Cult classic humors viewers

On the first Saturday of every month, people gather at Westwood’s Landmark Regent Theatre at midnight. Some have been before, some have just come with friends and some have no idea what to expect. Everyone is there to see The Room. But it’s not a new movie, nor an old classic. Released in 2003, The Room almost immediately gained a level of fame reserved for a very special and rare kind of film. Its claim to fame? It’s the worst movie ever made. That might be a contentious point, but when fans come to watch the movie monthly, everyone leaves their judgment at the door (or in their pocket — as one of the film’s characters would say) and comes in for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Maybe a brief explanation of the movie itself is in order. Something of a romantic drama that follows the life of a man whose life slowly starts to crumble as his girlfriend cheats on him, to say that this movie has a plot at all is probably giving it too much credit. It has all the perfect qualities of the best bad movie. It is written, directed, produced and starred in by the same person, Tommy Wiseau. The script is illogical and jumps from scene to scene, characters are introduced at random and disappear and Wiseau’s indistinguishable accent makes even the most understandable lines nonsensical. At this point, one might ask why people watch this movie in the first place — and that is a question that can only be answered by experiencing it for yourself. The Room crosses the very fine line between good and bad movies, residing in a limbo all its own.

While watching the movie at home is a hilarious and worthwhile experience in itself, the real immersive experience comes with going to see it with a big group. Movie theaters across the country have started regularly showing The Room, and L.A.’s most common host is the Westwood Regent. The movie starts at midnight, but on a particularly busy night the line to get in can start getting long as early as 11 p.m. For best choice of seats, it’s always a best bet to go early (and maybe pick up some Diddy Riese cookies to keep you company while you wait).

Once inside, the theater manager will explain The Room rules, bewildering to newcomers but familiar to veterans. Don’t throw spoons directly at the screen (plastic spoons are tossed in the air every time a prop-framed picture of a spoon is in the shot), no throwing footballs (in order to imitate the characters who do so almost constantly) and no laser pointers (to highlight inconsistencies and weird visuals). And with that, it begins.

The audience interacts with the movie Rocky Horror Picture Show-style; that is, everyone has certain things to say in response to prompts from the movie, such as yelling, “Water!” each time a body of water is on screen and screaming at the characters to shut the door. Outside of these standbys, depending on the audience, you get different commentary throughout the film that can make you laugh until you cry and change the way you see it forever. It’s this element of surprise that makes it possible to come and see The Room ritually — even if you’ve been before, it’ll be a different movie every time because there’s a different audience.

For the recent June screening, Tommy Wiseau — writer, director, producer, star — was actually at the Regent for a Q&A and to give a preview of his new TV show, The Neighbors. Throwing footballs around with fans in line before the film, Wiseau sold and signed merchandise with quotes from the movie and then went inside for an almost indecipherable set of answers to audience questions. By making the worst movie ever, he and the entire cast have become legendary in a way none of them probably expected, and Wiseau is making the most of it. The loyalty of The Room’s fans is maybe even more than fans of real franchises — first-time visitors to a screening might feel as though they accidentally stumbled upon the meeting of a cult. But instead, it’s a hilarious bonding experience, one that might add years to your life from laughter.

The next screening will be held at the Regent Theatre in Westwood on  Saturday, July 11, at 11:59 p.m.