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The Smosh Guys Want to Go From YouTube to the Movie Theater

Lionsgate hopes YouTube fans will follow their stars into the theaters.

Melly Lee
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox are already a very big deal on YouTube. How big can they be in Hollywood?

We are going to find out: Lionsgate, the studio behind movie franchises like the “The Hunger Games” and “The Expendables,” has picked up the rights to “The Smosh Movie,” the film the Web comedy duo produced earlier this year.

Padilla and Hecox aren’t the first Web video stars to try their hands at a movie — you may or may not recall “The Fred Movie,” starring Lucas “Fred” Cruikshank, which ended up going to Nickelodeon instead of theaters — but they are probably the biggest. Their YouTube channels have 30 million subscribers, and their standalone site generates 12 million visitors a month.

A press release describes the movie as a “high-concept ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ for 2014,” and I’m not really sure what that means. But that may beside the point, since Smosh fans likely won’t care what it means, either. And like many popular YouTube videos, this one will also feature other people who are popular on YouTube, including Jenna Marbles, Grace Helbig and Shane Dawson.

Lionsgate hasn’t publicly committed to releasing this one in theaters, but that’s the plan, says Keith Richman, president of Defy Media, the Web conglomerate that owns the Smosh brand. Lionsgate also owns a chunk of Defy, but Richman says the deal was done at arm’s length.

Also of note: The film was produced and co-financed by AwesomenessTV, the YouTube network acquired by DreamWorks Animation last year. And Awesomeness head Brian Robbins got into YouTube-land after producing “The Fred Movie” in 2010.

Last spring we interviewed Padilla and Hecox at our Code/Media event in Santa Monica, and they insisted that they wanted to keep their focus on their Web empire, and would only dabble in movies or TV. If the movie works, it will be interesting to revisit that question.

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