Unsubscribe: Topped the US box officeBy RodneyHatfieldJr for Reviews
Other than not hearing about this picture, it was also made for $0. Really. We all know Summer is the time of the year for big-budget productions. Movies that typically draw the biggest crowds at cinemas across the US and beyond. But on 10 June, one box office-topping movie was watched by just two people in one cinema.
Unsubscribe, a 29-minute horror movie shot entirely on video-conferencing app Zoom, made $25,488 (£20,510) in ticket sales on that day. Nationwide, the film reached the top of the charts, according to reputable revenue tracker Box Office Mojo. The budget of the movie: a flat $0. How was that possible?
The movie was the brainchild of Eric Tabach, an actor and YouTuber from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and filmmaker Christian Nilsson, from New York City. When the Covid pandemic closed movie theaters in March, the pair devised a plan. Given no big films were being released in cinemas, they wondered if they could hit the top of the charts if they made their own movie, DIY style.
To reach the top of the box office, Tabach and Nilsson realized they had to game the system. They did so by exploiting a loophole in cinema ticket sales, known as four-walling. Four-walling is when distributors rent out a movie theater and buy all the seats. With Hollywood essentially closed during the pandemic, Tabach and Nilsson knew their movie had a solid chance of raking in the biggest one-day revenue total. With little more than a concept and a can-do attitude, the pair set to work on making the movie.
Nilsson wrote the script in one day. The movie is about five YouTubers who join an online video-call and find themselves haunted and hunted by a mysterious Internet troll. Tabach enlisted the help of his friends to star in the movie. To his surprise, he signed up for some prestigious actors. The movie’s protagonist, the killer, was played by Charlie Tahan, best known as Wyatt Langmore in the Netflix series Ozark. The co-star, Michelle Khare, Thomas Brag, and Zach Kornfeld, part of the comedy group The Try Guys, also featured in the film.
They shot the movie over five days in May, only using Zoom to capture footage. Nilsson then edited the footage and asked a friend to compose a score. Within weeks, it was cinema-ready. They screened the movie at an independent theater in Westhampton Beach, outside New York City, where Nilsson used to work. To rent the theater, it required them to pay a small fee. On the night of the screening, the pair went to town, dressed in tuxedos, with their hair neatly swept back. Tabach and Nilsson stood proudly outside the theater. Above their heads, the theater’s hoarding bore the title of their movie. Unsubscribe, it read, above the words “sold out”. They had bought every ticket, but it did not matter. Tabach watched the movie five times in total. Once the revenue results were in, the next task was to convince IMDb, the owner of Box Office Mojo, their movie was legitimate. Initially, they kept rejecting them, but when media outlets started reporting about the film, they eventually approved it.
Now it’s officially number one on IMDb for 10 June. The movie in second place, The Wretched, was screened in 99 cinemas, earning $22,566 in revenue. Which viewed by some as dirty and underhanded since it knocked out an actual independent film, which helps other indie films get recognition. All because of a joke, because they were bored.
Anyway, after watching Unsubscribe it is only a Youtube quality video, and possibly an obscure trivia question on a bar(pub) quiz. But Tabach said the film, which can be viewed on streaming platform Vimeo, represents more than a box-office ruse. Some agree with his notion, and some don’t.