Alright everybody, strap into your checkbooks
and get out your seats because right here, right now, in this article, I am about to pitch you the next big summer movie blockbuster.
So you know how people love movies that are
adaptations of something—comic books, or video games, or regular books, or YouTube channels, or even board games, for some
Well here’s my idea: we adapt a road.
I know, I know, it sounds boring, but hear me out.
No, it’s not the 8 Mile Road or the Fury Road, and I’m sorry; no, we couldn’t get the rights to the Old Town Road.
Our movie will be about Zzyzx road.
It’s a 4.5 mile, 7.2 kilometer road in San Bernardino Country, California.
It’s part paved, part dirt, and leads off of Interstate 15 to the unincorporated community of Zzyzx, where basically nobody lives and where nothing really happens.
Who drives on Zzyzx Road?
Pretty much nobody.
What can you see from Zzyzx Road?
Just the desert.
What interesting things have happened on Zzyzx Road?
Is there any significance to the name Zzyzx?
Not really, some guy just made it up in 1944.
So what do you think; you ready to invest?
Now you’re probably thinking to yourself,
nobody would ever be dumb enough to invest
in a movie like that.
Well, first of all, have you heard of Juicero?
People invest in stupid things.
Second of all, allow me to introduce you to the 2003 thriller Zyzzyx Road—a movie whose claim to fame is somehow not that it has the most annoying title ever, but instead that it is the worst box-office bomb of all time: it cost $1.2 million to make and grossed a whopping $30 at the box office.
To put that in perspective, $1.2 million is the cost of this red-brick mansion, and $30 is the cost of this carton of red bricks.
Now I want to be clear: Zyzzyx Road is a totally real movie—it wasn’t a money laundering scheme or a front to get hostages out of Iran.
It had investors, a director, a script, camera people, makeup artists; even one of those
scene starter clicky things that let you know
It also had real actors like Catherine Heigl who would later win an Emmy for her role on Grey’s Anatomy and star in hits like Knocked Up and 27 Dresses, and Tom Sizemore, who was already reasonably famous for playing Sergeant Horvath in Saving Private Ryan, for playing Colonel McKnight in Black Hawk Down, and for always having a little flour or sugar or something under his nose at Hollywood parties.
In fact, Sizemore was arrested during the shooting of Zyzzyx Road for failing drug tests
while on parole, but it turns out that being a C-list actor isn’t just helpful when you want to be on Dancing With The Stars; it also helps you skirt the law, and so Sizemore was soon released and Zyzzyx Road successfully finished shooting.
Now, at this point in the video I could tell you the plot of Zyzzyx Road.
I could tell you about how it followed an accountant who has an affair with a young
woman in Vegas, then the woman’s ex-boyfriend comes after them so they kill the ex-boyfriend, and try to bury him on Zyzzyx Road but then it turns out he was still alive and they have to track him down and blah blah blah blah blah;
look, if you wanted if you wanted to hear a bad movie plot you could walk up to any bearded guy in Starbucks and ask them what they’re working on.
This video isn’t about a lame movie plot.
It’s about how a real movie, starring legitimate
actors, could make less money than an illiterate child’s lemonade stand.
So, here is your answer: Zyzzyx Road didn’t make $30 because it was bad—even though it definitely was bad.
Bad movies make money all the time—just
ask Nicholas Cage’s private island.
Zyzzyx Road didn’t make any money at the
box office because it wasn’t trying to.
You see, the Screen Actors Guild—the union
for TV and film actors—has a rule that says that when making a “low budget film,” defined as costing under $2.5 million, you can pay actors a lower rate if the movie has a domestic theatrical release, the reason being that, in theory, it helps an actor’s career if their movie is shown in US theaters.
But here was the thing: the producers of Zyzzyx Road didn’t want to do a domestic theatrical release.
Instead, their plan was to first make back their money by selling Zyzzyx Road’s foreign DVD and TV rights—because if there’s one thing foreign audiences love, it’s movies about meaningless roads.
However, in order to lock in that lower pay rate for their actors, they had to premiere the movie in US theaters.
Lucky for them, the SAG rules included holes—most notably, that the term, “domestic theatrical release,” had an incredibly loose definition.
In order to meet it, the producers simply rented a single screening room in the Dallas Highland Park Village Theatre and had it show the movie once a day for seven days.
They had no posters, no red carpet, no YouTube pre-roll ads that you skip after five seconds anyways, nothing.
In the end, six people showed up, each paying
$5, which is how we arrive at our $30 box office gross.
As it turns out though, two of the six audience
members were a makeup artist who had worked on the movie and their friend, and after finding out they paid for their tickets, one of the
film’s actors personally refunded them.
So really, Zyzzyx Road’s US box office total was $20—which for context, is less than it costs to buy this actual DVD copy of Zyzzyx Road.