Brad Miska has been running his fan site Bloody Disgusting out of his North Hollywood home for years, catering to horror enthusiasts with reviews, message boards and contests.
But now he's trying something much bigger: producing and distributing low-cost movies. This weekend, Bloody Disgusting is releasing its first major title, "The Woman," which it acquired on the heels of the film's buzzed-about screening at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Bloody Disgusting hopes that its grass-roots brand and expertise will give it a bit of edge as it competes against much larger players, including studios, that have millions to spend. But the new business strategy also raises questions about how such a site can transition from an editorial entity to an outfit rivaling companies it has long covered.
Bloody Disgusting — owned by Miska, his partner Tom Owen and the Collective, a Hollywood management company — aims to bring as many as a dozen horror movies to theaters annually under the label Bloody Disgusting Selects.
Start-up distribution outfits come and go in Hollywood with regularity. But Miska said the cachet his site brings gives it an advantage.
"We have a fan base that trusts us, and if we tell them this movie is good, I think it will work better than a company that dumps a movie every two weeks because it needs to fill a slot," Miska said.
Bloody Disgusting has a loyal following; it boasts more than 73,000 friends on Facebook and 1,000,000 unique monthly visitors. The Collective, founded by Michael Green, a former partner at the Hollywood powerhouse the Firm, has used social media effectively before — appealing to fans of the band Linkin Park and the comedian Eddie Izzard using tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
"We can make the [Bloody Disgusting] business work at a smaller level, and if a 'Paranormal Activity' reveals itself, then even better," said Green, referring to the micro-budget horror title that has turned into a global franchise.
"The Woman" is being released in 15 cities through a partnership with theater chain AMC. The acquisition, marketing and distribution costs for this and other releases will be covered by the Collective.
"The Woman" centers on a family man's capture and torture of a feral woman he comes upon in the woods. At Sundance, it was met with walkouts and protests against director Lucky McKee but also inspired passionate defenders. The influential blog HitFix, for instance, called it "elegantly made" and "intellectually engaging."
Miska thought it was the kind of title that fit perfectly with the Bloody Disgusting brand.
"I've been going to festivals for years and seeing all these great horror movies that don't have a home," Miska said. "This is a chance to make sure that the good films get one." In the last several months, the site has released a few lower-profile titles to a small number of theaters.
On the producing front, the Collective and Bloody Disgusting say they will back "V/H/S." The feature-length picture comprises shorts by up-and-coming horror directors — including Adam Wingard ("You're Next"), David Bruckner ("The Signal") and Ti West ("The Innkeepers") — with whom Miska has formed relationships over the years. The company declined to divulge budget specifics, but Miska said "V/H/S" was being made for less than $1 million.
How much currency Bloody Disgusting will carry with fans on movies in which it has a financial stake remains to be seen; Miska said Selects titles will be clearly labeled on a distinct section of the site. Also to be seen is whether other horror fan sites will write about such movies with the same gusto, knowing that such coverage would benefit a competitor.
Although Miska said the site will remain a labor of love, as it is for most homespun bloggers, he also believes that passion can translate into financial gain. "For years I've [run the site] for fun. It's never been about money," Miska said. "But there's no reason it can't be both."