"In any other climate, this would be impossible," says filmmaker Christian Nilsson, who had a No.1 box office hit with a movie that cost $0 to make. Nilsson and his friend Eric Tabach, an actor and YouTuber, shot 29-minute horror film Unsubscribed entirely on Zoom in mid-May after spotting a loophole that could bring it to the top of the charts. "There’s this thing in the industry called ‘four-walling,’ where if you rent out your own theater"—essentially buying all the seats—"the revenue from any ticket purchased goes straight back into your pocket," Nilsson says, per the Washington Post. They rented a shuttered Long Island cinema for a small fee, and—with no other viewers present—ate popcorn, sat through three screenings of Unsubscribed, and racked up an official haul of $25,488, enough to make it the No. 1 movie in the US on June 10.
Nilsson says it took him a day to write the script about a mysterious Internet troll haunting five YouTubers during an video call. Kabach says fellow YouTubers Thomas Brag and Zach Kornfeld were happy to take part, along with actors including Charlie Tahan from Ozark. (Having real actors was apparently key in getting recognized as a real film.) "It was at a point in the quarantine when everyone was really bored. Absolutely nothing was going on. Everyone wanted to be a part of this fun project, for free," he tells the BBC. He says the project shows that "no matter what, you can always find creative ways to get something done. Even in difficult circumstances." Unsubscribed probably won't be coming to a cinema near you anytime soon, but it is now racking up real sales through rentals on Vimeo. (Read more movies stories.)