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$0-Budget Film Unsubscribe Tops US Box Office

Updated on August 8, 2020

$0-Budget Film Unsubscribe Tops US Box Office

Unsubscribe, a 29-minute horror film made using the video call app Zoom, topped the US box office on June 10, despite costing nothing to make.

Filmmakers Erick Tabach and Christian Nilsson made the movie for free by asking friends and actors to help. It tells the story of a group of YouTubers joining an online call and being haunted by an internet troll.

With cinemas closed across much of the country and blockbusters on hold, Tabach noticed that box office figures were extremely low and saw an opportunity to top the charts. But it wasn't until the filmmakers discovered "four-walling" that they knew that they had a real chance.

Four-walling is when a distributor rents out a movie theatre and receives all revenue made from ticket sales. "The moment we realized that was an option of distribution, we went for it," Tabach said.

The filmmakers paid a flat fee to rent out Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center in New York and bought all the tickets to their film's showings — which of course went straight back into their pockets. They were the only people at the screenings, but the film's ticket sales for June 10 came in at $25,488 — more than any other movie in the US that day.

However, the pair had to work to get IMDb — which owns revenue tracker Box Office Mojo — to consider the film a legitimate project. "They kept rejecting us, saying there was no proof. So we sent them pictures of the actors, but they kept on doubting the entire thing. When media outlets started reporting about the film, it was eventually approved," said Tabach.

Nilsson said they were only able to become number one at the box office because of the pandemic. "This is not a stunt or a move you could make in any other environment," he told NPR.

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