The headline potential is almost too good to be true: A movie called The Worst Movie EVER! hauls in the worst opening-weekend box office ever, selling exactly one ticket for a total gross of $11.
And yet it is true, and it happened to Glenn Berggoetz, a Metro State professor by day and maker of extremely silly movies, like last year's To Die is Hard, by night (or whenever his spare time is) as the head of his production company, Driving With Our Eyes Shut Productions. Not that he was particularly excited about the abysmal flop when it happened, but the irony (or utter lack thereof) was evidently rich enough that the sad opening weekend is starting to look like a godsend.
Berggoetz basically specializes in making intentionally stupid movies (in this one, he directs and produces, and also plays both a scientist and a gold-hearted retard), so a shot at the worst movie ever made canonical sense -- sort of a magnum crapus, if you will -- and it attracted some initial attention just on that basis. Even still, he knew he was scoring a sweet deal when the Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles offered to premier the movie with a chance for more screenings -- the Sunset 5 has a long-running and successful tradition of showing notoriously awful cult shit-flick The Room on the final weekend of each month, so the idea was, if Worst Movie EVER! could perform at its premier, it could take the second-to-last weekend of the month cult flick slot.
"I was just freaking-out happy about it," Berggoetz recalls. But there were some delays and some miscommunications, theater manager Greg Laemmle was going on vacation and, by the time the premier date was settled, it was already late in the game. "Greg let me know on a Sunday they were going to show the film that Friday, and I was traveling and didn't have time to really start promoting it until Tuesday. I mean, I'm not some big L.A. guy or anything, but I know a few people in L.A., so I figured I could get at least a few people to show up -- but this guy was out of town, this guy was tied up with a shoot, this one couldn't make it. But still, I'm thinking, 'This is L.A. At least a few dozen people will probably just walk in off the street, right?'"
Wrong. Not a single paying customer entered the theater that Friday, and one random guy came in the next night. (Since then, a few people have claimed to be that guy, but nobody has been able to produce the ticket stub to prove it.)
"So all weekend I'm waiting to see how it did, just on the edge of my chair," Berggoetz continues, "and on Monday morning I get an email: One person showed up. The film made $11. I was just staring at the computer screen. I couldn't believe it.
"So I'd already been in contact with Box Office Mojo, and I'd told them I'd send him the numbers for the box office. So I thought, 'Well, this is embarrassing,' but I just sent them the numbers anyway. A few minutes later, I get an email back, like, 'is this a typo?' No, it's not a typo."
As it turns out, Berggoetz did well to suck up his embarrassment, because it wasn't long before the dismal box office numbers started to attract attention: By the next day, the trailer for Worst Movie EVER! -- which, at that point, had been up on YouTube for several weeks -- had spiked up to nearly 800 pageviews. That same day between classes, he got an email from a reporter at MovieLine, who interviewed him and posted the first in what would be a series of articles devoted to that priceless headline: "The $11 Question: How The Worst Movie EVER! Scored the Worst Opening Ever." Within hours, the trailer's YouTube views spiked to 3,500.
The story got picked up in Brazil. It got picked up in Italy. It got picked up in Japan and all around the United States. While the film was doing a much-needed one-night run at an Alamo Draft House theater in Virginia that managed to attract 12 people, the film's trailer was going down in infamy -- as of now, views are approaching 300,000. "A ton of those hits came from Japan," Berggoetz comments. "We got a bunch of comments all in Japanese characters, so I don't really know if they liked it or not."
Does it matter?
Currently, Worst Movie EVER is looking into more widespread distribution with the Alamo Draft House, which operates mostly in Texas, and has been invited back for its initial second-to-last weekend offer at the Sunset 5 -- Berggoetz has also been contacted by a couple of Japanese distributors and one out of Canada seeking to buy the rights to distribute the film. "A friend of mine recommended this book I've been reading called From Reel to Deal," Berggoetz says, "and at least according to the guy who wrote this book, if you can get a large market interested in your film, you should be asking $2 to 4 million for the distribution rights. I can't even wrap my head around that."
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In the meantime, though, the film, which was shot on location in Denver, Littleton and Longmont, has yet to find someone to screen it in its own home town. "I contacted Landmark," Berggoetz says, "but they haven't gotten back to me yet."