History 9

February 1, 1979
Laurel issue an official press release announcing that UFDC have acquired the U.S. distribution rights for Dawn of the Dead; with the company aiming for opening engagements in “certain key cities” by April, and an eventual nationwide “500 theatre release saturation release in early July.” Due to the film being released without an official MPAA rating, a prominent disclaimer will be attached to all promotional materials stating, “There is no explicit sex in this picture. However, there are scenes of violence which may be considered shocking. No one under 17 will be admitted.”

March 1979
Dawn of the Dead screens out of competition at the eighth annual “Festival International du Film Fantastique et de Science-Fiction” in Paris, France. Due to major censorship problems at the time, it will take another four years for the film to be theatrically released in that country.

March 13, 1979
Dawn of the Dead opens in six theaters in Japan (three each in Tokyo and Osaka) as Zombie – Dawn of the Dead, distributed by Herald Enterprises in a bizarrely censored version that (apart from adding a cheesy extra “introductory” stock footage scene of an exploding planet, alongside Japanese subtitles which explain radiation from said explosion as the cause of the zombie outbreak in the year “19XX”) has the film paused prior to all gore scenes and then jumping back into motion after the sequences of violence are over. Regardless, it grosses $1.5 million there within 42 days.
Click here to see exploding planet opening

March 1979
In addition to the full-length soundtrack LP, a unique 7-inch vinyl single coupling two themes from Goblin’s Dawn score (L’Alba dei Morti Viventi b/w Zombi) is released on the “Seven Seas” label in Japan.

April 7, 1979
The sole American pre-release festival screening of Dawn of the Dead takes place at the U.S.A. Film Festival in Dallas, Texas, for which the film has been specifically selected by influential Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert. Almost a third of the audience is leaving the theater after the first 15 minutes. Following the show, George Romero is approached by a group of annoyed elderly ladies accusing Dawn of being “schlock disguised as art”, while Ebert also gets verbally attacked by patrons for picking the movie.