I was 12 years old when Empire Records was released. That could mean I'm much older than you, but that would also mean I'm much wiser and better looking, so I'm OK with it.
When Empire Records hit theaters 20 years ago, it changed a lot for the indie film world. Around this time, the most favored examples Damn-the-Man!-coming-of-rage-punk-rock-independent cinema were rated R -- Tank Girl, SLC Punk!, Richard Linklater's Slackers and Dazed and Confused, and all of Harmony Korine's films -- and suckers like me couldn't get in unless a) we snuck in (which never worked) or b) my mom bought three tickets (two for me and a friend and one for her) and left before the movie started. At that time, $5-an-hour theater employees really gave a shit about their horrid job cleaning up bathroom stalls, popcorn, soda spills and other messes, and they spent a lot of their time kicking teens out of adult movies. But Empire Records was rated PG-13 and us weirdos could see it as much as we wanted to, hassle free. Once it hit VHS, I ended up buying two copies because I broke the first from watching it too much.
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Empire Records led a new pack of retro films for many reasons: It's set at a record store, every character dressed weird and wild. Everyone wanted to be them and work in that uber-cool store, Empire Records. The employees of Empire Records were the epitome of cool. The whole cast is also great, but a character with a smaller part stole the show -- Brendan Sexton III played the store thief who, being a complete smart-ass, calls himself Warren Beatty, the name sticking for the rest of the movie, much to his dismay. Some of the actors went on to do big things. You may have heard of a couple: Renée Zellweger and Liv Tyler.
Despite its PG-13 rating (which most say is the death wish for a movie), Empire Records gained immediate cult status. That could probably be chalked up to the catchy music and how much fun the film is. Watch it when you're older and you realize what a mess every character is and that you actually did live their lives, just in a different way.Empire Records is in all of us.
There's a cool way to see the movie, whether for the first time or the 100th, in honor of its 20th birthday. The Granada is hosting a 20th anniversary screening this Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets are only $3, with $3 shot and beer specials to boot, so you'd be a fool not to attend. Who knows, maybe even Rex Manning will show up. It is his day, after all.
The Empire no longer needs saving, but Damn the Man! and come out to celebrate the anniversary of a groundbreaking movie.