The YouTube multi-channel network AwesomenessTV, owned by DreamWorks Animation and Hearst Corp, had a #1 movie on Apple’s iTunes store.
The film did get a limited theatrical release on December 12 but it's in digital downloads where the film is marking a major shift in the industry: the #1 spot on iTunes is usually limited to films with a box office of $80+ million.
Expelled was at #52 on its release date and jumped to #1 this past Tuesday. Unfortunately, the #1 spot was short-lived as The Equalizer claimed the top spot on Wednesday. Still, Expelled is impressive in that it was still ahead of other studio films like The Maze Runner and Guardians of the Galaxy.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is handling the digital distribution of the 85-minute, PG-13 rated film. The film is available on all major digital download platforms like iTunes, Google Play, Comcast, Amazon Instant Video, Target Ticket and Walmart’s Vudu.
So, what made Expelled a success?
The fanbase of the YouTube stars.
Cameron Dallas has 6.1 million Vine followers and 2.8 million YouTube followers. He mobilized his fans and launched multiple Twitter hashtag campaigns like #ExpelledMovieToNumberOne and it ultimately ended up trending worldwide on Twitter.
Andrea Russett has 1.8 million YouTube followers, 2.1 million Instagram followers, and 1.5 million Twitter followers on Twitter.
Lia Marie Johnson has 1.4 million YouTube followers.
Expelled already has 5000+ reviews while Equalizer, the current #1 on iTunes, has 123 reviews.
The success of the film, a first from AwesomenessTV Films, illustrates a major shift in the entertainment industry. Savvy Youtube stars prove that they can successfully transition to longform content using their social media influence.
Brian Robbins, founder of AwesomenessTV, remarked on the success of the film as a “reflection of the ever-changing marketplace, with fans who want to own their favorite movies and enjoy them on their terms.”
The movie is a harbinger of things to come in the entertainment industry. Namely, more YouTube stars in traditional media.