Cancelled show tries for film success

For several years, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” entertained millions of fans worldwide. Both shows had successful runs that lasted several years, and loyal fans are trying to get new episodes and movies made. Many revere Joss Whedon, the creator of the Buffy-verse.

The loyalty that Buffy fans have for their shows is no different than the loyalty that Joss Whedon fans have for his other show, “Firefly.” What? You don’t remember “Firefly,” the short-lived science fiction show that followed the escapades of a group of rebels trying to survive in a chaotic futuristic world? Well, it’s just another example of FOX doing a lousy job of supporting shows that people actually watch and enjoy.

But because fans of “Firefly,” known as Browncoats, continued to support the show after its demise and bought the box set DVD in record numbers, “Firefly” is coming back. Not as a television series (yet), but as the feature-length film “Serenity,” which opens Sept. 30.

FOX must be feeling like an idiot. In one year, not only are they forced to bring back “Family Guy” (I don’t think anyone is complaining about that decision), but a show that they cancelled is now being made into a feature-length film.

While the film getting the green light in the first place was the first hurdle, its subsequent success is the second. If “Serenity” is successful, it could mean more sequels and stories about the characters that fans have grown to love, as well as the return of the “Firefly” TV series.

If the film is a box-office failure, this fan-inspired project will come crashing down in flames, and it’s not likely that anything like this will ever be attempted for other shows that are prematurely cancelled.

The producers of “Serenity” have done something unprecedented to make sure that their film is a success. In the nine months before its release, they have held about 60 advance screenings for fans, and made sure to get as much feedback as possible so that they have time to play around with the film and make the final cut the best film possible – at least in the minds of fans.

The film, which only cost $20 million to make (a very small budget today), will likely make a profit, even if just from DVD sales to the Browncoats who will inevitably scoop up a copy for their collection. But in order for “Serenity” to be a true success, it really needs to find an audience beyond its loyal fan base.

The word from Browncoats is that the movie is really, really good, and waiting until after the crowded summer season to release the movie is probably one of the best moves possible. The original release date, April 22, put it just before a big movie season that included “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and “Batman Begins.” Now, it will be a one-of-a-kind film in a very slow part of the movie-going season.

But will “Serenity” find its audience? Will this mean that just because a TV show is cancelled that it isn’t really dead? We will know soon enough.