The movie Zyzzyx Road would probably be largely unknown today, except for one bittersweet thing. It has the distinction of being the lowest-grossing movie in American history. You see, the filmmakers didn’t really care about the United States film market, preferring to sell the movie overseas. However, in order to comply with Screen Actors Guild regulations, they had to screen it domestically. So the producers rented out a theater and ran the movie for about one week, making a grand total of $30.* But in these topsy-turvy times, the filmmakers behind the movie Unsubscribe just used a similar tactic to win the box office.
Unsubscribe, the Movie Made on Zoom
Actor and vlogger Eric Tabach and filmmaker Christian Nilsson hatched this plan. As Tabach told the BBC, “I noticed that the box office figures were absurd; $9,000, $15,000 for each movie. Nothing big was coming out. Blockbuster films were on hold. I wanted to find a way to get the biggest number.” But first, they needed a movie.
Nilsson took a day to write the script, which centers on “Whitey,” a mysterious young man who stalks a group of Zoom-conferencing pals. While this sounds like a variation on the Unfriended movie series, the movie Unsubscribe distinguishes itself by using YouTube and TikTok personalities and Buzzfeed Video alumni to play versions of themselves. Charlie Tahan, whom you might recognize from Ozark, plays the suspicious stalker. Meanwhile, Tabach, Michelle Khare, Zach Kornfeld, Thomas Brag, Tyler Brash, Sneako, and Lauren Brodauf round out the rest of the cast.
It took five days over Zoom to make the movie, then a few weeks to edit it for distribution. That led into phase 2 of their plan.
How Tabach and Nilsson Topped the Charts
Like the filmmakers behind Zyzzyx Road, Tabach and Nilsson needed one theater to meet their goals. For a flat price, they rented the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Long Island and showed their movie. Even though they bought all the tickets for their screenings, they lost a little money on the deal.
Nevertheless, their gumption paid off. After they convinced IMDB, which owns Box Office Mojo, that Unsubscribe was a real movie, they made the charts. In fact, they not only made the charts, they won them. For the rest of history, they can say that they had the number one movie once. For the whole day of June 10, 2020.
And hey, as long as most theaters remain closed, you could pull off the same trick. Currently, the number one movie in the nation is Followed, which is about a social media influencer who stays at a haunted hotel. Make something not about internet people and I’ll see it myself.
Unsubscribe is now available for rental on Vimeo. The trailer and rental information are below.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments or on social media and not by crashing our work Slack or Zoom calls.
*To be accurate, the filmmakers refunded the makeup artist, who saw the movie with a friend, so the movie actually made a cool $20.
featured image via Vimeo on Demand
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.