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Fist Fights and Frat Boys

The crowds that show up for The Room are usually described as “rambunctious” or “rowdy.” But some fans go well beyond those playful terms. Beddow remembers discovering, to his horror, that someone threw a large soda at the screen after one of E Street Cinema’s Room showings. The staff informed the next audience that if it happened again, they’d stop showing the movie entirely. But at least that incident didn’t come to blows.

“The first time it was here, there were some people who didn’t understand the whole spoon throwing thing,” Beddow says. “I’m not sure exactly what happened, but basically a fist fight broke out in the theater. I guess people didn’t understand that it wasn’t just the people behind them hitting them with spoons? We actually had to stop the show because there was a 7 or 8 person brawl going on.”

Multiple managers have also detected misogyny among certain fans. Anastasio remembers some troubling callbacks concerning the female characters. “Every once in a while, you’ll have people that see the plot of that movie and really get into hating Lisa,” he says. “They’ll just begin to shout really over the top derogatory things. I don’t know if there’s a jovial way to tell people to not be shitty, but that’s pretty much the job when I come in to introduce that film.”

“I think that has cooled down a bit, but I think at first [The Room] kind of had this reputation as a drunk frat boy midnight movie,” Beddow agrees.

Still, it sounds like the problems posed by a few crappy fans are nothing compared to the stories surrounding the movie’s creator, who’s burned bridges at more than one theater.

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Close Encounters with Tommy Wiseau

When you mention Wiseau to movie theater managers, the response is usually a chuckle or a deep sigh. Although no one disputes Wiseau’s appeal to audiences, he’s been branded “difficult” by several theater staffers.

Anastasio took a long pause before answering, noting that his operations director was laughing in the background as he tried to gather the correct words. “Tommy became increasingly difficult over the visits we’ve had him here for,” he says. “He’s great on stage, people love him. But he’s a real tough person to manage. I’m patient and the last time that Tommy was with us, I don’t think it was even a goodbye. I think he was asked to leave. I mean, that’s the truth.”

Beddow interacted with Wiseau a few times, and says he did not encounter problems so much as eccentricities. “Tommy, at the time, I don’t know if he still does this, was writing emails under the guise of his assistant named Johnny,” he says. “Or John, rather. You could clearly tell it was him because he wrote in the exact same parlance as he speaks.” But after Beddow changed jobs, he heard from coworkers that Wiseau started ignoring manager requests, throwing merchandise into the crowd, and giving orders to the audience. He believes E Street Cinema has also pressed pause on any future appearances.

Sestero seems to be the preferred guest for these screenings. Anastasio and Roberts praised him as a “friend of the theater” and a “great guy,” respectively. But Sestero and Wiseau are both bound to get even more of these requests, as The Disaster Artist film enters serious awards discussions.

“I can see that the only place this is going to go is Tommy Wiseau on the red carpet at the Academy Awards,” Anastasio says. “There’s no way around that. That is the way that this story is going to unfold. And that’s nice.” He pauses, then laughs. “I’m sorry, I’m hiding such pain.”

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The Enduring Appeal of The Room

14 years after its debut, The Room doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The managers interviewed for this piece reported its screenings are still selling out. Anastasio says the movie’s popularity actually helps fund other programming for Coolidge Corner Theatre. But every person has a different theory on what’s kept The Room viable all this time.

“A lot of the movies you see that get labeled ‘so bad, they’re good’ are movies that are bad because maybe one element didn’t work,” Roberts says. “In The Room, nothing works. It fails on every possible level, not just a couple of them, and it’s so mind-bogglingly bad that it can’t help but be fascinating. But there’s also a sort of sincerity to it. Everybody involved with The Room is obviously trying so hard to make something good… you can’t help but sort of root for it.”

Anna-Lisa Campos, the general manager at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn, believes it’s all about the crowd. “I think with any of the camp things that achieve cult status, it’s a lot about the communal appreciation of it,” she says. “It’s the same as when I was in college and everyone would watch Troll 2. It’s just something that people share in terms of humor and appreciation. The joy of it exists in watching it with a crowd.”

But for fans like Melendez, The Room has a much larger significance.

It’s a much needed bright spot in our current hellscape,” she writes. “That this thing can get made, and this dumpster fire can turn to comedic gold…maybe, just maybe, there could be hope for all of us.”

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