Two Filmmakers Rented Out a Theater and Got the No. 1 Movie in America

Eric Tabach and Christian Nilsson. Photo: Jake Wisotsky.

Despite the nationwide upheaval caused by the coronavirus, the great American love of exploiting loopholes remains undimmed. From Patch comes the story of Christian Nilsson and Eric Tabach, two filmmakers who hit upon a way to asterisk themselves into achieving their dreams: What if they made a movie, rented out a theater to show it, then bought all the tickets themselves? With barely anything else playing, would that be enough to top the box-office charts?

In the span of a week, Nilsson wrote a 30-minute horror film called Unsubscribe that takes place entirely over video chat, and which was shot on Zoom with a cast of TV actors like Ozark’s Charlie Tahan and some YouTubers Tabach knew. Pooling their money, Tabach and Nilsson rented out the theater at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center in Long Island, and sold themselves every ticket. (For those of you who are not imaginary Hamptons moviegoers, the movie is also available to rent on Vimeo.)

Amazingly, the scheme worked — with a $25,000 gross, Unsubscribe topped the daily box office for June 10, beating out films like The Wretched and Becky, which were mostly playing drive-ins. Since that was a Wednesday, the movie didn’t make a dent on the more traditional weekend chart, but hey, what even are weekends anymore? A No. 1 is a No. 1, even if it’s just for one day. An inspiring story of what can be accomplished with a little bit of time, a lot of imagination, and plenty of money to burn.

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