MakeMoreMST3K Kickstarter Rewards

Created by Joel Hodgson & Team MST3K

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Want to grab any of our Kickstarter-exclusive rewards before they disappear forever? If it's listed below, you've still got time to pre-order now! PLEASE NOTE: The physical rewards below will not ship until at least July 2022. Digital rewards will be distributed as soon as they are ready.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

MST3K Weekly Update: Sept 27 - Oct 1, 2021
about 1 year ago – Fri, Oct 01, 2021 at 11:31:07 PM

In This Update

  •  Production Update: Two weeks til we start shooting! Plus: photos, props + artwork!
  •  Kickstarter News: Overdue reward surveys +  last week's Virtual Set Visit hiccup
  •  NYCC Exclusive: Sneak peek at three limited edition comic book prints!
  •  Tour News: Chicago ticket pre-sale begins next Friday!
  •  Meet the Team: Josh Warner, Production Assistant 

Happy Halloween Month!

It’s October, friends! How did that happen? It’s also Friday, and that means it’s time for your weekly update. Lesley and Ivan here with the most fascinating tidbits and lore, so let’s jump in.


  •  EPISODE WRITING: Joel is still hard at work “seaming together” the thirteen episodes, and adjusting details in the host segments to support the season-long overall narrative. Also, after last week’s Virtual Set Visit to the Writers’ Room, a lot of you have asked for a list of all of our writers’ social media handles to follow. We’re working on pulling that together, and will share it as soon as we do.
  •  TURKEY DAY APPROACHES: This week, we’ve also been working with Joel on some special scripted segments for this year’s Turkey Day Marathon, which we’ll shoot in Philadelphia in October. We don’t want to give too much away, but you can expect this year’s Turkey Day to reveal some major details about Season 13 that you won’t want to miss. (Not that you will, since we’ll also send you an update with everything we share. But trust us, you’ll have more fun watching the Turkey Day Marathon.)
  •  COSTUMES, PROPS + BOTS: We’ve hired our propmaster for October’s shoot near Philadelphia, and have started receiving the first rounds of finished props and costumes at the Alternaversal offices: 
Boxes of costumes arriving from Minneapolis
A rack of GPC2s, sleeping.
Some props. As usual, no context.
More props. Still no context.
  •  ARTWORK & MODELS: Our long-time collaborator Gary Glover, who has done the poster artwork for Seasons 12 and 13, as well as some of the background illustration “plates” that appeared in Season 12, has officially joined the production team for Season 13, and is hard at work helping us visualize the newest images needed for our models, backgrounds, and sets. Here’s some work he did this week on Moonbase 13:
  • Those individual shapes will be turned into printed panels that are used to build an updated model of Moonbase 13, which we’ll then use for some new model shots this season. Also, just like our models from Seasons 11 and 12, the window panels as designed as green screen, so that we can replace them with footage of whatever is happening inside the base.


1. The survey deadline has passed, and we’ve still got about 4500 unanswered surveys.
 We’re evaluating the best way to make sure those backers will still be able to get their rewards without holding up the timeline to get rewards produced and shipped to those of you who did finish your surveys. Our main challenge right now is that we suspect many of those remaining 4500 backers haven’t seen the BackerKit emails at all, and don’t know about the deadline, so we’re trying to figure out other ways of reaching them.

2. We’re working with manufacturers to figure out an estimated reward shipping schedule.

We’re still learning how COVID will affect the production and shipping of each of our rewards. A lot of materials are harder to get than usual, and across the board, almost all freight providers are estimating that shipments may take weeks – or months – longer than usual.
That said, we’re doing our best to move forward with reward production as quickly as we can, and will keep you posted on our estimated schedule for shipping your rewards as we learn more.
As of now, we are planning to send out the MST3K HOLIDAY CARD this year, in time for (surprise) the holidays. As for the other physical rewards, well… with one or two exceptions, our current goal is to receive them at our warehouse, pack them up, and ship them out by around mid-February.

3. We’re working on fixing the technical issues from our first Virtual Set Visit.

For those of you who joined us for last week’s VIRTUAL SET VISIT, we apologize for the extremely awkward technical problems that arose during the post-Writers’ Room Q&A.

The quick explanation is that we were using a new service that allows us to capture HD footage of each speaker for later use, and to livestream and patch in video callers with questions, all at the same time. While it performed fine in all of our technical tests, it ended up choking hard during the actual livestream, resulting in video and audio that several backers accurately described as “painfully unwatchable.”
That said: we’re almost done re-assembling the entire session in HD, and will make that video available shortly for all backers whose rewards include Virtual Set Visit access.

And, for those of you who expressed concern or disappointment with last week’s experience, please know that we’re re-evaluating our technical setup for all of the remaining Virtual Set Visits and livestream events. We’ll do our best to make sure this doesn’t happen again, and we’ve got at least 3 more virtual set visits planned throughout production, so you’ll still get more chances to ask questions.


  • Going to New York ComicCon next weekend? If so: (a) we’re jealous, (b) please remember to be safe and wear a mask, and (c) be sure to stop by Source Point Press (Booth 2137) to check out three ultra-exclusive MST3K + NYCC art prints that will be available for sale!
  • Drawn by the incredible Shane Campos and art-directed by Season 13 Executive Producer Mike Federali, each 11x17” illustration riffs on an iconic classic comic cover. 
  • Only one design will be available each day, and there are only 100 numbered copies of each print… so if you want one, be sure to hit up the booth early!
Click the image for a better look at the designs.


Have you checked out the new official MST3K forums yet? What are you waiting for? Jump in here if you’d like to check it out. Here are a few tempting threads from the past week:



Your backer-exclusive presale begins on Friday, October 8 at 10am Central Time, using code MVSGN.

Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, OCTOBER 13 at 10am CT.

You can see all the currently-announced dates and theaters on our tour website at


Each week, we’re introducing you to another member of the MST3K team. This week, it's...

Josh Warner, Production Assistant 

1. In a sentence or two, what do you do on MST3K? I'm the lucky production assistant in PA. I get to work closely with Joel to help keep the pre-production process running smoothly. Since I'm the P.A. in PA, I got the cool nickname “Papa.”

2. What do you love most about your job? Joel Hodgson coming and randomly showing me obscure punk rock anthems.

3. Tell us a fun fact about you. I'm straight-edge. So when I turned 21, the first thing I tried naturally was coffee for the first time.

That’s all for this week. As always, join us on the forum thread with your feedback and questions, and have a sparkling weekend!

Your correspondents,

Lesley & Ivan

MST3K Weekly Update: Sept 20-24, 2021
about 1 year ago – Sat, Sep 25, 2021 at 11:31:52 PM

In This Update

  •  Production News: We’re done writing! Plus: photos + art, storyboards.
  •  Kickstarter News: Remaining surveys due by SEPT 26. 
  •  Reward News: The virtual set visits began today!
  •  Tour News: Updates for MO, KY, IN and OR
  •  Meet the Team: Josh Fruehling, Co-Producer

Happy Fall, Y’all!

It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for your weekly update. Lesley and Ivan here with all the newest behind-the-scenes details you’re dying to know. Let’s begin!


  •  EPISODE WRITING has now been completed, with our writers submitting their final riffs for our thirteenth movie just a few hours ago! We saved our holiday episode to riff last – that’s the one that features Jonah, Emily and Joel, and will be the finale for Season 13. There’s still some editing and revision to be done, and a few additional sketches that link the episodes together, but this represents a huge production milestone.  
  • All told, our writers have now produced almost 1500 pages of riffs and sketches for this season… and not a moment too soon, since we start shooting our first new episodes in just over two weeks!
  •  CONCEPT ART: The incredible Mike Norton is still hard at work, and continues to turn out dozens of new illustrations and visual references each week. And, while we’re still not ready to tell you what you’re looking at, we thought you might like to see a little more of the work he’s been sharing with us:
Same as last time: wrong guesses only, please.
  •  STORYBOARDING: Over the last week, Joel has also been working with a fantastic storyboard artist named Nick Diaz, who is helping us pre-visualize the specific shots and images that will appear in our newest opening sequence. We’ll share more storyboard artwork after the season premiere, but here’s a first sneak peek:
  • Speaking of new opening sequences: we can tell you that there will be an updated theme song for Season 13, and – in a return to time-honored MST3K tradition – the song will be performed by our hosts and the cast.
  •  ROBOT BUILDING: Our robot fabrication partners at Monkey Boys have also been hard at work building all of the updated bots and puppets we’ll need for this season. We’re happy to report that work is now finished on all of this season’s Crow and Servo bots, and that we’ve got them here in our offices:
  •  PRODUCTION COUNTDOWN: We’re now just 16 DAYS from the start of shooting in Philadelphia. We’ll be shooting for about two weeks with the MST3K LIVE cast, since we need to get most of their episodes shot before they hit the road on tour in November. At that point, shooting will move to Los Angeles, where we’ll shoot for a few weeks, break for Thanksgiving, and then continue shooting for another week or so in December. Finally, when the live tour ends in February, we’ll regroup in Philadelphia to shoot our last few episodes, including the holiday special with all three hosts.


1. The REWARD SURVEY has been sent, and 86% of you have completed it.

Thank you to the ~1,000 backers who finished and submitted their BackerKit reward surveys this week, leaving about 5,000 still to be completed. We’re now getting close to the deadline where we’ll start to place manufacturing orders, so…

2. If your survey is INCOMPLETE, please try to finish it by SUNDAY NIGHT!

If you haven’t received your email invitation, please be sure to let us know ASAP. And if you’ve received your survey email but haven’t filled it out, please do your best to submit your answers before the end of this weekend. (That’s SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, at 11:59pm PT.)

If you aren’t able to complete your BackerKit survey before the deadline, we’ll still do our best to make sure you receive all of your rewards... but we can’t guarantee when you’ll get them. So, please get your surveys in ASAP so you don't end up waiting until our second or third wave of reward shipments.

3. The first VIRTUAL SET VISIT happened this afternoon!

For backers whose rewards include the “Virtual Set Visit” experience, you should have received an email yesterday with details on joining today’s visit to observe the MST3K Writers’ Room during their final riffing session for Season 13.

If you didn’t see the instruction email, or couldn’t make it during the livestream, don’t worry: you can still access a complete video of today’s Virtual Set Visit for the next two weeks. And remember, we’re still hosting several more Set Visit Sessions before the end of production, you’ll have more chances to join us live and ask questions.

4. Still need help? We’ve got you covered!

If you still need help with your reward survey – or have other questions – please be sure to check out our new MST3K KnowledgeBase, full of FAQs and self-serve help articles. If that doesn’t answer your question, please email, and give us 24-48 hours to respond. We’ll make sure your issue gets resolved, we promise!


We are STILL having the most fun on the official MST3K forums and we can’t believe you haven’t joined us yet. Check it out here if you’d like to see what we mean. 

Here are a few dazzling threads from the past week:


We’ve got some new tour dates to share!

  •  Kansas City, MO: Tickets are on sale now! 
  •  Louisville, KY: Tickets will go on backer presale from September 28 through 30 with code MVSGN. They’ll go on sale to the general public on October 1. The actual show date and other info will be announced on Monday, September 27.
  •  Nashville IN: We finally got corrected dates for this one. Yes, it is still in Indiana. Tickets will go on backer presale from September 29-30 with code MVSGN. They’ll go on sale to the general public on October 1. The actual show date and other info will be announced on Tuesday, September 28.
  •  Portland, OR: Tickets will go on backer presale from October 13-14 with code MVSGN. They’ll go on sale to the general public on October 15. The actual show date and other info will be announced on October 11.

You can see all the currently-announced dates and theaters and links (oh my!) on our tour website at


Each week, we’re introducing you to another member of the MST3K team. This week, it's...

Josh Fruehling, Co-Producer

1. In a sentence or two, what do you do on MST3K? I breakdown scripts and make the shooting schedules so we can make the show without forgetting anything. Then when we’re on set, I make sure we’re getting what we need while making sure we’re doing it in time. I also work on the less glamorous side of the show, facilitating contracts between creatives and unions so we can all keep making the show happily.

2. What do you love most about your job? It’s all about the people for me. Everyone on the show is super nice and very creative and fun and funny which makes the job fun. It’s also really cool to work on a show when you’re already a fan!

3. Tell us a fun fact about you. I am a cinnamon roll aficionado and have an unhealthy obsession for them. Literally unhealthy; they’re really not very good for you.

That’s all for this week! As always, thanks as always for reading... and, as always, please join us on this week's forum discussion thread with your questions and feedback!

Have an ebullient weekend, all!

Your correspondents,

Ivan & Lesley

MST3K Weekly Update: Sept 13-17, 2021
about 1 year ago – Fri, Sep 17, 2021 at 10:59:54 PM

In This Update

  •  Production News: T minus 23 days to production! Prototypes + costumes!
  •  Kickstarter News: Survey due by SEPT 24. New KnowledgeBase is live!
  •  Reward News: First virtual set visit session next Friday at 12:30pm PT!
  •  Tour News: Columbus, OH presale next week!
  •  Meet the Team: Elliott Kalan, Consulting Writer

Howdy, pardners!

It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for your weekly update. Lesley and Ivan here to thrill and entertain you with MST3K minutiae! Let’s roll it out!


  •  EPISODE WRITING is almost complete! Our thirteenth movie has one week left in the Writers’ Room, and then we’ll be finished with all of the riff-writing for the season. After that, we’ve still got a little more to do on what Joel describes as “seaming together” the whole season, which means going back and adding a few additional segments or interactions into each episode to create the overall season “arc” that assembles the episodes into an ongoing season-long narrative.
  •  MODEL PROTOTYPING is also well underway, as we both update some familiar models and elements that appear in the show and work out the designs for new models and locations. The models will be built on location to be shot in Alternaversal’s new offices.
  • For example, here’s a working prototype from the Alternaversal office that Joel has been building to think through a few new details for Moonbase 13:
  • As you can see, we’re not working in high-end 3D rendering software. Instead, our prototypes still tend to be built from things we grab from our homes: in this case, the future of Moonbase 13 is taking shape with the help of a colander, a roll of white tape, some paper plates, and a leftover MST3K tiki mug from the last Kickstarter.
  •  COSTUME WORK also continues at breakneck speed – and while we still can’t explain what you’re looking at without spoiling future surprises, Beez has been generous enough to send in a few more shots from her workshop in Minneapolis:
  • Long-time MSTies will also be glad to know that the Elna sewing machine (above) is the same exact sewing machine used for MST3K during the earlier seasons, and which Beez bought when Best Brains closed up shop.
  •  PRODUCTION COUNTDOWN: In general, everything is starting to move faster, since we now have just 23 DAYS LEFT until we arrive on set in Philadelphia to start shooting. As always, we’ll do our best to keep you up-to-date on the most interesting progress and developments!
  •  VIRAL MARKETING: Finally, even though it isn’t quite “production news,” we wanted to acknowledge that our latest viral marketing idea for Mystery Science Theater 3000 might have gone a little bit too far. Some of you may have spotted this suspiciously SOL-shaped asteroid in the news last week. We apologize to astronomers everywhere.


1. The REWARD SURVEY has been sent, and 85% of you have completed it!

This week, another 5,000 of you finished and submitted your BackerKit reward surveys, leaving just under 6,000 still to be completed. And the sooner we get the remaining surveys filled out, the sooner we’ll be able to start manufacturing – and distributing – a lot of your rewards!

2. If your survey is INCOMPLETE, you’ve got ONE MORE WEEK to finish it.

If you haven’t filled your survey out yet, we’d be grateful if you could take 5 minutes and do it ASAP, so that we can make sure you get your rewards at the same time as everyone else. The new – and hopefully final – deadline to complete your reward survey in time for the first wave of reward shipments is now FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, at 11:59pm PT. (Plus, as soon as you submit your survey, you’ll stop getting those annoying automated reminder emails!)

3. Have questions? Need help? We’ve launched a support portal!

To make sure you get answers and help as quickly as possible, we’ve launched our official MST3K KnowledgeBase -- a page full of FAQs and self-serve help articles – that covers 99% of the questions and requests we’ve been getting. Take a look to find out how to...

We’ll continue to update the KnowledgeBase each week with new answers, including more details about how (and when) you’ll receive all of your rewards, so keep checking back.

(Also, now that we think about it: shouldn’t a “support portal” just be called a “supportal”?)

4. Still need help? Please email our Support Team at!

If you can’t find the answers you need in our new KnowledgeBase, please submit all of your questions and requests through email to! We know it sometimes seems faster to ask our team questions in Kickstarter comments, on the forums, or on social media, but unfortunately, we can’t guarantee we’ll always see your questions there. For the fastest response, please just email us once, and then give us 24-48 hours to respond!

5. More details about VIRTUAL SET VISITS coming early next week!

Finally, for backers who grabbed the “Virtual Set Visit” as a pledge reward or add-on reward: just a friendly reminder that the first part of the virtual set visit experience will take place via livestream next FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, starting at 12:30pm PT.

If your rewards include access to the virtual set visits, you’ll receive more information early next week, so be sure to keep tabs on your email for a message from BackerKit with instructions! 


Wait, you haven’t joined the forums yet? What are you waiting for? Your invitation is here if you’d like to check it out. Here are a few fascinating threads from the past week:


Hey hey COLUMBUS, OHIO, the Time Bubble Tour is coming your way! The presale for Kickstarter backers will begin on Tuesday, September 21 through Thursday September 23, and you can get into the presale with the code MVSGN

Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Friday September 24th. All of the details will be on our tour website at on Monday. That’s also where you can find info about all our other shows currently on sale, and also our COVID policies.


Each week, we’re introducing you to another member of the MST3K team. This week, it's...

Elliott Kalan, Consulting Writer

1. In a sentence or two, what do you do on MST3K? This season I call myself a Consulting Writer, which is a name I made up that doesn't really describe very much. My main job is to work on the host segments and make their scripts as strong and polished as possible -- taking the premises generated by the other writers and getting them to shine as clearly and funnily as they can be. I'm also available to parachute in and help out with any other writing-process-related complications that come up along the way.

2. What do you love most about your job? I love that I get to be involved with MST! Working on the Host Segments takes me back to my early training as a sketch writer, which is a blast. I get to work with the characters's personalities and play them off each other. It also means I only have to watch the movies once as opposed to riff writing in the previous seasons, where I had to watch them over and over again until I went mad!

3. Tell us a fun fact about you. My grandmother says we're distantly related to screenwriter Robert Riskin, who was married to Fay Wray from King Kong -- though neither of them lifted a finger to help me get a job in show business!

And that’s that for this week! Please do join us on the forums thread for this update with your feedback and questions. Have a scintillating weekend!

Your correspondents,

Lesley & Ivan

HOW MST3K GETS MADE: The Wild World of Movie Rights
about 1 year ago – Fri, Sep 17, 2021 at 09:15:57 PM

Hello friends! Welcome to another in-depth exploration of the work involved as we #MakeMoreMST3K.

In this update, we’ll look deeper into the process of securing film rights for each episode — and why doing things legally is important.

We’ll also talk about how fans’ film suggestions can be a sticky issue, and why – even though we love the enthusiasm – it’s rare that we can actually use any of these ideas. By the end of this update you’ll have a better understanding of the process behind it all.

Let’s get started!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is beloved for lots of reasons, but I’d argue one of the bigger ones is how democratic and accessible movie riffing feels. Most of us have sat watching a lackluster TV show or a movie and made jokes at its expense; it’s practically human nature to take a boring experience and make it more interesting with our own commentary.

Thus, it’s no surprise that one of the most common pieces of feedback we get from the MST3K community is suggestions for movies that are begging to be riffed. But the truth remains that, as much as we may want to riff a particular movie, very often legal hurdles prevent it.

To understand what makes this process so complicated, I once again talked with Matt McGinnis, a producer and writer on the show.

Does MST3K Take Requests?

At the heart of each episode of MST3K is a movie that someone else created, which flavors and shapes the whole experience. Because we don’t own these movies ourselves, for each episode we must negotiate to acquire the rights to the movie from the person or distributor who owns them. Sometimes the rights are owned by a production company, or a big media distribution company, and sometimes they’re owned by an individual. As a result,  it’s occasionally a bit of a journey just to figure out who owns the rights in the first place. And of course, once we track the owner down, then there’s a negotiation to begin. These early steps have a way of winnowing down our options, which means taking requests from the MST3K community is not always feasible – even if we agree that a movie would make a terrific riff!

As Matt explains further, “This is what’s hard about when people talk to me, or when I see people online saying, ‘Have you seen this movie? You guys gotta do this movie!’ Because that’s just not how it works. We can’t just do any movie we want. We have to get the rights to it. Without the rights, there’s no movie, and without the movie, there’s no MST3K. So we can’t really window-shop for movies. We can try to find out who owns the rights to a certain movie and whether they’re willing to let us riff their film, but we can’t just work around it. We have to get the rights.”

Acquiring film rights is rarely a straightforward conversation. There’s not one huge central clearinghouse for licensing bad movies, as much as we wish that was the case. As I said above, every movie has a person or group who owns the rights to it, and with whom we have to reach an agreement. Sometimes a movie is owned by one person; when this happens it’s usually the filmmaker, or someone who has bought the rights (or sometimes, even inherited them!) from the original creator. Or a movie might be owned by a production company or a distribution company — companies that produce and sell movies — which may have bought the rights from someone else. Rights can be sold and transferred repeatedly, and this becomes even more convoluted when you’re dealing with older movies, as MST3K often is, because a decades-old movie may have changed hands multiple times over the years… and it’s not always clear where to find a record of those deals to start with.

There are also multiple kinds of rights attached to any given movie. For example, when we’re acquiring movies for new episodes of MST3K, we need home video rights, which give us permission to sell the movie for download or on disc, as well as digital streaming rights, which let us stream it online through the Gizmoplex, or on free ad-supported platforms like Tubi. On top of that, these rights are frequently region-specific, which means that we need to track down the same rights from multiple owners if we want an episode to be viewable outside of the US. Given that we have fans all over the world, we want to make sure new episodes are as widely available as possible.

As Matt says, “We strive to get worldwide rights so fans everywhere can see the episode. Sometimes that’s not easy, sometimes it’s too expensive. And sometimes we can’t get a movie at all, if the distributor doesn’t want us to have it. There have been several movies that fans have mentioned that the writers and I would love to have on the show, that we just can’t get because the rights holder does not want us to riff their movie.”

And ultimately, the rights holder gets to make that call — nobody hasto sell us rights if they don’t want to, and it’s probably not surprising that some people just don’t want to hand over their movie to be mocked by a host and some robots trapped in space.

Matt continues, “That’s the business side of this. It’s not just that we have fun and we watch movies. We do have fun, but then we have to spend money, and then we have to negotiate, and then we have contracts, and so on. I think most fans are probably bored by this business side of things, but it does shine a different light on what it means when people send us requests. I’d love to do lots of the movies people have asked for! But the rights holder already told us we can’t.”

Understanding the different kinds of film rights also helps explain the challenges involved with one of the most frequent requests we get: to release recorded versions of the MST3K LIVE tour shows.  When we acquire a movie for a touring show, we need theatrical rights, which let us present the movie in a theater – but in a lot of cases, we’re able to acquire the theatrical rights to a movie and aren’t able to get (or afford) the home video and streaming rights.

The live tours are incredibly fun experiences and it’s understandable that people would want a copy they can watch and re-watch in the comfort of their homes. The whole team knows how much fans want copies of these shows, but it’s not a simple matter of just making a slapdash recording and calling it done. We don’t need home video or streaming rights to take a show on the road, and we don’t need theatrical rights to make a TV show. 

You may be asking, why not just buy ALL the rights to the movies we use on the live tours? The answer is simple: movie rights are expensive, and it doesn’t make financial sense to spend a huge chunk of our limited budget on rights that we aren’t sure we will need or use, especially when we’d much rather spend that money on, y’know, creating an amazing and unique live experience for the folks who come to the live tour.

Matt says, “We would love to do something with those shows eventually, but trying to record the live shows opens a whole other round of negotiations and deal making that we just can’t do right now. Mostly because we’re currently making thirteen shows, twelve shorts, and a live tour. But hopefully we will get to it.”

That said, if you’ve been holding out for recorded versions of the MST3K LIVE shows, not all hope is lost! It’s too soon to guarantee anything, but there is a possibility that we’ll be able to capture a recorded version of these… someday. The team has some ideas about potential ways to make it happen, and plans to explore the question further in the future, when time permits. But for now, it’s just not possible.

(Not) Breaking the Law

Let’s go back to the bigger questions here: Why do we bother with rights at all? Why not stick with public domain films? Nobody actually cares about these horrible old movies, right?

Of course, there are some films for which rights aren’t an issue — movies in the public domain. If a movie is in the public domain, that means its rights are expired, lost, or have been intentionally relinquished. (Remember the Mads’ “Public Domain Karaoke” invention exchange in Pod People? Same basic principle.)

In film, “public domain” includes movies that were never copyrighted, or where the copyright has lapsed, or the rights owner has expressly released the film into the public domain. If that sounds more confusing than you expected, well: it is confusing! The public domain is nowhere near as straightforward as conventional wisdom might have you believe.

I asked Matt why we don’t use more public domain films: “Truthfully, the range of public domain movies is kinda slim. Many of them wouldn’t work for MST3K. But also, there are movies considered to be in the public domain that we still can’t get. There are a few movies we’d love to use, that are considered to be in the public domain, but which people claim to own the rights to, and they won’t let us use them.”

So, while one might assume that the public domain is a free-for-all, that’s not necessarily true. And if a person who owns the rights to a movie — or even just claims to own the rights — doesn’t want us to have it, they can say no, no matter what we have to offer. Another issue is that many public domain movies often fail to meet our standards for sound and picture quality, which narrows the field down further.

While you might assume no one cares whether we use old, forgotten films, there is a pretty obvious reason why that won’t work. As Matt explains, “We just had two ridiculously successful Kickstarter campaigns, and three wildly popular live tours. Someone would notice if we did something illegally. And if you want us to make more shows, we have to do them legally. Otherwise we go away forever. That’s the un-fun real answer. We could get in a lot of trouble, and we want to keep making this show for as long as we can.”

Mystery Science Theater 3000 has also developed a bit of a reputation over the last few decades, as Matt explains: “There are a few other movies that are considered public domain, or are by filmmakers who we’ve riffed stuff from in the past, who have said, ‘I see what you do, I don’t want you to touch my movie.’ That’s also why some classic episodes aren’t on DVD at all; Best Brains may have had the rights to use them in the 90s, but the people who own the rights to those movies today are like, ‘No, you can’t put that out there.’ So sometimes movies don’t happen simply because people don’t like what we do.”

Another question I’ve seen is folks asking why we don’t just release an audio track to sync to a copy of the movie, like Rifftrax does, so we don’t need the rights. Well, the answer is that MST3K isn’t "just" an audio track. It’s always been a bigger proposition than that, from the very beginning.

As Matt points out, when asked about this approach, “One thing that makes MST3K different is that we riff, but we also have characters and storylines that people connect with. Other riffing projects that have started since MST are consciously different, and they want to be different. Hearing people talk over a movie is one thing, and watching robot puppets talk over a movie is another. Neither one is better, but they are different approaches. And to put robot puppets in front of a movie screen, we need the rights to put the movie on that screen.”

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

I asked Matt if he had any “dream episodes” that will never happen: “We actually already did my dream episode when we did Mac & Me. I had that movie on DVD. It was a gag Christmas gift I got years ago, and I watched it with my friends around the time I knew I was going to be working on the show, but I just didn’t know when. So I was sitting there watching Mac & Me and in the back of my head I was thinking, ‘This could work. I have to hold on to this one.’ And when I saw that it was on a list of movies we could get, I was like ‘I’m bringing it in and we’re watching it!’ That was the big dream for me, and I’m so proud of that episode.”

There’s more possibilities on Matt’s wishlist, of course: “There are a few others, but I don’t want to say what they are, on the off chance that we might be able to do them in the future. But generally I don’t have a list of impossible movies. It’s hard to watch a movie, get your hopes up, think it’s really gonna work, come up with a bunch of ideas for it, and then ultimately hear you can’t get the rights and you’ve wasted all that time and energy. I try not to get excited about a movie until we know we’ve got it. You could end up really disappointed, so you learn not to get too invested early on.”

“For example, The Peanut Butter Solution is one that people bring up a lot, and even people in the cast have requested it. But unfortunately, we just can’t get the rights to it. I do think it would be a good episode; I saw somewhere that someone said it was ‘Nickelodeon by way of David Lynch.’ And that’s such a perfect description! We just can’t get it.”

The fact is, sometimes the people who own a movie’s rights can set limits that make using the movie impossible, even if they’ve technically agreed to let us use it. Two of the movies we had thought we’d cleared for season 13 fell through, and one of them did so because the rights owner refused to allow us to edit the film, and the uncut version was much too long.

The films we use are not just edited for time but for pacing; let’s not forget that these are cheesy movies to begin with. While it’s true that some historical MST3K edits have removed large chunks of plot — to the consternation of some MSTies — the show just works better when it’s kept tight and agile. In season 13, you’ll see us riff the uncut Gamera vs. Jiger, which we agreed to as a condition of getting the rights for it. And you might not think those extra fourteen minutes would make a huge difference in how the riff feels, but when you’re writing it – or watching it – those fourteen extra minutes can feel like a hundred years, especially when most of it is people in rubber suits throwing each other around.

That said, we have an amazing group of films for season 13, and we can hardly wait to share them with the MST3K community. I asked Matt about his overall vibe for the season: “I am so excited, because I think it’s such a diverse group. We have a movie from almost every era. The 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2010s. It’s such a colorful mix, and we have a Gamera movie, which I’m so excited about. We also have our first black and white movie since the Sci-Fi Channel years. It’s a great variety, but it doesn’t feel inconsistent because all the movies are really fun. And there’s a lot of stuff that’s not obvious. One particular movie that we haven’t announced yet is a little higher rated than we usually go for. But it’s not a good movie. It’s just really well shot. It’s a well made movie, but it’s not good. We’re kind of pushing the boundaries of how good a bad movie can be, this year, and I think that’s going to excite a lot of people.”

So that’s the deeper background on how we get the rights for each episode’s movie. In our next in-depth update, we’ll be going into more precise detail on the writing process, and how the riffs and host segments come together.

If you have further questions, please join us on the forum thread for this update, or drop them in comments below. Thanks again for reading, all.


MST3K Weekly Update: Sept 6-10, 2021
about 1 year ago – Sat, Sep 11, 2021 at 01:55:50 AM

In This Update

  •  Production News: Sneak peeks at concept art + Emily’s jumpsuit
  •  Kickstarter News: Reward survey news + how to get help with surveys
  •  Reward News: First virtual set visit on Sept 24! Reward schedule coming soon.
  •  Tour News: New dates in Nashville + Boise
  •  Meet the Team: Ryan Ritchey, Post Production Supervisor 

Ahoy Backers!

It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for your weekly update. Ivan and Lesley here with your weekly roundup of the latest news and announcements, so enough dilly-dallying: let’s do this, shall we?


  •  EPISODE WRITING continues, and we’re nearing the end! Today marks the end of riff-writing for movies 11 and 12; the final movie riff begins on Monday. Once that’s finished, all our writing rooms will be complete. (That doesn’t mean the whole process is done, however — Joel and the team need to weave a narrative through the season, as well as make any final adjustments to the riff scripts.)
  •  CONCEPT ART: While we haven’t been able to show you much of the concept art being generated behind the scenes (which would risk spoiling a lot of fun jokes and setups for the new episodes), you should know that our production artist, Mike Norton, has been cranking out an endless stream of incredible artwork to guide the production of props, set pieces and visual gags. After each new episode premieres, we’ll be able to share more of these illustrations with you, but we’ve been enjoying Mike’s concept art so much that we really want to share a few context-free pieces with you this week:
  • Let us know what you think this stuff might be in the comments or this week’s forum talkback thread. (Wrong answers only, please.)
  •  COSTUME WORK is also ongoing, as Beez continues to create wardrobe for all of our Season 13 sketches and the more fundamental essentials. This week, that involved a remote fitting session with Emily for her new Gizmonic jumpsuit:
  • As you might have gathered from our preview of this season’s updated Mission Patches, Emily Connor will officially be donning a PURPLE jumpsuit. (But don’t worry: you haven’t seen the last of the mysterious, purple-jumpsuited Matt Claude Van Damme.)
  •  PRODUCTION LOGISTICS: We’re pleased to confirm that we’ve booked our production soundstage in Philadelphia for October, and are close to locking our preferred soundstage in Los Angeles for November and December. Beyond that, Clint and the production office have been staying busy managing an endless to-do list of contracts, budget details and vendor relationships.
  •  HURRICANE UPDATE: Following last week’s hurricane, we’re also relieved to report that the new Alternaversal office has regained power, and should have internet service sometime next week. Moving on up!


1. The REWARD SURVEY has been sent, and 77% of you have completed it!

That’s a pretty good response rate, friends: in the past 10 days, almost 30,000 of you have completed your reward surveys, selected your add-ons, and submitted your details! We appreciate everyone being so quick with this – and if you haven’t filled out your survey yet, that’s okay! Just jump to #3 or #4 below for more instructions.

2. If your survey is COMPLETE, we’ll collect any remaining balance TODAY.

For everyone who has completed the survey, we’ll be “locking” your surveys this afternoon, so that we can start placing manufacturing orders for the specific rewards you’ve selected. And, for those of you who upgraded individual rewards, increased your pledge level, or selected new Add-On Rewards, you might have additional balance due on your reward survey. If you do, we’ll be charging the credit card numbers you provided in BackerKit later this afternoon.

3. If your survey is INCOMPLETE, you’ve got another week to finish it.

If you haven’t completed your survey yet – or haven’t seen the invitation email – don’t worry! You’ve still got another week, since our current deadline is FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17. As long as your survey is completed by next Friday at 11:59pm PT, your rewards will make it into our first wave of orders and shipments. If your survey isn’t submitted by the deadline, we’ll still make sure you get your rewards, but they might be delayed until a second round of shipments.

4. If you still HAVEN’T RECEIVED your reward survey, we can help!

If you haven’t seen your reward survey email yet, don’t panic: we’ll get it sorted out! There are a few possible reasons you haven’t gotten your survey, so start by reading this post in our new #MakeMoreMST3K KnowledgeBase, which will walk you through the fastest options for finding it, or for helping our support team follow up with you.


1. The first VIRTUAL SET VISIT has been moved to SEPTEMBER 24.

If your rewards include the Virtual Set Visit (included in Experiment 400, and all higher experiments that include lower previous pledge levels), we sent you a message through Kickstarter this week explaining that we’ve rescheduled the first session – a look inside the Writers Room followed by a writing Q&A session – for Friday, September 24, at 12:30pm PT.


As soon as the reward surveys are completed, we’ll start placing manufacturing orders for all of the physical rewards, and preparing all of the digital rewards. As we do, we’ll start to get more accurate timing estimates for each reward.

We’ll keep you informed every time we get new information, but based on all of our best estimates right now, our current estimate is that most of the physical rewards will be shipped no earlier than December 2021 and no later than March 2022. Please remember that COVID continues to disrupt most manufacturing and shipping, so it’s always possible that these dates will need to be adjusted… but right now, we think those are safe estimates.

For your peace of mind, we’re also creating a REWARD DELIVERY SCHEDULE, which will provide a complete list of all rewards for this Kickstarter, and let you check the up-to-date status of each reward to figure out when your rewards will arrive. We’ll let you know as soon as that schedule is available, so stay tuned!


Have you hopped on the new official MST3K forums yet? Join up here if you’d like to check it out. Here are a few enticing threads from the past week:


Announcing two new tour dates: BOISE, ID and NASHVILLE, IN (yes, that’s Indiana; sorry Tennessee). 

Both of these dates will go on backer presale next Wednesday, September 15, at 12pm ET. The presale code is MVSGN.

You can see all the currently-announced dates and theaters on our tour website at The above two dates won’t be publicly announced until Monday, so they won’t be on the site just yet. Yes, there will be more dates announced later this month!


Each week, we’re introducing you to another member of the MST3K team. This week, it's...

Ryan Ritchey, Post Production Supervisor

1. In a sentence or two, what do you do on MST3K? I’m the post-production supervisor on Season 13, which means I’m responsible for getting our episodes to their proper length, and adding all the doo-dads and whirlygigs that couldn’t be shot practically. If all goes well, you shouldn’t notice anything I do!

2. What do you love most about your job? I’m involved early on with cutting down the movies for each episode, so I get to see how bad some of these movies are right up front, and then I get to see the other end of the process where this amazing team once again mines gold from the bituminous coal of bad movies.

3. Tell us a fun fact about you. I’m a themed entertainment design/history buff. So much so, that I recently started hosting a silly little show called "The Theme Park Trivia Show” (Never waste your creativity on a title!) If you check it out, you might even see some other folks from behind the scenes here at MST3K.

That’s all for this week, folks! As always, we invite you to join us on the forums thread for this update with your questions and feedback. Have a sparkling weekend, all!

Your correspondents,

Ivan & Lesley