Last Friday, the new Cornell start-up website FlicStart.com featured a screening at Cinemapolis of the hilariously bad 2003 cult classic The Room. I was lucky enough to score a ticket for the event, and it was a night at the movies like I have never experienced in my life.
The Room — starring, written and directed by Tommy Wiseau — is known as the Citizen Kane of bad movies. Made with no artistic ability and no comprehension of the way that humans communicate, the film is so bad that it goes back to being brilliant. Wiseau might be one of the worst filmmakers to ever touch a camera, and his acting might be even more pathetic, as his accent and appearance that could only be described as alien prevents him from making even one of his lines sound human. Though one might wonder who in his or her right mind would produce such a bad film, Wiseau, in typical weirdo fashion, independently funded The Room with profits raised on selling leather jackets from Japan.
If you could call it a “plot,” The Room’s story goes as follows: Lisa (Juliette Daniel) is engaged to Johnny (Wiseau), a successful businessman who deeply loves and supports his future wife. Lisa, however, is falling out of love with Johnny, and begins a secret affair with his best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero). While this is all happening, Lisa and Johnny are considering adopting a man-child/drug-addict named Denny (Philip Haldiman) and Lisa’s mom, Claudette (Carolyn Minott), is diagnosed with breast cancer but then seems to forget this happened in all the scenes following her reveal. It honestly doesn’t make a lick of sense.
The plot holes, inconsistencies and strange technical choices make the movie worth visiting as a stoner comedy. Here are just a few of my favorite examples:
- A psychologist is replaced by a different actor halfway through the movie without anyone noting the change.
- Denny is confronted by a gang-member for drug money without any explanation and then the subplot is completely abandoned.
- The same exact sex scene is used twice in the first 30 minutes, as if Wiseau thought his viewers were dumb enough to not realize he duplicated the same shots, camera angles, everything.
- Wiseau adds long establishing shots of San Francisco about every 10 minutes in the film, just in case we forgot where the movie was taking place.
The audience, mostly consisting of film fanatics and hipsters, was actively engaged throughout the movie, making it an almost Rocky Horror Picture Show-type viewing experience. Plastic spoons were thrown at the screen whenever the camera showed a photograph of a metal spoon sitting on the living room table for no apparent reason. When characters randomly started throwing a football in a scene, two young men in the audience started playing their own game of catch across the theater. The audience howled together every time someone referenced the disgusting Lisa as “beautiful” or “gorgeous.” It was the perfect film for this type of communal watching experience.
The successful screening was the first for the new start-up, Flicstart.com. Founded by Cornell students and launched only two weeks ago, Flicstart allows any person to demand a screening of any movie in their local theaters, and as long as he or she can guarantee an audience for the film through pre-sales, Flictstart will work with the respective theater to put on the show. The screening for The Room sold 94 tickets online in pre-sales, reaching far beyond the site’s founders’ expectations for a first event. The business model allows for the audience, the theater and the start-up to be very happy at the end of the day.
“We help Cinemapolis bring the audience and we just do simple revenue sharing with the theater,” said Paul Yang '12, head of the design and technical aspects of Flicstart. “They help us, and we help them.”
Yang hopes that the success of The Room is a positive bellwether of Flicstart’s long-term prosperity and is eager to continue and expand the company’s goals and allow people to see the movies they want to see, even with a not-too-subtle dose of irony.