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How A Filmmaker Got The #1 Movie In America During A Pandemic

An enterprising young Long Island filmmaker had the No. 1 movie in America last week — despite theaters being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. And the story of how he did it is a reminder that happily-ever-after endings don’t always happen on just the silver screen.

Christian Nilsson, of Westhampton Beach, posted on Facebook this week about an idea so brilliant it just might, well, be a good plot for a movie.

“Want to hear something absurd?” he wrote. “Last week, I had the #1 movie in America.”

Last month, Nilsson said, he and YouTuber Eric Tabach were chatting about how movie theaters across the country were closed due to the pandemic.

“We joked any film put in a theater would instantly top the box office,” Nilsson said. “Realizing the unique situation presented a loophole, we hatched a plan.”

The duo decided that if they rented out a theater — what the film distribution world calls “four-walling” — they could keep every dollar they made from ticket sales.

“If we bought every seat, the money would funnel right back into our own pockets,” he said.

The next day, Nilsson wrote a short horror film titled “Unsubscribe.” He shot it a week later, completely over Zoom.

“Last week, Eric and I bought out a theater in Westhampton Beach and screened to an empty audience,” he said. “The next day, it was the number one box office movie in America, as reported by ‘The Numbers.'”

The plot of the film centers on five YouTubers who join an online video call and find themselves haunted and hunted by a mysterious internet troll. The film stars Charlie Tahan (“Ozark”, “I Am Legend”) and several notable YouTubers including Tabach, Michelle Khare (HBO Max’s “Karma”), Zach Kornfeld (“The Try Guys”), Thomas Brag (“Yes Theory”) and others.

And that’s not all: This week, the plot took another twist. At first IMDb told him it wouldn’t post the film because “they couldn’t verify we actually got the cast,” Nilsson said. “But in the days since, they’ve included it. So now Box Office Mojo, the widely-recognized box office tracker, has us at #1,” he said.

And if you missed the movie in theaters — because, of course, movie theaters are still not open due to the coronavirus — don’t worry. “Unsubscribe” was just released on Vimeo. To watch, click here.

Describing the experience, Nilsson said: “We saw an absurd loophole in the system that at any other time would be impossible to exploit and thought it would be funny. Last year, the number one film at this time was ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’. This year, it was a $0 budget horror film made over Zoom.”


By Lisa Finn



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