On Friday February 25th 2006, the movie Zyzzyx Road was released in U.S. cinemas. Ten years later, it remains the lowest grossing movie of all time.
Starring Katherine Heigl (just before the double-whammy of Grey's Anatomy and Knocked Up sent her briefly into the stratosphere), Tom Sizemore (who was already diving head-long into his career freefall) and Leo Grillo (an almost complete unknown, who also doubled as the movie's producer), it tells the story of betrayal, jealousy and a desert-set road where people go to bury bodies.
While the plot itself doesn't exactly scream originality, and that title might just be one of the most off-putting of all time, how is that the movie ended up with such an embarrassing record on it's hands?
The perfect storm of bad luck kicked off during the film's short 18 day shoot. While filming in the Mojave desert, both Tom Sizemore and his friend/personal assistant Peter Walton were arrested for failing drugs tests while on probation. While in custody, police discovered that Walton had a warrant out for his arrest for child pornography distribution and was subsequently jailed.
Upon release, Grillo privately rented a movie theatre in Dallas, Texas for $1,000, where the movie would be screened once a day, at midday, from February 25th to March 2nd 2006. This was to meet a minimum necessity of the Screen Actors Guild for low-budget movies not intended to go straight-to-DVD.
At the end of the week, the movie had earned just $30 from six customers. Soon afterwards, Grillo personally refunded makeup artist Sheila Moore, who had worked on the film, and her friend, bringing the total down to $20. The movie's budget was $1.2 million.
In comparison, The Room, considered my many to be the worst movie ever made, garnered over $12,000 in it's opening weekend, and currently stands at around $10 million worldwide.
Upon seeing the opening numbers, writer and director John Penney told EW.com "”I was mortified. I went, ‘Oh, my God, this is horrendous.’ I’m reading it and saying, ‘Oh, no. Oh, no! This isn’t how it’s supposed to go.’ I’ve been through a lot of crap in my career. I’ve seen so many things. But this movie is like my baby, and it’s being dragged around in the street with people poking sticks in it. It was brutal. It was ugly. I was reeling.”
In the ten years since, eight movies have made less than $400 in the US box office, but none have managed to beat the record set by Zyzzyx Road. Even scouring the internet, you'd be hard-pressed to find an official review of the movie, leaving us with a movie at such a unique level of poor quality it can't even become accidentally popular in the form of a cult classic.