In its initial 2003 theatrical release, Tommy Wiseau’s $6M indie The Room was considered a dud, making just under $2,000. But The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s feature bio-satire about the making of the midnight cult classic, is poised to be anything but a belly flop.
In its 19-theater opening last weekend, The Disaster Artist posted an impressive $63K+ per-screen average, or $1.2M, resonating not only in the specialty chains like the Landmark but in the big-city multiplexes including the Hollywood Arclight ($214K), AMC Century City ($83K) and San Francisco’s Metreon ($67K). But business already is looking to get even better as the pic expands to 840 theaters today.
The A24 release racked up a strong $700K in previews Thursday night, with exhibitors like Regal showing The Room immediately following in 21 locations across the country. Fandango is reporting this morning that The Disaster Artist is this weekend’s second-biggest advance-ticket seller behind Disney/Pixar’s Coco, outstripping the advance sales of Franco’s Christmas comedy last year, Why Him? (That film opened to $11M in a holiday marketplace). Currently, A.M. industry projections have The Disaster Artist between $6M-$8M. And an added bonus for Disaster Artist given the offseason right now at the box office? The comedy also is playing in tentpole-size auditoriums:
After seeing The Room and reading Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book about the enigmatic, eccentric Wiseau — who, without any filmmaking chops, destined his broken script to the big screen during the early aughts — Franco approached his Interview colleagues Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to produce The Disaster Artist under their Point Grey Pictures. Franco tapped (500) Days of Summer scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber with funding from Good Universe, then took the project over to New Line, a studio whose executives were rabid fans of The Room. It always was Franco’s intention to direct, however, he needed to have a heart-to-heart talk with Wiseau about who would play him onscreen. Wiseau wanted Johnny Depp, but Franco convinced the filmmaker that it should be him. Why did Wiseau settle for Franco? Because in his mind, Wiseau believed he had the great looks and gusto of James Dean and, well, Franco actually played the Hollywood legend. Franco made The Disaster Artist for reportedly a little bit more than The Room‘s production cost: $10M.
The Disaster Artist premiered at SXSW to an enormous response, with critics already fast-tracking Franco’s performance as one to watch during awards season. Those predictions are becoming realities with Franco notching a best actor win at the Gotham Awards, and lead actor nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards and Critics’ Choice. On top of that, Disaster Artist counts three other Critics’ Choice noms in best adapted screenplay, comedy and comedy actor categories, and a screenplay win and a Top 10 film slot from the National Board of Review. Franco previously was nominated at the Oscars for his lead turn in Fox Searchlight’s 127 Hours.
Following its SXSW premiere Warner Bros./New Line sold domestic rights on all platforms to A24 while retaining foreign; the reason being is because the studio believed that the film needed a hip, indie distributor who could stoke the millennials with their guerrilla marketing finesse, especially on a comedy about a Z grade movie. A24 had previously worked with Franco on Spring Breakers. A24 began raising the pic’s profile again with a midnight premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival where with Wiseau and Sestero in attendance, the movie reaped a standing ovation at 2 AM.
Word of mouth has been very hot for the film with its social media universe across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube up close to 10% in the last week per social media entertainment monitor RelishMix. They also report that YouTube views are attracting 2-3K fans per day on the pic’s official Facebook, now at 100K “which is good for a limited release.” Additionally, the cast’s 112M social reach from James Franco, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Zoey Deutch and Seth Rogan is connecting fans with and the boldest Twitter hashtags for #TheDistasterArtist and the tag for @DisasterArtist.
A24 kicked off their campaign for Disaster Artist back in July with a teaser trailer that featured one of the pic’s most iconic scenes: Franco as Wiseau weathering several takes to say one line. According to RelishMix, YouTube views for The Disaster Artist are quite meaty attracting in total from posted and viral videos 69.1M YouTube views from its July teaser, theatrical trailer and all subsequent spots. Interactive standees also went up in theater lobbies over the summer whereby moviegoers could take selfies with Franco’s Wiseau. Below is Danish musician Lars Ulrich recently:
Talk about getting the millennials’ attention: From October to November, A24 hosted a college screening program for The Room. Campuses across the country participated and student ambassadors helped promote to get people to see The Room on their campus. The winning school, Florida State, attended the AFI premiere of Disaster Artist. Other means to trigger word of mouth among the under 25 set: A24 launched “The Tommy” award with participants all over the country participating and performing a scene from The Room in a public setting and tagging #imadisasterartist. The winner received “The Tommy’, an award created in the vein of Wiseau along with a private screening. Below is a clip of the runner-ups and the grand prize winner:
But one of the more ‘money’, more vibrant promos executed by A24 in the spirit of The Room was a billboard/phone number campaign. At the height of The Room, Wiseau took out billboards in Los Angeles with his home phone number. Moviegoers could dial in to see where the film was playing. Wiseau would occasionally answer the phone to fans, but largely there was an answering machine with his Eastern European/Cajun accent. Likewise, playing off that, The Disaster Artist took out a billboard at the same juncture of Hollywood and Highland where The Room billboard was once plastered. The phone number directly led to Franco’s, and the Oscar nominee would actually answer every so often in character. The voicemail has continuously changed and it has racked up hundreds of thousands of calls since the launch. Efron recently retweeted this:
With Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations announced next week, The Disaster Artist looks to go wider as it heads into the heat of the holiday box office season.