One year to the month after getting a rejection letter from the Sundance Film Festival, director Bill Sebastian stood shivering in the lobby of a Los Angeles theater debuting his movie on a chilly December night. “This is kind of nerve-wracking,” Sebastian said in between hugs and handshakes with arriving guests. He may have been anxious about how people would react to QWERTY, his nerd-centric rom-com with Rocky overtones set in the world of championship Scrabble. But at least he didn’t have to worry about losing his shirt over the cost of renting a screening room at Lamelle Theatres.
That’s because Sebastian and his team booked the gig themselves using the Tugg.com pay-in-advance content-and-reservations system that brokers DIY screenings at venues ranging from indie theater houses to AMC multiplexes. Borrowing a page from Kickstarter, the site allows anyone with a functional credit card to organize screenings and if customers buy enough tickets to cover all the screening’s expenses, the event gets confirmed. If advance ticket sales fall short, the screening gets canceled and nobody loses money.
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