Successful prank: short film no. 1 in the American Box Office

Screenshot Box Office Mojo 10 June 2020


YouTubern from Westhampton (Long Island, NY) succeeded in conquering the American box office charts with a short film and for one day became the No. 1 in national sales. They used a trick to beat the few open drive-in cinemas in the middle of the lockdown.

The prank was planned with the help of a professional team and quickly implemented. Within a week two filmmakers, Christian Nilsson and Eric Tabach, wrote the screenplay for a short horror film called “Unsubscribe”, which was made entirely via video chat and recorded as a video conference with two actors and befriended YouTubers.

The two used the industry standard method of four-walling[1], which is often used by filmmakers and producers when their film does not get a cinema release. Christian Nilsson and Eric Tabach rented a cinema for one day and bought all the tickets themselves. Apart from finding a good date, namely the last day of the cinema week in mid-June, they had to estimate how high the box office takings of competing films could be and set the ticket price accordingly. They bet on $25,000 gross at the box office and won just before the drive-in horror shocker “The Wretched” and “Becky”, but hugely ahead of Number 3, which only made $446 at the box office.

The result was recognized by Box Office Mojo (see screenshot above) and the story went viral worldwide – even the BBC reported…

Nilsson and Tabach are now marketing their film “Unsubscribe”, which is about five YouTubers being chased by a mysterious internet troll, on Vimeo-on-Demand.

The question was unclear, or rather not mentioned, whether the considerable costs for the tickets, which went directly back into their own pockets, should not be taxed as proceeds. Filmmakers who want to imitate the trick are advised to talk to a tax consultant first!


First source: Article in Patch (Westhampton-Hampton Bays, NY, dated 17.06.2020

Picture credits: “Unsubscribe” on Vimeo-on-Demand


[1] Definition of four-walling

: an arrangement whereby a motion picture distributor rents a theater for the entire run of a film and keeps all the ticket receipts instead of splitting them with the theater owner (Merriam-Webster)

“Four-Walling” was practiced by Netflix, among others, to perform “Roma” by Alfonso Cuarón in movie theatres against the resistance of the big cinema chains in order to meet the requirements for applying for an Oscar and other prizes.