The viewers are the performers at showings of what is popularly known as one of the worst films ever made.
By Alex Hanson, Content Specialist, W Media Group
“Spoons!” We all shouted and tossed handfuls of plastic spoons into the air. It was a little after midnight last Saturday night, and the crowded theater at Landmark Sunshine Cinema had been excitedly watching the corner of the shot, anticipating the pan to reveal a living room table adorned with pictures of spoons in frames. As soon as we saw it, we all shouted and threw our utensils toward the screen. This was one of my favorite moments from the midnight showing of the 2003 film The Room.
The Room was written, produced, directed by, and stars Tommy Wiseau. Popularly known as one of the worst films ever made, The Room has collected a huge cult following over the past 14 years. The movie’s plot is simple, though meandering. Jonny (played by Wiseau) is a banker who has his world turned upside down when his “future wife” Lisa cheats on him with his best friend Mark. This film is hilarious to watch: there’s little to no continuity, the characters’ choices seem random at best. Furthermore, the acting and dialogue are painfully awkward. All said, the cult following isn’t unwarranted. Fans of The Room have a deep love for this terrible film, finding joy in quoting Wiseau’s awkward performance and memorizing every flaw in the film.
The Room’s fandom is also motivated by the stories surrounding the production of the film. Wiseau is an enigma, and The Room was his passion project that turned out nothing like his vision. The production of the film was famously terrible, inspiring the popular book The Disaster Artist. Written by The Room lead actor Greg Sestero, this book outlines his friendship with the mysterious Wiseau and the antics and tragedies that lined the path to making The Room. The James Franco-directed film based on the The Disaster Artist is set to hit theaters on December 8th.
Fans of The Room, armed with an extensive knowledge of the film itself and trivia surrounding it, often pile into theaters across the country for midnight showings with extensive audience participation. Unlike The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is also known for having a set of rules for audience participation, screenings of The Room do not feature live actors performing alongside the film in front of the screen. The viewers are the performers, shouting out jokes prompted by the film, trying to get laughs from other viewers. For every establishment shot of San Francisco (of which there are many), viewers shout “Meanwhile, in San Francisco!” When a character enters a room and leaves the door open, people scream “Close the door!” until they do. When spoons appear in picture frames in the living room, they yell “Spoons!” and throw plastic spoons in the air, as mentioned earlier. At some points, viewers run down to the screen and do a charade of holding up a character who is dangling over the edge of the building. While the audience’s participation may be different depending on the city, screenings are fair game for individuals to start running jokes. If an audience member starts a joke and the crowd likes it, the group will adopt it into the rest of their screening.
On October 7th, I attended one of the regular midnight screenings at Sunshine Cinemas on Houston Street. Five theaters were packed with viewers. Tommy Wiseau himself visited each theater before the screenings started for a quick Q&A with the audience. He answered questions about ghosts, his favorite animated film (“one-oh-one doggies,” which an audience member translated as “101 Dalmatians”), and his excitement for the upcoming The Disaster Artist film. After the Q&A, we watched a trailer for Wiseau and Sestero’s film Best F(r)iends, to be released in 2018. Then, a makeshift commercial for Wiseau’s apparel line. Based on the quality, one could reasonably guess Wiseau produced the commercial himself. Finally, the Wiseau-Films logo appeared on screen, and the audience cheered as the film began.
I cannot recommend enough that you go see a live screening of The Room. Shouting at the best worst film of all time in a room full of people who also have an intense love for this film is the perfect way to spend a Saturday night. Be sure to check out Landmark Sunshine Cinema for midnight showings. Look out for upcoming screenings with Q&As with Wiseau, where you can get to know a little better the mysterious enigma who created this cult masterpiece.
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