Eric Billings loves bad movies and he’s hoping about 60 to 80 other people do, too.
The best bad movies are the ones a crowd can interact with, he says, so he’s found a place to get together and have a horrible time.
Billings has partnered with the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre in Moscow to host the Palouse Cult Film Revival on three Mondays in January.
The series, which started with “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” on Monday, Jan. 8, will continue with “Troll 2” and “The Room” the next two Mondays.
“Two of these movies are definitely bad,” Billings said. “Killer Klowns is actually pretty great, so we’re running from the awesomely bad to the cult classic.”
Billings has done this before about four years ago, but with films such as “Snakes on a Plane” that managed to have successful theatrical runs. This time, he’s going all way to bring the worst of cinema to Moscow.
His timing is just about perfect, too. James Franco just released last month, “The Disaster Artist,” a film based on a book about the making of possibly the worst movie ever made.
Jamie Hill, operations director at the Kenworthy, said she had been wondering how the Kenworthy—a nonprofit known for bringing a variety of independent films to Moscow along with second runs of some blockbusters—could get “The Disaster Artist” without having to compete with the commercial theaters in the area.
“For six months, we’d get asked about if we would get ‘The Disaster Artist.’ Eric came in and said he wanted to show ‘The Room.’ I thought, Thank God. If I can have a guaranteed showing of ‘The Room,’ it will cover the cost of ‘The Disaster Artist.’”
Billings’ plan, started in September 2017, was coming together.
“I always knew I wanted ‘The Room,’” he said. “It’s bad, but it’s laugh out loud at how bad it is. It’s smutty but uncomfortable in a way that is best enjoyed with other people. It’s always fun to have people who have seen it and some who haven’t together. That way you get the full movie experience.”
Selling the experience is one of the ways the Kenworthy comes into play. The theater hosts annual screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the staff knows how to handle a robust crowd that tends to talk to the movies as much as the movies talk to them. That works for movies with a dedicated fan base, which means there are still challenges.
“‘The Disaster Artist’ hasn’t developed the following these other movies have because it is still so new,” Hill said. “We’re still not certain how we got it so early.”
Still in limited release around the country, “The Disaster Artist” has been mentioned as an awards candidate, even possibly for the Oscars, something akin to seeing polar bears at the equator when considering its inspiration. Bringing it to the Palouse so soon is a major accomplishment.
“The Room” will close the series on Monday, Jan. 22. “The Disaster Artist” will play at the Kenworthy Jan. 25 to 28.
The partnership with the Kenworthy was just a first step in what has almost become a movement. The Best Western Plus University Inn is bringing in a bar, which makes the event a 21 and over happening.
“But all the drinks will be $2.50, beer, wine, and well drinks,” Billings said. Special cocktails for each movie will also be available according to Billings.
Pulling something like this off is not as easy as popping a disc in your player and turning on your TV. Billings and Hill had to track down the licensing rights for the films, which can be complicated.
“The original license holders for some of these don’t even exist anymore,” Hill said. So Billings sought out the filmmakers and even some of the actors. The Chiodo brothers, who still work in film special effects and animatronics pointed him in the right direction. He spoke with local actors in Utah, where “Troll 2” was filmed, to see if they could help. And then the last piece fell into place.
“I’m pretty sure I was talking to Tommy Wiseau (star, writer and director of “The Room”), himself. The English was just so bad,” Billings said.