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CollegeHumor jumps into film, eschewing release in theaters, with ‘Coffee Town’

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But turning a 90-minute feature into a hit is exponentially more difficult. Audiences have yet to prove they’ll watch previously unknown entities, on comedy sites or anywhere else, in anything more than bite-size chunks.

Drawing media to films that don’t receive traditional theatrical openings can also be a challenge. (CollegeHumor will stage a series of theatrical special engagements in the coming weeks.) And though online upstarts frequently like to say they can be more efficient than the studios in their marketing, the splashy rotation of TV and outdoor ads is often critical even in spurring iTunes rentals or Amazon streams.

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Van Veen says that sophisticated targeting measures, such as aiming ads at users who have clicked on similar comedy on CollegeHumor or who have Facebook likes for other work of the "Coffee Town" performers, can make up the difference, helping CollegeHumor reach as many people as the studios’ all-media broadsides.

He and Copeland also think they have a potent weapon in the film’s comedic set pieces and potentially quotable moments.

"It would be great if this became the kind of movie people watch on Comedy Central 10 years from now," Copeland said. Then, realizing his statement contained a less-than-digital idea, added, "I guess a little traditional media isn’t bad."

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