games.

I'm so up for this. If I could absolutely pay anything towards it I so would. Just because Joel is heading it. I miss the fuck out of MST3K and there's so much schlock from the 90s and the aughts that they could totally rip new ones on...

If The Room hadn't been so overdone on the web, an MST3K episode ripping it could do so damn well. :)

I dunno. What made the show for me was Corbett, Nelson, and Murphy. All of which already do this same thing on Rifftrax. I just don't see a reason to back it. I never thought the Joel era stuff was that good. Blasphemy, I know.

He couldn't just sign up with the rest of the Rifftrax crew?

Actually, contrary to what the last paragraph of the article implies, Joel's the only returning cast member and he's not even portraying the 'host'... he'll be doing behind-the-scenes stuff with an occasional cameo as a non-Joel character.

It IS in continuity with the original show though - the new mad will be Dr Clayton Forrester's offspring. Which'll be interesting. It's the new Doctor Who all over again!

Oh man, this could be fun! I wonder if they'd do more modern crappy movies as well as the old ones.

Darth Marsden:
Actually, contrary to what the last paragraph of the article implies, Joel's the only returning cast member and he's not even portraying the 'host'... he'll be doing behind-the-scenes stuff with an occasional cameo as a non-Joel character.

It IS in continuity with the original show though - the new mad will be Dr Clayton Forrester's offspring. Which'll be interesting. It's the new Doctor Who all over again!

I just checked and it seems that Mike, Bill, and Kevin aren't involved. Still, the Rifftracks Twitter account did promote this as well, so it seems there is no ill will between them. Not sure why they aren't involved and it does make me sad. But even if they don't take part in a revival of MST3K, that might just mean we get MST3K AND Rifftracks. I call that Win/Win.

I have... mixed feelings about this. One the one hand, it'd be great to see more MST3K... on the other, isn't that what the likes of Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic are for?

Also, who are they gonna get for the riffers? (And personally, I'm more partial to the Mike era than the Joel era, but that's only my opinion.)

Now if they were putting old episodes back on the air, THAT is something I can get behind!

9tailedflame:
Oh man, this could be fun! I wonder if they'd do more modern crappy movies as well as the old ones.

Sci-Fi Channel or whatever the hell you're calling yourselves now, you're made god awful original movies for YEARS, time to fulfill your destiny!

Imagine Crow and Tom Servo when they are exposed to the wonder of Sharknado 3: Oh dear god they actually made a Sharknado 3!?

Lightknight:
$2 million for 3 episodes? Is crow literally made of gold?

I was shocked at this as well. I'm very interested in a cost breakdown.

I know filming stuff is expensive, but I thought the point of MST3K to begin with was it was a super low budget show with movies they could license for virtually nothing and small, cheap sets made of spare junk.

Personally, I never really liked the host segments much. If they axed those and saved money on costumes, sets, and writing I'd like to see how much they could save.

The asking price is insane. When we have so many people doing this for free on Youtube or otherwise releasing commentary tracks for very little cost asking this much is unreasonable.

kajinking:

9tailedflame:
Oh man, this could be fun! I wonder if they'd do more modern crappy movies as well as the old ones.

Sci-Fi Channel or whatever the hell you're calling yourselves now, you're made god awful original movies for YEARS, time to fulfill your destiny!

Imagine Crow and Tom Servo when they are exposed to the wonder of Sharknado 3: Oh dear god they actually made a Sharknado 3!?

Frankly I'm shocked the Sci-Fi channel hasn't been having them do this for years. Would put something in the late night blocks for little cost.

This would be great. Though it sucks Mike won't be writing for them because he came up with the best comments according to more than a few of the team.

As long as it's new bots as well, I don't think I could get used to another change in actor for them.

Well, I know what I backing come pay day.

I'm all giddy that Joel will be bringing this back and doing more fun stuff. Sucks that rest of the gang isn't involved, but I would still like to see more MST3K stuff. Love to know what kind of movies that they will do since Rifftrax does a lot these days in terms of shitty movies.

Still stoked for this though. :D

Weaver:

Lightknight:
$2 million for 3 episodes? Is crow literally made of gold?

I was shocked at this as well. I'm very interested in a cost breakdown.

I know filming stuff is expensive, but I thought the point of MST3K to begin with was it was a super low budget show with movies they could license for virtually nothing and small, cheap sets made of spare junk.

Personally, I never really liked the host segments much. If they axed those and saved money on costumes, sets, and writing I'd like to see how much they could save.

Honestly, 2 million for 3 episodes seems about right. They had cheap sets, but they weren't going for Ed Wood-levels of cheap (plain card-board cut-outs with some cloth taped to them), and even TV quality sound, recording, lighting, editing, etc equipment is expensive as shit. There is also crew as well, and licensing costs as outlined in the article... Basically, shit takes money.

Why bother? Aside from milking Nostalgia value... I mean really.. why?. THere are literally huindreds of tubers doing this stuff already. There's no need for an MST3k

Lightknight:
$2 million for 3 episodes? Is crow literally made of gold?

Weaver:

Lightknight:
$2 million for 3 episodes? Is crow literally made of gold?

I was shocked at this as well. I'm very interested in a cost breakdown.

I know filming stuff is expensive, but I thought the point of MST3K to begin with was it was a super low budget show with movies they could license for virtually nothing and small, cheap sets made of spare junk.

Personally, I never really liked the host segments much. If they axed those and saved money on costumes, sets, and writing I'd like to see how much they could save.

When MST3K was on TV, they were able to use movies the networks had already licensed to run on slow days. For the Kickstarter to succeed independently, MST3K would have to absorb all of those costs themselves, on top of salaries, sets, and prop effects. Not to mention how licensing fees have gone way up in the digital era now that companies know how even small-budget productions can become massive online hits.

Wait, Joel's the only returning member?

I was excited until I heard that.

Darth Marsden:
Which'll be interesting. It's the new Doctor Who all over again!

So many options for comments.

-So it'll be a romance thinly veiled as science-fiction?
-You mean there'll be farting aliens?
-So fans who have spent decades dealing with inconsistent plots, writing, and continuity will suddenly be very concerned with canon?
-The villains will die in almost every episode?
-The fans will ship this and Rifftrax in really creepy ways?
-Mike will be replaced by John Hurt?
-so...oh god, my hand is cramping up!

Seriously, though, I can deal with New Who. I'm not sure I can really get myself into MST3K with only Joel. In fact, being aware of the origins of the show...I think I'm better off watching Rifftrax.

MarsAtlas:

Frankly I'm shocked the Sci-Fi channel hasn't been having them do this for years. Would put something in the late night blocks for little cost.

SyFy hates science fiction. Framing it in space would obviously be a no-no. It would need to be set at an Army base, or possibly a frat house.

One of the items they point out is that maybe this isn't necessary. With YouTube et al maybe their return isn't needed. If so, then the backing will show that out.

As for Mike, he did post on Facebook that while he was happy to be a part of the show, he was just, as he put it, "a hired gun" and has had nothing to do with it since it ended. Joel is the one with the continued investment.

I will have to pass on this for a few reasons. One I don't think that Joel alone can get back the magic of the original show. Secondly I think that MST3K was somewhat a product of its time as well Im not sure how much traction it could get now outside of the old fanbase. Third and most importantly I'm broke :(.

Lightknight:
$2 million for 3 episodes? Is crow literally made of gold?

I imagine most of that money is going to go towards securing the licensing rights to the films they'd be riffing on.

canadamus_prime:

Lightknight:
$2 million for 3 episodes? Is crow literally made of gold?

I imagine most of that money is going to go towards securing the licensing rights to the films they'd be riffing on.

Oh yeah? And you think the films they were using would charge $100k or more? Come on, they were bottom barrel shit. Maybe a few $100k if the goal is to get new movies but I seriously doubt it. They can probably get decent b-level stuff for seriously cheap. I mean, most of those were films that were maybe raking in a couple hundred per year at best. If someone comes and offers you 5 years of income to use your property and it may also advertise your property then you'd be silly not to take it. Take the movie Trolls for example. It being on the show made it popular and even made way for Trolls 2. As long as the film maker isn't prideful, this can be pitched as a mutually beneficial arrangement.

We're throwing stones in the dark here. Unless he outlines the anticipated costs here, we really don't know where he's coming from. I know people are talking about electronics being expensive, but it isn't $100k expensive. I don't think they would ever use a professional sound studio or even need to but sure, that could become expensive. But they even do live shows so I know they aren't going out and renting a $5k/day sound studio. EDIT: In fact, it looks like they're going to do this performance live... So maybe they're thinking expense of venue here? But I assume tickets would cover that and alleviate set rental costs.

The entire premise of the show was that it was extremely cheap. $750k per episode is not that. The shows that are most expensive to make are ones that have a large list of actors. At its cheapest, this show just needs three actors as long as two of them can double as puppeteers. You could even get away with just one person with a green screen as long as they never have to touch each other on screen and you make damn sure the camera doesn't get moved between shots. But that would increase the editing time and the number of shots that have to be redone after the editing process reveals problems. Still, no way that amount of time would ever end up being as expensive as another actor's salary.

Compare it to a primetime pilot show for a sitcom. I'm talking about the initial episode where you've got all the actors together and have all the sets and wardrobe and everything in place. The thing where everyone is learning their role and everything takes longer. That's usually around $1.3 million to make. It can go upwards of $3million but that fluctuation depends on the "talent" deals. None of the people involved in these shows are what we'd call "talent". But take a show like Louie, that pilot was $250k and still had 9 actors (one of whom is Chelsea Peretti who is an actual actress), 5 producers (excluding Louie himself), 33 other cast members and multiple sets with all the lighting, sound equipment and everything else.

Does anyone actually know how much it costs to license a B-movie? Maybe he's anticipating a million for licensing and the rest for the show? That would explain why the number of episodes go up quickly while the increase in costs drop.

I mean, it looks like this kickstarter is definitely going to succeed. I'm going to enjoy buying whatever they product. But if I'm going to back a campaign in which $35 only gets me 1 episode then I want to know it isn't a flagrant abuse of the kickstarter system.

EDIT: He addresses why he's asking for so much: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mst3k/bringbackmst3k/posts/1413188 (discussing this more in the post below)

Clive Howlitzer:
I never thought the Joel era stuff was that good. Blasphemy, I know.

Don't worry I preferred Mike, too.

Did ... Did Crow change his bowling pin again? The voice .... *shudders*

OK, so Joel heard the internet's confusion over the amount of money he's asking for and shed light on why so much:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mst3k/bringbackmst3k/posts/1413188

Apparently they're accounting for $700k going to Kickstarter and backer rewards. Then $550k is for startup costs (set building, model making, that stuff). So at the end of the math it's looking more like $250k per episode which isn't bad considering that this number also includes licensing fees. Then, after that every additional 1.1 million has the same math attached to it but without the $550k in startup costs so the budget for the shows gets lighter.

So, with this explanation in mind, I formally recant my original statement of doubt. The number makes sense.

Wow. Almost two million dollars already ($1,826,428 as of this writing) and only five days into the month-long campaign. Personally, I would have at least wanted to see a screen test for whoever the hell is on the main cast. Do the backers all even realize that it's not Mike Nelson or Trace Beaulieu or Kevin Murphy or Bill Corbett or Joel Hodgson who would be doing the riffing? Joel wasn't clear whether the people in the kickstarter video were going to be the new cast, but they certainly didn't prove that they're funny. That is the point, right, that the show be funny?

Eh. Given that there's every reason to believe the campaign will succeed given their funding to date, I'll probably take a look at what the crew makes once the project is all over. But unless I hear that some proven talent better than a rare cameo by Joel (one of the least funny main cast members) comes on board, I see no reason to open my wallet for this project.

CrazyGirl17:
I have... mixed feelings about this. One the one hand, it'd be great to see more MST3K... on the other, isn't that what the likes of Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic are for?

Just Rifftrax, Cinematic Titanic closed shop two years ago.

 

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