Tugg is Kickstarter for filmmakers, Expedia for theaters, and $5.9M richer

by Emerson Dameron
November 21, 2014


Tugg, an Austin-based crowdfunding and social networking platform for film buffs, has just raised $5.9 million from 11 backers, according to an SEC filing.

Created in 2011 and formally introduced in 2012 at SXSWi here in Austin, Tugg allows filmmakers and fans to book private screenings at partner theaters and get to work generating ticket sales, typically through social media. If enough tickets are sold, the show goes on, and Tugg takes a portion of the electronic box office.

[ibimage==32534==Medium==none==self==ibimage_align-right]Tugg is a particularly focused means for people who make movies and people who love them to get independent work seen far outside the Hollywood system – unlike Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where film projects struggle along with many unrelated others, it is a vehicle for film nerds operated by film nerds. It even provides 'Tugg School,' an educational program for filmmakers at all levels who are daunted by some aspect of the process.

Co-founder Nick Gonda said in an interview that Tugg isn't competiting with stay-at-home options such as Netflix and Hulu. It is more about keeping the communal movie-house experience alive. “We studied the ways people were more connected than ever, and movies are such a big part of that because a movie really affects people,” Gonda said. “It’s amazing to see the types of ways this gets used, from veterans organizations showing military documentaries to cinephiles creating a film society in some small town.”

For now, Tugg is focused on movie theaters – it has agreements in place with 80% of houses in America including large chains such as Landmark and Regal, and has hosted over 1,000 events in 400 cities. But Gonda said he sees the idea's potential for other forms of expression as well.

“We are seeing more and more nontheatrical events with people doing things in really beautiful spaces,” he said. “We focus on theaters because it’s a specific thing and because most movie theaters have about 15 percent utilization per week. We’re the same as Expedia because we try to take over some of that underutilized capacity.”

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