The Room, Tommy Wiseau’s classic of so-bad-it’s-good cinema, was originally released in 2003 and emerged a few years later as a cult classic, and the most significant midnight movie in American culture since the rise of the Rocky Horror Picture Show 30 years before.
The Disaster Artist, director James Franco’s treatment of the making of The Room, is now in theaters, with an national expansion set for this weekend, and the early reviews and reception have been almost completely positive, with most critics and viewers believing that Franco has nailed Wiseau's one-of-a-kind energy.
While the Franco film stands up on its own, it certainly helps to be familiar with The Room if you’re going to see The Disaster Artist. The Room is not currently available for streaming on any service, and while it can be purchased on DVD and Blu-ray, you’re really not getting the full Room experience if you don’t go see it in the theater, with a crowd.
The Room’s official website keeps a handy if incomplete list of upcoming showings, most of them at midnight. If you live in or are visiting Los Angeles, you can check out the regular showings at Regent Theatre, although that city’s Sunset 5 is where showings of The Room first became a phenomenon.
There are also regular monthly showings in San Diego (Ken Cinema), Portland (Cinema 21), New York (Sunshine Cinema), and Philadelphia (The Bourse - a theater which, appropriately, is across the street from a store called Lisa’s Flowers and Gifts.) This Vulture story also lists upcoming showings in several other cities, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, London, Minneapolis, and San Francisco.
Tommy Wiseau has been known to show up at these screenings and has several scheduled appearances around the country, as part of his “Love is Blind” Tour. Tommy will be on hand at the Sunshine Cinema screenings in New York the weekend of Jan. 12-14. Wiseau will sign autographs, post for pictures and sit for audience Q&As, although don't expect him to answer any questions about where he came from, how old he is, the source of his accent, or how he paid for the movie.
Meanwhile, Regal Cinemas will hold a one-night-only series of double features of The Room and The Disaster Artist on Thursday night, at theaters nationwide. See the locations here; more double features of the two films are perhaps inevitable, as, most likely, is a combined DVD set.
But once you’re in The Room, there are certain expected call-outs, traditions, and other in-theater behaviors that are unique to this film and this film alone. It’s very similar to the Rocky Horror phenomenon, with the traditions established by longtime fans and passed on to others, sometimes with minor regional differences, although unlike Rocky Horror, there is no custom of shaming first-time viewers.
Some Room traditions you should know:
- The film’s set is for some reason decorated with pictures of spoons. Whenever the spoons appear, members of the crowd throw plastic spoons at the screen, while shouting “spoon!” Some audiences also throw footballs around the theater whenever footballs appear on screen.
- Most Room audiences will recite some of the film’s more notorious lines along with the characters, such as “I’m tired, I’m wasted, I love you darling,” “hi doggie,” and, of course, “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA.”
- Some fans of The Room have been known, Rocky Horror-style, to act out certain scenes directly in front of the screen.
- During various scenes in which characters appear with little explanation and immediately become important, the crowd exclaims, “who are you?,” sometimes with an expletive added.
- At a couple of points in which the image on screen goes suddenly blurry, the audience is expected to blurt out “focus!”
- The film’s long and uncomfortable sex scenes are often accompanied by whistling, laughter, and audible jokes about seemingly incorrect trajectory of Wiseau’s pelvic thrusts. Some audience members also sing along with the lyrics of the scenes’ subpar slow jams, especially Kitra Williams’ “You Are My Rose.”
- In the film’s most notorious dropped subplot, the character of Claudette (Carolyn Minnott) mentions in one scene that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, but it’s never brought up before or after. Some audience members have been known to make cancer jokes whenever the character appears, one of the few instances in which such jokes can possibly be funny.
- During the love scene between the previously-unseen characters of Mike and Michelle (Scott Holmes and Robyn Paris), when Mike inexplicably declares that “chocolate is the symbol of love,” some will declare “no it’s not!”
- During the unnaturally long stock footage of a car driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, some audiences will chant “Go! Go! Go!,” until the car completes its journey across the bridge.
- Some Room fans have been known to sing the theme song of Full House over stock footage of San Francisco houses, or hum the Mission:Impossible theme song as Wiseau fiddles with a tape recorder.
- During one scene, in which Wiseau is looking down at the bottom right of the screen, some fans run towards that spot and screen and shout, “down here, Tommy!”
- In the scene in which Mark (Greg Sestero) says to Lisa (Juliette Danielle,) “these candles? This music? This sexy dress?,” each line is to be interrupted with “what candles? What music? What sexy dress?”
- Wearing costumes isn’t as much a part of the Room tradition as it is for Rocky Horror, but people are welcome to go to screenings dressed as Wiseau himself, or to go as a group inexplicably dressed in tuxedos.
- Audience members are welcome to make their own mockeries of the film’s various absurdities, from its stilted line readings to its inconsistent characterizations to its bad dialogue to its laughably bad green screen work. Improvisation is welcome.
When it comes to The Room, of course, there are no rules, and these customs change over time. Note: you probably shouldn't yell out or throw anything in a screening of The Disaster Artist, tempting as that may be.