History 7

September 1, 1978
Dawn of the Dead (naturally in the form of Dario Argento’s cut) sees its first worldwide theatrical release as Zombi during a special gala premiere screening in Turin, Italy, which is hosted by Argento himself. Distributed by Titanus Films of Rome, the film’s nationwide theatrical rollout begins the following day. It goes on to top the domestic box office charts a week after opening, even leaving behind Saturday Night Fever. With a total revenue of $3 million, Zombi will eventually end up ranking at #24 in the list of the top-grossing films released in Italy during 1978/79; well ahead of popular contemporaries such as Midnight Express, National Lampoon’s Animal House, or Every Which Way But Loose.

Fall 1978
With the first profits now rolling in from overseas, proving that they have a real smash at their hands, Romero and Rubinstein are starting to look out for an American distributor willing to take the major risk of releasing Dawn of the Dead without an official MPAA rating. Both American International Pictures and Warner Bros. are interested in buying the domestic rights, but demand the film to be trimmed for an “R” rating, which Romero keeps refusing to do. Meanwhile, the editing process for the American theatrical version continues.

October 1978
An exclusive 3,200-word advance excerpt from the forthcoming Dawn of the Dead movie tie-in novelization, credited to George Romero and author Susanna Sparrow, is published in Heavy Metal magazine.

October 5, 1978
George Romero and Richard Rubinstein form the limited partnership “Dawn Associates” to officially copyright the film in North America for the next 15 years.

Mid-October 1978
George Romero and Richard Rubinstein take Dawn of the Dead to the international movie market fair MIFED (Mercato Internazionale del Film e del Documentario) in Milan, Italy. There, they get to meet Richard Hassanein, co-president of the New York-based “United Film Distribution Company (UFDC)”, who shows serious interest in acquiring the American rights to the film. A screening for Hassanein’s partners, including his father Salah, at the UFDC headquarter in New York is arranged. The executives’ decision to pick up the film and get it into theaters “as is” then is made rather quickly; with Romero and Rubinstein agreeing on the sale despite Hassanein making the lowest offer out of the three parties that were originally interested in purchasing the film ($500,000, whereas AIP and Warner Bros. had been ready to pay $750,000 and a million, respectively, albeit of course only for an “R”-rated cut).