Friday, August 26, 2011
The $11 Question: How The Worst Movie EVER! Scored the Worst Opening Ever
The little movie that couldn’t has become the little movie that still probably won’t but will have fun trying: Since Tuesday, when we brought you the story of The Worst Movie EVER! and its unprecedented $11 opening weekend, a groundswell of lookie-loos from around the world have made the trailer a mini-hit on YouTube and initiated something of a cult following on Facebook. It still has a ways to go before reaching The Room levels of notoriety, but for now, anyway, it can still claim one critical distinction: Nobody has any idea who its one ticket-buying viewer is. Movieline finally heard from filmmaker-actor Glenn Berggoetz a few days ago as WME! and its box-office futility began stirring interest around the Web. In a nutshell, he insisted not only that the $11 midnight gross from last Saturday (and the $0 gross from Friday) was not a publicity stunt, but also that his efforts to turn up the identity of his lone theatrical patron has yielded no success to date. The Denver-based schlock impresario added that the last 48 hours have turned up a few Facebook sources claiming to have attended the screening at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles, but he hasn’t been able to confirm any of them as Viewer Zero. Nor has Greg Laemmle’s team at the Sunset 5. “We’re anxious to find out as well,” Laemmle told me today. “We need proof. Glenn said he’s already had a few people claim that they were the ones. I think we need a ticket stub here. We’re going to poll the staff to see if it’s maybe someone they recognize, someone who comes to see everything we play. Who knows?” Even more baffling perhaps: How did this even happen? “There were a number of factors — and I’m not going to comment on the aesthetic qualities of the film,” Laemmle said, laughing. “There was some miscommunication, there were some delays in confirming stuff. I was rushing off to a vacation and sort of said, ‘Oh, by the way, we can go ahead if you want to.’ Glenn, I guess, was anxious to do it and said yes. But clearly, because we hadn’t necessarily confirmed the date in an appropriate fashion, he hadn’t done the work promoting the screening that he thought he could have should have done. These things happen. “Is it one of the worst showings we’ve ever had? Yeah, probably.” According to both Berggoetz and Laemmle, they had begun speaking as early as this past May about programming WME! this summer. The idea was to prime its debut by screening the now infamous trailer in front of the Sunset 5’s monthly midnight screenings of The Room. But Berggeotz said that on Aug. 14, he got word that Laemmle was ready to go ahead with an Aug. 19-20 engagement. The theater’s idea, he explained, was to test WME!’s potential as another midnight institution, with an eye on giving the last two weekends of each month to Berggoetz’s film and The Room, respectively. “I had few apprehensions,” Laemmle said, “if only because we were screening a few other midnight screenings that weekend, and I figured, ‘What’s really the loss to Laemmle in putting one more film into the theater that weekend?’ That’s why we targeted that date from the very beginning. We knew that we would be open for midnights anyway, so let’s give it a shot.” Laemmle consulted with Berggoetz, who approved and commenced a hasty marketing effort for the coming weekend screenings. “I figured I would promote the film as I had done with my previous film that received a theatrical release, To Die is Hard,” Berggoetz told me in an e-mail. “Do a bunch of social networking through e-mail and Facebook, and contact local media people and schedule interviews and reviews. I was busy all day last Monday the 15th traveling, so on Tuesday the 16th I began contacting media outlets in the L.A. area and sending out e-mails and postings.” That’s when things started to look bad. Like, very bad.