How much will people pay to watch three middle-aged guys make fun of a really bad movie? Quite a lot, as it turns out — as long as the guys are “Mystery Science Theater 3000” alums Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, and the movie is “Twilight.” And by quite a lot, we mean in excess of $100,000.“Mystery Science Theater 3000” — MST3K to its legion of fans — is the cult TV show from the 1990s in which an astronaut and his robot buddies mocked predominately low budget B movies in a darkened theater on their space ship — part of an experiment by two evil scientists. Created by comedian Joel Hodgson and first shown on a local TV station in Minneapolis, the show graduated to The Comedy Channel, Comedy Central and then the SciFi Channel over a 10-year run. It ceased production in 1999.Hodgson was replaced by Mike Nelson midway through the series’ run, and the robots were played by Trace Beaulieu (and later Bill Corbett) and Kevin Murphy. Together they sat through a multitude of awful films, among them such cinema dreck as “Colossus and the Headhunters” (1966), “Kitten with a Whip” (1964) and “Santo vs. the Vampire Women” (1961): the latter in which El Santo, a masked Mexican wrestler superhero, battles vampires who want to capture a young woman to make her their queen.It’s even worse than it sounds. Trust me.But even though MST3K went away, the public’s love of mocking terrible movies did not: tapes and DVDs of MST3K episodes continued to sell briskly. So Nelson, Murphy and Corbett revived the show in 2006 with Rifftrax, an Internet service in which the three recorded downloadable audio commentaries to be played in synch with movie DVDs, which were purchased separately by the viewer (it was impractical to obtain the movie rights to put the commentary directly onto the DVD). Thus MST3K was reborn, only in a slightly different format. The Rifftrax gang also began doing one-night-only live shows, adding commentary to a film shown in one theater, which is then simulcast to theaters across the nation through Fathom Events (the latest was “Plan 9 From Outer Space”). But Nelson wanted to bring things to another level, and so he embraced technology even further. What would happen, he thought, if he began a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to actually buy the rights to a well-known movie which was rife for mocking? That movie would be broadcast live in a theater and simulcast around the country. And he knew that movie had to be “Twilight,” the Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson vampire vehicle and first of the “Twilight Saga” series of films.How much would he need to raise? Nelson & Co. set a goal of $55,000, which he figured would at least get Summit Entertainment/Lions Gate — which owns the film rights — listening.Kickstarter, in case you don’t know, is the Internet site in which people raise funds for creative projects through crowd funding. Nelson and the Rifftrax gang had one month to raise the needed cash — but could they do it? Did MST3K still have that much influence with fans, 14 years after it left TV?Let’s put it this way: over the first 24 hours, the “Twilight” movie riff project earned $116,907 in pledges. And that is sure to go up by the time I finish typing this sentence. From the Rifftrax/Twilight Kickstarter page: We’ve always wanted to get a more recent Hollywood movie for our next RiffTrax Live show. And our first choice is “TWILIGHT! — the Worst Movie Ever,” according to The Internet.We have already written and performed a great Riff for “Twilight” and it’s our best-seller, but the only way you can currently watch it, is by syncing our MP3 of the riff with the DVD of “Twilight.” If we want to perform the RiffTrax LIVE for you in theaters nationwide this August, we need the rights for the movie itself.So we would like to raise the money to approach Summit Entertainment / Lionsgate and license their beloved “TWILIGHT” for our simulcast August LIVE show.The outpouring of public support for a “Twilight” live theater lambasting took even the Rifftrax guys by surprise. Nelson, on Twitter:“Warning, sincere tweet to follow! Very grateful and humbled for all the support on our Twilight Kickstarter. Truly.”Corbett: “Wow. WOW. Thank you. You are truly magnificent b******s, only not b******s really (except you, Gary). THANK YOU.”Of course it’s anyone’s guess if the “Twilight” movie rights gatekeepers will give permission for the MST3K gang to mock their film. But since this is Hollywood, where money trumps everything — especially pride — there is hope.Or, as Nelson noted during the first five minutes of the Rifftrax version of “Twilight”: “Is it too early to hate this movie with the flaming passion that burns with the heat of a thousand suns?”No, Mike. No it is not.— Rick Chandler is a columnist for NBCSports.com and author of the NBC Sports blog “Off the Bench.” Contact him at RickChand@gmail.com
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