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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.|
|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 try to stop the store from being sold to a large chain, and learn about each other along the way. 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 with Joe allowing nighttime manager Lucas (Rory Cochrane) to close the store for his first time. 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 a casino in Atlantic City. While initially very lucky, he loses the entire amount in one bet on a dice table. Instead of going home (since he lives with Joe), he sleeps on his motorcycle outside the store, where he is found the following morning by opening manager A.J. (Johnny Whitworth) and fellow employee Mark (Ethan Embry). He confides in the pair about 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 80's pop idol, 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 Joe confronts him about the missing deposit. After telling him of his short misadventure, Lucas is asked to stay in the store until a plan is devised to return the $9,000. Next to arrive are cashiers Corey (Liv Tyler), an overachieving high school student, and her uninhibited best friend and co-worker Gina (Renée Zellweger), both of whom are told Lucas' secret. Soon thereafter arrive hostile and suicidal employee Deb (Robin Tunney), and 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 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 is infatuated with her. This leads to the revelation that Corey abuses drugs. Gina has sex with Rex Manning, and Rex gets kicked out of the store. Deb takes Corey aside and advises her on the choices she is making. In return, Corey holds a mock funeral for Deb and the whole store attends. Gina then apologizes 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 a kinship with the rest of the misfits in the store. Joe offers him a job.
After the police leave, Lucas admits defeat, and suggests calling Mitchell. However, the employees, 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 opens its doors and sells food, drinks, and other merchandise at discounted prices to try to raise the remaining money. They manage to raise just enough, and they return the money to Mitchell, who in turn offers to sell the store to Joe, admitting he's always hated the place. Joe agrees. Corey meets up with A.J to whom she confesses that she does love him. He tells her he is going to art school in Boston so he can be with her when she goes to Harvard. They then kiss.
In celebration of their win against "the man", the gang ends the night 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.
Exteriors were filmed at 15 South 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 in North Carolina 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. at the time because of 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 cover of Big Star's "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 Berko 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.
Gin Blossoms frontman Robin Wilson would say of "Empire Records "[it's] a classic film that only a handful of people really saw, but it definitely made an impact on that generation. It was really cool to have been a part of that".
- "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 Body Count
- "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 Pegboy
- "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
- "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
- "Smooth up in ya" by Bulletboys
- "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 Bros. released the Remix: Special Fan Edition DVD of Empire Records. The unrated version includes 4 extra scenes and 16 minutes of additional footage (107 total). The Fan edition also includes the popular music video Rex Manning 'Say No More, Mon Amour' directed for the film by Jordan Dawes.
For the 2015 Blu-ray release from the film's new owner 20th Century Fox, only the theatrical cut has been included, with the extras ported over from the 2003 "Remix! Special Fan Edition" DVD.
"Rex Manning Day" meme
An Internet meme among the film's fans celebrates "Rex Manning Day" on April 8, the date Rex appears at Empire Records in the film. #RexManningDay is a recurring trending hashtag on Twitter. GIFs commemorating the event show Embry's character bounding down the stairs from the store's loft, declaring "Not on Rex Manning Day!"
- "Empire Records - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
- "A&M soundtrack plants hopes with the Gin Blossoms". Billboard. 107 (31): 1. 1995.
- "From No Chocolate Cake to a Reckoning: Conversations with Gin Blossoms, Luke Doucet, & Tony Lunn". HuffingtonPost.com. 2010-09-24. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
- 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.
- Stampler, Laura. "It’s Rex Manning Day! (Here’s What That Actually Means)." Time.com. 2015-04-08. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
- #RexManningDay on Twitter. Retrieved 2015-04-08.
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