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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Allan Moyle|
|Produced by||Tony Ludwig
|Written by||Carol Heikkinen|
|Edited by||Michael Chandler|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||90 minutes|
|Box office||$303,841 (United States)|
Empire Records is a 1995 American coming-of-age film that follows a group of record store employees over the course of one exceptional day. The employees of this independent music store try to avoid being sold to a large chain, all while learning about each other. The film was directed by Allan Moyle and stars Anthony LaPaglia, Robin Tunney, Rory Cochrane, Renée Zellweger, Ethan Embry, Johnny Whitworth and Liv Tyler.
Empire Records is a small, independent record shop managed by Joe (Anthony LaPaglia). The store is set in an unnamed city in Delaware, and, like the employees, is eclectic and unique. The staff is very much a self-created family, with Joe as the reluctant and perpetually exasperated but loveable father figure.
The film opens as Joe allows nighttime manager, Lucas (Rory Cochrane), to close the store for the first time ever. While counting the day's receipts, Lucas discovers that Empire Records is about to be converted into a branch of Music Town, a franchise music store. In an attempt to save the store, Lucas takes the day's cash receipts to Atlantic City. While initially very lucky, he loses the entire amount. Instead of going home—the same home in which Joe resides—Lucas is found sleeping outside the store on his motorcycle the following morning by opening manager A.J. (Johnny Whitworth) and fellow employee Mark (Ethan Embry) and confides in the pair of the previous night's events before riding away. Joe arrives to help open the store and is phoned by both the bank and the store owner, Mitchell Beck (Ben Bodé), about the missing deposit.
Joe is distracted from dealing with this immediate crisis due to a scheduled store event: Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield), a former pop idol and child star, is due to arrive to sign autographs and promote his new album. No one is really looking forward to "Rex Manning Day", and many of the fans coming in for autographs are either older women or gay men. The employees secretly tease Rex behind his back about his fading career, and even his assistant Jane (Debi Mazar) later reveals her distaste for Rex's music.
Lucas returns after the store opens and is confronted by Joe about the missing deposit. After telling him of his whereabouts, Lucas is asked to stay in the store until a plan is devised to return the $9,000 deposit. Next to arrive are cashier Corey (Liv Tyler), an overachieving high school student, and her overzealous best friend and fellow cashier Gina (Renée Zellweger), both of whom are told Lucas' secret. Soon thereafter arrives hostile employee, Deb (Robin Tunney), followed by boyfriend, Berko (Coyote Shivers), who seem to be in the midst of an unresolved lover's quarrel; both are aware of Lucas' secret.
The afternoon continues to spiral downward: A young shoplifter who identifies himself only as Warren Beatty (Brendan Sexton III) is apprehended outside the store by Lucas and is arrested. Encouraged by Gina, Corey's school-girl crush on Rex is pushed to its limits, much to the horror of her friends, including A.J., who has a long time crush on her, and moving into a revelation of Corey's drug habit, Gina being scolded by Corey for sleeping with Rex Manning, and Rex getting kicked out of the store. Although already revealed, Deb takes Corey aside and advises her on the road she is taking, which may lead her into the similar path of suicide. In return, Corey holds a mock funeral and the whole store attends, and Deb removes her bandages revealing her cuts as a "cry for attention". Gina had left the store and finally returns apologizing to Corey. "Warren" returns with a gun and holds up the store. Deb boldly confronts Warren, confusing him and distracting him from his plan, and the rest of the staff persuade Warren into admitting that he only returned because he felt kinship with the rest of the misfits in the store, leading Joe to offer him a job.
After the police leave, Lucas admits defeat, and suggests calling Mitchell. However, the coworkers, Joe, and Jane—who has since quit working for Rex—pool their resources to replace the missing money. Despite their best efforts, they are thousands short. Suddenly inspired, Mark runs out of the store, jumps in front of a news crew covering the holdup, and announces a late night benefit party to "Save the Empire". The store later opens its doors and the team sell food and drinks and other merchandise at discounted prices in hopes to raise the remaining $9,000. Just enough is made to replace the money Lucas lost, and the pair return the money to Mitchell, who in turn, offers to sell the store to Joe, admitting he's always hated the place. Joe agrees.
In celebration of their win against "the man", the gang ends their day with a dance party on the roof.
- Anthony LaPaglia as Joe Reaves
- Liv Tyler as Corey Mason
- Renée Zellweger as Gina
- Rory Cochrane as Lucas
- Johnny Whitworth as A.J.
- Robin Tunney as Debra
- Ethan Embry as Mark (As Ethan Randall)
- Coyote Shivers as Berko
- James 'Kimo' Wills as Eddie
- Brendan Sexton III as Warren (As Brendan Sexton)
- Maxwell Caulfield as Rex Manning
- Debi Mazar as Jane
- Ben Bode as Mitchell Beck
The film was severely edited in post-production, removing three significant characters and up to 40 minutes of film. The story was also condensed down from occurring over two days to a single day.
Film exteriors were filmed on North Front Street in Wilmington, North Carolina in a bar that had a few feet of space converted into an exact replica of the store set which was located at Carolco (now Screen Gems) studios, and finished out with a large picture of the rest of the store. This allowed the actors to enter the exterior location doors and walk in a couple of feet before the scene would cut to the interior set on Soundstage 4 at the studios. The large mural of Gloria Estefan which Mark kisses early in the film was visible for many years on the separate building, on South Water Street, that stood in for the back of the store.
The Rex Manning music video "Say No More, Mon Amour" was shot prior to principal photography started, and was shot on Wrightsville Beach NC and shot entirely in one day. It was only intended to be a 17 second dance move piece for the main actors to make fun of in the film. However, the Director of the music video shot for the entire day and gave the producers an entire 4:30 music video.
The soundtrack album for Empire Records was originally attached to Atlantic Records an affiliate of Warner Bros, Warner Bros having a distribution pact with the film's producers Regency Enterprises. However the soundtrack album was given to A&M Records in order to obtain the participation of A&M artists the Gin Blossoms whose track "Til I Hear It from You" was issued as lead single: besides the Gin Blossoms four other A&M acts had new tracks released on the Empire Records soundtrack album, namely Ape Hangers, Drill, Innocence Mission, and Lustre.
The Empire Records soundtrack album also introduced tracks by Better Than Ezra, Cracker, the Cranberries, Evan Dando (whose "The Ballad of El Goodo" featured Empire Records female lead Liv Tyler on background vocals), and Toad The Wet Sprocket, and by unsigned acts the Martinis, Please, and Coyote Shivers. The Martinis - featuring former Pixies members Joey Santiago and Dave Lovering - were recommended by Hits magazine president Karen Glauber who was musical consultant for Empire Records, while the film's line music supervisor Bob Knickman discovered Please by searching the internet for unsigned talent suitable for the Empire Records soundtrack. Coyote Shivers, who played aspiring musician turned store clerk Benko in the film, became involved in the Empire Records project by virtue of being the stepfather of the film's star Liv Tyler, Shivers being then married to Tyler's mother Bebe Buell.
Two previously released tracks were also included on the original release of the Empire Records soundtrack album, namely "A Girl Like You" by Edwyn Collins and "Ready, Steady, Go" by the Meices  (the latter's frontman Joe Reineke subsequently led Alien Crime Syndicate). "The Honeymoon Is Over" by the Cruel Sea, a track heard in the film not featured on the US release of the Empire Records soundtrack album, was included on the Empire Records soundtrack album in its release in Australia and Germany.
The Gin Blossoms' "Til I Hear It From You" charted as high as #9 affording the band their first Top 20 hit. Two other tracks from the Empire Records soundtrack album had a single release: Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You" which charted at #32, and the Ape Hangers' "I Don't Want to Live Today".
The Empire Records soundtrack album peaked at #63 on the album chart.
- "Til I Hear It from You" by Gin Blossoms
- "Liar" by The Cranberries
- "A Girl Like You" by Edwyn Collins
- "Free" by The Martinis
- "Crazy Life" by Toad the Wet Sprocket
- "Bright As Yellow" by The Innocence Mission
- "Circle of Friends" by Better Than Ezra
- "I Don't Want to Live Today" by Ape Hangers
- "Whole Lotta Trouble" by Cracker
- "Ready, Steady, Go" by The Meices
- "What You Are" by Drill
- "Nice Overalls" by Lustre
- "Here It Comes Again" by Please
- "The Ballad of El Goodo" by Evan Dando
- "Sugarhigh" by Coyote Shivers
- "The Honeymoon Is Over" by The Cruel Sea (Australian and German edition)
Songs in the film not listed on soundtrack
- "Can't Stop Losing Myself" by Dirt Clods
- "Hey Joe" by Dirt Clods
- "Dark and Brooding" by Noah Stone
- "Thorn in My Side" by Quicksand
- "Little Bastard" by Ass Ponys (as Ass Ponies)
- "I Don't Know Why" by Sacrilicious
- "Real" by Real
- "If You Want Blood (You've Got It)" by AC/DC
- "Counting Blue Cars" by Dishwalla
- "Snakeface" by Throwing Muses
- "Candy" by Full Tilt Gonzo
- "How" by The Cranberries
- "Hardlight" by Peg Boy
- "Chew Toy" by Fig Dish
- "Power Shack" by Fitz of Depression
- "Saddam A Go-Go" by Gwar
- "Backdown Blues" by Loose Diamonds
- "Tomorrow" by Mouth Music
- "Plowed" by Sponge
- "Surround You" by Billy White Trio
- "L.A. Girl" by Adolescents
- "Seems" by Queen Sarah Saturday
- "Vinyl Advice" by Dead Hot Workshop
- "This is the Day" by The The
- "Say No More (Mon Amour)" by Maxwell Caulfield as Rex Manning (written for the film)
- "She Walks" by Poster Children
- "Sorry" by Sybil Vane
- "Infinity" by Mouth Music
- "Money (That's What I Want)" by Flying Lizards
- "Sugar High (ft. Renee Zellweger)" by Coyote Shivers
- "Seems" by Queen Sarah Saturday
- "Romeo and Juliet" by Dire Straits
- "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles
- "I Shot the Devil" by Suicidal Tendencies
- "Rock 'n' Roll/EGA" by Daniel Johnston
The version of the song "Sugarhigh" that appears in the movie differs significantly from the one included on the soundtrack. The main differences are that the movie version has additional lyrics and chorus vocals provided by Renée Zellweger and it is musically one semitone lower than the CD version. Francis "Coyote Shivers", the artist who released the song, played the lead singer of the song in the movie.
The movie was written by a former employee of Tower Records store #166 (Christown Mall) in Phoenix, Arizona. When the film was released and for a long time afterward, a number of her former coworkers still working cited anecdotes and other elements of the film that related to the store. This store closed in early 2005, ten years after the film's release.
The film did poorly at the box office and received generally negative reviews. As of June 2013, it has only a 24% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 21 reviews with the consensus: "Despite a terrific soundtrack and a strong early performance from Renee Zellweger, Empire Records is mostly a silly and predictable teen dramedy."
Roger Ebert called the film a "lost cause," but presciently wrote that some of the actors might have a future in other, better films; LaPaglia, Cochrane, Embry, Zellweger, Tyler and Tunney all went on to achieve significantly greater fame. Despite its poor box office performance, the film has established something of a cult classic status. Even though the majority of professional reviews on Rotten Tomatoes were negative, 84% of users enjoyed the film.
Remix: Special Fan Edition DVD
On June 3, 2003 Warner Brothers released the Remix: Special Fan Edition DVD of Empire Records. It includes 4 extra scenes and 16 minutes of additional footage. The Fan edition also includes the popular music video Rex Manning 'Say No More, Mon Amour' directed for the film by Jordan Dawes.
- "Empire Records - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
- "A&M soundtrack plants hopes with the Gin Blossoms". Billboard Vol 107 #31 (8/5/95) p.1.
- Empire Records Movie Reviews, Pictures. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-02-20.
- (1995-09-22). Empire Records :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-02-20.
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