Tull, Roth back GeekChic

Coin infusion to fuel venture's expansion

After generating a strong following with genre fans, GeekChicDaily has raised its profile in Hollywood, with Joe Roth and Legendary Pictures chief Thomas Tull among the online newsletter’s newest backers.

Roth and Tull join Internet entrepreneur Mike Slade, Machinima topper Allen DeBevoise, Gamespy founder Mark Surfas and former Electronic Arts and Activision games vet turned Legendary Digital prexy Kathy Vrabeck as the latest high-profile entertainment execs who have agreed to pony up several million dollars to invest in GeekChicDaily.

Peter Levin, who launched the venture in 2009 with Wizard Entertainment founder Gareb Shamus and Mandalay Entertainment’s Peter Guber, said GeekChicDaily will use the coin to expand the brand into television and e-commerce, to launch new mobile applications and to boost its internal sales and marketing teams.

“This group represents all we could ask for in terms of strategic investors and partners,” said Levin, GeekChicDaily’s CEO. “As a popular culture vehicle, the collective pedigree, street credibility and access this group brings to the table will be invaluable as we continue to grow the business.”

When it launched, site took a digital page from other successful newsletters like DailyCandy, Tasting Table and Thrillist to focus on pop culture threads like comicbooks, videogames, TV, movies, toys and collectibles.

Ben Lerer, CEO and co-founder of Thrillist, has joined GeekChicDaily’s board, as part of the new round of financing, whose members also include former DailyCandy CEO Pete Sheinbaum, Broadway Video CEO Jack Sullivan and Andrew Russell, managing partner of Bob Pittman’s Pilot Group.

Pittman, Clear Channel’s chairman of media and entertainment, was an initial investor in GeekChicDaily, as was Japanese entertainment producer Yoshimoto Kogyo.

Slade, who helped launch Excel, Works and Office while at Microsoft, launched ESPN.com, ABCNews.com and Disney’s Go.com network while CEO of Paul Allen’s Starwave, which the Mouse House acquired in 1998. He has also served as a consultant to Apple’s Steve Jobs.

Since its bow, GeekChicDaily has attracted close to 1 million weekly subs to its email newsletter. It has also spawned a segment on IFC’s weekly series “The Grid.”

New round of financing comes as Wizard magazine announced Monday that it is ending its run as a print publication and turning into an online destination called Wizard World.

Tull’s interest is no surprise. Through Legendary, he’s produced such fanboy fare as “The Dark Knight,” “300,” “Inception,” “The Hangover” and “Clash of the Titans.” He is backing the latest Superman adventure, a reboot of “Godzilla,” and bigscreen adaptations of “World of Warcraft” and “Mass Effect.” Legendary recently launched its own comicbook label.

Roth is a relative newcomer to genre fare, after producing “Alice in Wonderland” and setting up new takes on “The Wizard of Oz” and “Sleeping Beauty,” also at Disney, and Universal’s “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

“‘Alice’ changed it for me,” Roth told Variety. “The marketplace is changing so quickly. If you don’t adapt to it, you’re going to be left behind.”

What helped Roth was spending the last several years learning how to target the coveted young male demo through his majority ownership stake in the Seattle Sounders Major League Soccer team.

Either way, Roth said GeekChicDaily has “established a voice and tone that resonates with an audience we are consistently servicing” and added that “it’s not like they’re trying to get a 65-year-old woman to go see ‘X-Men.’?”

Roth and Tull will use GeekChicDaily as a promotional platform to market their upcoming pics, but also turn to the site to discover new projects to produce.

“Whether it’s an idea, a sentence, a game, a thought, it gives me another source of getting material early,” Roth said. “It gives me access in a highly competitive business. It’s a leg up.”

GeekChicDaily is Levin’s latest entrepreneurial move after representing “Angry Birds” creator Rovio and investing in startups — like videogame site Gamespy, Atom Films and Ask.com — and advising in-game ad agency double Fusion, kid-skewing social networking site Habbo, mixed martial arts orgs K-1 and Strikeforce, as well as owning the Chicago Rush Arena Football team. The former CAA and Disney exec also headed up mobile and broadband entertainment venture Bellrock Media and brokered the sale of Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood to Mail.com Media Corp.

“The common thread is popular culture,” Levin said. “Being entrepreneurial is something I will continue to be with my career. You have to go after the things you’re passionate about or feel you can be successful with. People can be gun shy when there’s a risk of failure, but if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

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