Inside Move: Touching a Nerve

Distribs get a buzz with hip Web site

Nerve.com knows how to connect the dots between the moviegoing public and the single crowd. And unlike its dreamy dot-com predecessors, Nerve is inching into the pic and TV worlds and knows where the money is.

Nerve’s bread and butter comes from fees paid by users to respond to personal ads, but it’s now delved into specialty pic marketing, offering distribs such as Miramax, Lions Gate, IFC Films, Universal, Artisan, Fine Line, IDP and Lot 47 access to its upscale, predominantly single, twenty- and thirtysomething membership for as little as $5,000.

In recent months, Nerve has hosted private screenings, premiere after-parties and discussion groups for IFC’s “Y tu mama tambien,” Lot 47’s “Some Body” and Kino’s “The Piano Teacher.”

At the same time, Nerve is quietly using revenues from its personals and online marketing to commission articles, some of which are developed into pic or TV projects.

Last year, Nerve was a producer of HBO’s “Downloading Sex” special, and it currently has two film projects: “Buck Wild,” set up at Dimension; and “Tonic,” set up at Revolution Studios.

“We want to define ourselves as a niche film marketing vehicle,” says Nerve VP of development Alisa Volkman. “Our sensibilities are aligned with indie films.”

Still, Nerve’s ability to produce pics is largely unproven, as is its effectiveness in the marketing arena.

Having shed its reputation as a site for erotica, Nerve’s Web traffic doubled in the past nine months from 1.2 million unique users a month to 2.5 million. But the site still has something of an identity issue, say distribs.

“I’m still trying to figure out who they are,” says one film exec. “They’re clearly still evolving. It’s all a little confusing. Are they a launching pad to do projects? A dating service?”

Lot 47 prexy Jeff Lipsky, who used Nerve to promote his new release “Some Body,” which bowed April 26, thinks Nerve has something unique to offer: “If you have the right movie,” he says, “Nerve.com’s capabilities to cross-promote are pretty enviable.”