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How the cult of “The Room” matured over time

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Tommy Wiseau signs autographs at the "Room" screening last Friday in Philadelphia

Tommy Wiseau signs autographs at the “Room” screening last Friday in Philadelphia

Last Friday at midnight, I went to go see the notorious cult film “The Room” at the Ritz Bourse in Philadelphia. There were actually three showings- at midnight, 12:15 and 12:30- and all were full, for a good reason: Tommy Wiseau, the film’s writer, director, star and all-around man of mystery, was in the house for a meet-and-greet and Q&A. (Greg Sestero, the film’s co-star, was a no-show despite being billed as appearing, although there were other screenings of the movie scheduled throughout the weekend.)

I briefly got to meet Wiseau, and during the Q&A he said nothing of particular note, and gave either evasive or non-answer answers to all the usual questions (“where are you from?” “Why did you make this movie?” “Where did you get the money?,” etc.) But I was more interested in what happened during the screening.

“The Room” has often been compared to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in that not only is it an established midnight movie that fans come to see in costume, but it now has an elaborate, nearly-universal series of callouts (with room for some improvisation, too.)

When I last saw “The Room” with an audience, about two years ago, there seemed to only be a handful of people in the crowd who knew all the callouts; I figured these people were L.A. transplants who were veterans of that city’s monthly screenings. But at last weekend’s showing, everyone knew every line, including the ceremonial throwing of spoons. And lots of people were dressed as Tommy and Lisa, which wasn’t the case last time.

So a repeat of this happened:

And so did this (everyone sang along to “You Are My Rose”):

And of course, everyone recited the film’s most famous line:

I first heard about “The Room” from the big Entertainment Weekly article in 2008, which was such a long time ago that it refers to Jonah Hill using a picture of Tommy Wiseau as his Myspace avatar. Since then, “The Room” has played all over the country, finding enough of an audience that more and more people know exactly when to yell out “What candles? What music? What sexy dress?”

The first time I saw it was when it first became available on Netflix, probably in 2009; I remember I had bought a new TV that very afternoon and I told my friends that I would probably never see a worse movie on that TV than the first, a prediction that’s more or less held up five years later.

And finally, the Bourse was a totally appropriate venue for “The Room,” as it was across the street from a place called “Lisa’s Flowers and Gifts.”

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