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‘Empire Records’ 20th anniversary celebration at Rough Trade NYC underway (night 1 pics)

words & photos by Sachyn Mital

Rex Manning Day
Rex Manning Day
Rex Manning Day

For our generation — a shoulder demographic between Generation X and the millennials — this was one of our movies, a film that managed, however oddly, to capture the ineffable feeling of being a (white, straight) quasi-alienated teenager in a very specific time. But Empire Records was no hit: It grossed a mere $250,000 in its two weeks in release in 1995. With a budget that topped $10 million, it’s not difficult to do the math: Empire Records was an unmitigated, unequivocal flop.

Yet like so many artistic disasters that go on to become cult classics, Empire Records flourished when it was ignored. Kids like me saw it in the video store, watched it on cable, found a random VHS copy, and thought the charm was their secret.

…It was the movie’s depiction of misfit teens — and the interactions between them, all of which seemed so pregnant with exceptional meaning — that resonated. These characters — a good girl, a slutty girl, a gothy girl, an artist boy, an adorable weirdo, a beatnik, a too-cool rocker, a hippy stoner, a wannabe — with whom nearly any high schooler could identify or toward whom they could direct their desire. [Buzzfeed]

Cult ’90s film Empire Records turns 20 this year, and in celebration of that, Williamsburg record store/venue Rough Trade NYC is dressing up as the Empire Records store from the movie for three ‘Rex Manning Day’ celebrations (presented by BBQ Films). The first happened yesterday, April 8, the actual date of ‘Rex Manning Day’ in the film.

BBQ Films are known for creating immersive film experiences and this one was no exception. As BBQ co-founder Gabriel Rhoads told the Village Voice, he wasn’t even considering to recreate this film when when he visited Rough Trade in Williamsburg for the first time but things inside his head clicked and he realized it would make a great Empire. Rough Trade and Bowery agreed, so Rhoads and his production crew put together an event true to the spirit of the film. Actors dressed as Corey, Joe, Lucas, Rex, Debra, Gina, Mark, shoplifter Warren, and more mingled with fans who were often garbed similarly. Even without a ticket to the screening, there are a few portions of the event accessible to regular shoppers. It’s possible to pop into a photo booth to get a picture with Rex, make some pins and get your head shaved (which at least a few people committed to on the first night).

The Empire Records screening occurred inside the Rough Trade venue, which was also where the real treat for fans of the film happened. During an intermission, the metal band GWAR rushed out to recreate the dream-video scene where Mark is with them and eaten by a worm. This time though “Mark” was a raffle winner selected earlier in the evening. But moments after this Mark disappeared, actor Ethan Embry, Mark in the film, was pulled from the worm, and he, Johnny Whitworth, who played A.J., and GWAR selected the next two raffle winners, including a “Warren” shoplifting package. The proceeds were directed to Opening Act, a charity that supports arts education in NYC schools. The culmination of the night was when local band ARMS (who also performed pre-movie) wrapped up their set of ’90s covers with someone dressed as Gina taking the mic for “Sugar High”, her big finale in the film.

ADVENTURE[s] was also on board to DJ for the evening. Rough Trade does it again tonight (4/9) and Friday (4/10), both of which are sold out. Pictures from last night are in this post and continue below…

Rex Manning Day

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