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First Screening in Phoenix, AZ-March 5, 1994
The very first public screening of The Crow was at Midnight on Saturday, March 5, 1994, in Phoenix,Arizona. Concieved and scheduled in just five days by producer Ed Pressman and Miramax Films, this special free preview was nominally tied in with the World Horror Convention, which was also in Phoenix that year. (Ultimately, the late night hour proved too daunting for most members of this small literary conference.)
The Crow theatre was a typical mall, the rock 'n' roll mall that catered to a young crowd via its hi-decibel video arcade and greasy food court. Fortunately, this also housed the largest THX screen (500 seats) in the Phoenix valley, its sound system had just been calibrated the week before, and the technical support team from Digital Theatrical Sound (DTS) had made sure that their new six-channel playblack unit was properly installed and fully operational.
The film print was also special:a"show"print made directly from the finished release negative, as opposed to one of the "production" negatives used for high-speed duplication when making general release prints. Though subtle to most viewers, a show print offers the best possible reproduction of the filmed image, with richer colors, finer grain, and superior contrast stability (sort of like a gold-plated audiophile CD compared to those cheap music club knock-offs).
But insider technical trivia does little to guarantee an audience. Who could predict if anyone would show up? There had been scant media coverage on the film following the flurry of sensationalist (and mostly fictious) reports in the wake of Brandon Lee's tragic death during the final days of principle photography-hardly great word-of-mouth.
Yet, by ten o'clock that night pale-skinned fans dressed in black dyed hair, pierced skin, and scary tatoos were already lining up as if this was a Saturday night at a New York Goth Club. Some were even in Crow makeup. For the previous two days Miramax's plucky field team (all two of them) had been quite busy roaring around Phoenix distributing stacks of screening
passes to comic shops and record stores, even risking arrest by canvassing malls. Obviously, the word had spread like a rumor at a church picnic; by midnight almost a hundred people had to be turned away (they recieved passes to other films).
Unlike most "sneaks", The Crow screening had the feel of a rock concert, as if a major band was doing a secret warm-up gig at a local club.
A test pressing CD of the soundtrack played over the house PA as the audience's excitement began to build. This crowd was totally psyched to rock, yet still listened
politely as the Miramax representative pleaded with them to fill out the brief response card after the screening for which they'd be rewarded with free posters and rare Crow promo tattoos.
Then it was show time. The lights went down, the picture came on, and the sound went up-way, way up. After all (reasoned the Pressman screening crew), with the other screens now empty, who'd complain? And besides, with every seat filled there was a lot of sound-dampening clothing to compensate for. And so Phoenix's top THX house was able to show just what it could dowhen asked to kick out the jams and party- and it came through with a flawless, Richter-scale performance.
Only four people walked out of the screening-solidiers on leave who'd thought they'd be seeing a Kung Fu film. Everyone else stayed, and stayed. Again, like at a rock concert, the audience hung around afterwards, posters in hand, talking about the film with their friends reliving the experience.
And sitting in that special audience was one particular World Horror Con member undaunted by the late hour, a young screenwriter by the name of David S. Goyer (City of Angels Screenwriter).
"The Phoenix screening was a revelation. I already knew the film was good, but nothing prepared us for seeing it with an audience," recalls producer Ed Pressman. "It was an enormously satisfying moment. The response told us we had something very special." Several fans were quoted saying,"Finally a movie that is for us."
The film was scheduled to open in mid-May, so in April the promotions departments of Miramax Films and Kitchen Sink Press put James O'Barr, The Crow comic book creator, on a short tour
to get both the regular media and the comic book world hyped about the film.
The Crow was the number one release for their opening weekend of Friday May 13, 1994 grossing $11.74 million-the biggest opening in Miramax's history. It finished the week with $16,025,309. It finished the month with an awesome $42,683,404 in total box office receipts. Success came across The Crow's way in nations such as Germany, France,
England, and Spain. But The Crow enjoyed unprecedented response in Italy where it was something of a national phenomenon, out-performing True Lies and Speed which opened the same month. Japan however was a failure altogether of which the Crow team never understood. However, to date, only The Crow films have been categorized
under the "gothic thriller" genre. The Crow ended up making a total of $100 million worldwide and standing among the highest grossing films of Ed Pressman's producing career including Conan the Barbarian.
Thanks to Jeff Conner and Robert Zuckerman for their report.
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