The lights go off, the crowd roars, and the Wiseau Films logo appears on the screen. What follows is a 90 minute onslaught of gratuitous sex scenes, intoxicated 20-somethings yelling their favorite quotes in unison, and the offbeat delivery of eccentric star and director Tommy Wiseau. This is what happens when you attend a midnight showing of The Room, the 2003 cult classic that has been called “the best worst movie ever made.”
Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre has been hosting these screenings since 2007. In those 10 years, the screenings have grown from tiny audiences to sold-out theaters packed with rowdy diehards, and as is often the case lately, tonight’s showing is sold out in advance. These days it seem to be more about the experience of viewing the film in a packed room than the actual film itself, with the most rabid followers often drowning out the dialogue with their call-and-response references and inside jokes. Audiences have also started a tradition of throwing hundreds of plastic spoons at the screen whenever a particular framed picture of a spoon appears in the background.
“The rowdiness is part of the charm. That’s why you go to The Room, for the craziness of it,” says Brookline resident Garrett Stevens, who attended the most recent screening of The Room last month. “It’s a communal thing I think more than any other moviegoing experience.”
But that fun, communal environment often causes problems for the Coolidge staff.
“I’ve always had to do introductions to let people know they’re watching a bad film, and also to set up our expectations for the audience’s behavior,” Coolidge After Midnite curator Mark Anastasio says.
According to Anastasio, it is not uncommon for the staff to be picking up plastic spoons and popcorn until 3:30 a.m. They have also had problems with people throwing footballs in the crowd, yelling inappropriate or sexist things during the film, and bringing drugs and alcohol into the theater.
“As a film programmer I shouldn’t be complaining about a film that reliably brings sold-out audiences,” Anastasio adds. “One sold-out screening of The Room can fund two or three weeks of films that only bring in 30 to 50 people.”
However, almost 10 years of increasingly raucous screenings combined with a deteriorating relationship with Wiseau led the Coolidge to stop showing the film last year. But the film suddenly began making headlines again when it was announced that James Franco and Seth Rogen would be releasing a screen adaptation of The Disaster Artist in December, based on a novel written by Room co-star Greg Sestero about the making of the film and his friendship with Wiseau.
Sestero is a longtime patron of the Coolidge and even witnessed his first midnight screening of the film at the Brookline cinema many years ago, so the theater decided to support him by resuming monthly screenings of The Room this summer. They also hope to host a full script read through of The Room with Sestero in December and have members of the audience read characters’ parts.
While the newfound attention brought by The Disaster Artist will only expand the film’s audience, the future of The Room at Coolidge Corner Theatre is uncertain. According to Anastasio, they will continue the screenings for at least a few months after the new film is released, but beyond that, they will need to have a serious discussion about how they can continue to accommodate the crowds that it brings. One thing is certain though: As long as The Room is showing, there will be hundreds of eager fans lining up outside the theater to throw spoons during the best worst movie ever made.