Fan-owned entertainment company creates community among movie-lovers

The world's first fan-owned entertainment company brought its newest creation, the film "MANDY," to Columbia theaters for a one night feature, including a special Q&A screening with lead Nicolas Cage and director Panos Cosmatos.

Legion M allows fans to invest as little as $100 to be a part of a company that creates movies like "MANDY," according to CEO Paul Scanlan. Scanlan founded Legion M along with the company's president, Jeff Annison, in 2016.

"We're literally owned by passionate fans of entertainment," said Scanlan. "A community of like-minded people that have come together to create almost like a movement.” 

What this means is that investors can earn a financial return on investment as well as an emotional one. This emotional return on investment comes from events like the "MANDY" screening in Columbia, where fan investors are able to come together and see a product that they helped create by investing in the company. Scanlan explained how events like Sundance Film Festival and organized meet-ups create "memorable lifetime experiences" for fans.

The reason Legion M is a relatively new company is because up until a few years ago, it technically wasn't legal to have a company like this. However, in 2012, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act was signed into law. 

Prior to this act, unless you met the Security and Exchange Commission's definition of an accredited investor, it was illegal to invest in start-ups. This is because it's extremely high risk, which is why Legion M urges investors to only invest what they can afford to lose. Scanlan said that the average investor puts about $500 into the company.

 “If you look at the entertainment business these days, the vast majority of the biggest studios are owned by Wall Street," Scanlan said. "And what that means is that they invest in projects that have a built-in audience.” 

Scanlan explained that Legion M wants to create its own built-in audience that will co-own the company and invest in the movies and projects that they want to see.

 “This isn’t a good place to put your college savings plan or anything like that," Scanlan said. "Because it’s startup investing, you shouldn’t invest any more than you’re willing to walk away from.” 

Legion M invested in "MANDY" before the film was fully produced because the company believed in Cosmatos, the film's director, and Jóhann Jóhannson, the film's composer. 

 “One of the things that our investment really helped solidify, which was really kind of the final decision for us, was bringing in Jóhann Jóhannson to do the heavy metal cinematic score, or the soundtrack,” Scanlan said. 

Jóhannson, an Academy Award-nominated composer, passed away soon after completing his work for "MANDY." Scanlan believes the score is the "defining characteristic" of the film, as Jóhannson had never composed a heavy metal score for a movie. 

The plot of "MANDY" follows loving couple Red (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) living in the woods. When the leader of a strange nearby cult decides he wants Mandy and kidnaps her, Red goes on a revenge fantasy hunt.

The part love story, part revenge fantasy film is considered one of Legion M's "midnight movies." This means that, according to the Legion M website, the film is "dark, challenging and outlandish (+ stunning, moving, and hypnotic)." The film is only showing in select theaters with limited showtimes. Legion M believes that its series of midnight movies have the potential to eventually become cult classics.

For the future, Legion M hopes to continue to organize meet-ups all around the country so fans can enjoy movies they helped fund.

 “We believe in what we call the immeasurable power of fans," Scanlan said. "That individually we’re all just fans and we buy tickets and go see movies, you know, watch Netflix and do the things that we do but when we band together, we have power.” 

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