The mainstream-ification of YouTube stars continues–but how far will it go?
Just weeks after Grace Helbig, the star of the YouTube channel It’s Grace!, got her own show on E!, the comedy duo behind SMOSH–which has over 30 million YouTube subscribers and over 12 million unique visitors to SMOSH.com–has landed its own movie. Lionsgate, home of The Hunger Games, will be distributing The SMOSH Movie globally in the hope of turning stars Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox into the next… Bill and Ted?
The movie, which has already been shot and was produced by SMOSH-owner Defy Media and AwesomenessTV, is described as “a high-concept Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure for 2014” that “revolves around an embarrassing video of Anthony that resurfaces online right before his fifth high school reunion, leading the SMOSH duo into a headlong race to remove the clip before it ruins Anthony’s chances of reconnecting with high school crush Anna.”
For good measure, the SMOSH movie will also star a coterie of YouTube stars, including Helbig, Harley Morenstein of Epic Meal Time, Shane Dawson, and Jenna Marbles.
The news shows how Hollywood is finally coming around to embracing YouTube stars in a real way, as reported in our September cover story. Desperate to connect with younger audiences who increasingly prefer to stay home and play Xbox or watch Netflix rather than head to a movie theater, the entertainment industry sees a golden lining in YouTube, which offers commodifiable data on just how popular its stars are. A recent poll stating that YouTube stars are now more popular with teens than mainstream celebrities is only fueling the fire and is why companies like Disney and DreamWorks are now in the YouTube business.
That said: Don’t expect a litany of YouTube movies anytime soon. SMOSH, after all, is one of the biggest brands on YouTube with the kind of quirky but inoffensive, dude-friendly appeal that translates well to traditional media. Think of it as a member of the elite one-percent. Besides its web presence, the SMOSH brand also extends to top-selling mobile and game apps.
“I think we’re getting into limited air space of those that have the existing brand recognition and creative talent who can get there,” said Keith Richman, CEO of Defy Media.
He added that in addition to SMOSH’s online reach, the movie has the benefit of being made by people with traditional media experience–namely Brian Robbins, a former TV and film producer who now runs AwesomenessTV; and Barry Blumberg, EVP of Defy Media and the former president of Walt Disney Television Animation.
“I don’t think you’ll see a lot of these things because it’s hard to get all those pieces to work together.”