Guild creator Felicia Day’s status as a self-made mainstream star just got a major bump this week. The SyFy original movie Red: Werewolf Hunter premiered last Saturday to an audience of 2.06 million people.
This doesn’t make Red the highest-rated cable original movie premiere SyFy’s had this year; that would be Lake Placid 3, which was watched by 3.0 million last August.
But according to SyFy executive VP of programming and original movies Thomas Vitale, with whom I spoke via phone, “Any time you break two million viewers on a Saturday night, you’ve got a big, big success. It’s a lower viewing night in general, with a lot of DVR playback happening.” (Another factor Vitale didn’t mention: the fact that Red aired the Saturday before Halloween. In addition, these numbers do not account for DVR viewing, stats which aren’t available yet.)
He attributed that success to both the film’s high concept premise — a modern-day Little Red Riding Hood, fighting werewolves — as well as Day’s star power.
Vitale said that he and the SyFy team had been looking for a project for Day for a while, specifically citing Dr. Horrible as one of the projects that put her on their radar. When the idea of doing a spin on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale came up, “It all kind of happened organically — the timing was just perfect.”
Vitale was quick to say that while Day’s 1.7 million Twitter followers were not a factor in her casting, it was the “icing on the cake. She probably brought a lot of fans to the screen — that always helps, to have someone able to do grassroots marketing just by talking to her fans.”
Day said via email,”I had an amazing experience on the show, more so knowing that the opportunity was most likely tied to my hard work creating my own web show. I know that my Tweeting about the show definitely raised awareness, I got tons of feedback and was touched that people genuinely were excited for me to be on their TVs. It’s that kind of fan support that keeps me going.”
When Red was first announced last March as a 2011 release (the effects work was completed early, allowing it to premiere in late October instead), I wondered how Day’s online success might affect the film’s performance, writing that “By 2011, TV and web content might be well-integrated enough that we’ll see TV commercials for Red plugging its star as ‘Dr. Horrible‘s Felicia Day.’”
It’s still 2010, and the TV commercials didn’t mention Dr. Horrible. Instead, they just said “Felicia Day is RED.”
“That’s what makes her a fascinating person to talk about,” Vitale said. “In five years, there will be a number of household names who are self-made, but she’s one of the first.”
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