Empire Records, the 1995 music-stuffed cult film set in a record store has been acquired for stage adaptation and is being developed for Broadway by producer Bill Weiner, who’ll work with the film’s original writer Carol Heikkinen, with new music and lyrics by Zoe Sarnak, the 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant winner for her upcoming musical Afterwords.
A 2020 premiere is being targeted, to coincide with the film’s 25th anniversary.
Released in 1995 by New Regency, Empire Records starred Liv Tyler, Renée Zellweger, Anthony LaPaglia, Robin Tunney, Rory Cochrane, Ethan Embry and Johnny Whitworth, directed by Allan Moyle. Though not particularly a critical or commercial hit at the time, the movie was later described by BuzzFeed as “the film of a generation” and “the teen-movie equivalent of the mid-‘90s alt-rock zeitgeist… a film that managed, however oddly, to capture the ineffable feeling of being a quasi-alienated teenager in a very specific time.”
“The movie was really about a family that formed among these minimum-wage record clerks,” said Carol Heikkinen. “There’s a lot of nostalgia now for those old record stores where you could go and talk to people who loved the same music you loved, and discover new bands.”
Says Sarnak: “I first saw Empire Records when my older sister brought it home on VHS – I remember sneaking into the TV room while she was watching it with her friends. Over the years, I watched it again and again because that cast – those characters – were my idea of the coolest misfits. Teenagers who loved music as much as I did, and still do. The film’s music so iconically captured the sound of that decade – a sound that has indelibly shaped my own aesthetic.”
Weiner was New Regency’s Exec VP and general counsel for 23 and jumpstarted the studio’s theatrical endeavors. No longer with the company, he acquired the rights to Empire Records for the stage.
“I am beyond thrilled to bring this iconic film to the Broadway stage,” Weiner said. “As a film, Empire Records captured the hearts of millions of Americans, and I am so excited for Carol’s words and vision to be brought together with Zoe’s incredible music and lyrics. They both have such a passion for the story and its time.”
The production’s director and additional creative team members will be announced at a later date.