(Originally posted on DARKWORLDS.COM)
During a recent stop in LA for the 2002 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, celebrated horror director George Romero (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE DARK HALF, BRUISER) sat down with Darkworlds for an extensive interview. At one point, while we were asking Romero about upcoming DVD releases of his work, the conversation took an unexpected turn as the director explained to us why he doesn’t receive a penny of the profits still coming in from his most famous film. (Interview for Darkworlds conducted by Greg Stacy.)
DW: So, are you going to be involved with any of the DVD or special editions of your work coming up?
Romero: Yeah, I was just here (in LA) on Thursday, I did the color track on THE CRAZIES and I did the commentary. Shot a bunch of interviews.
DW: A DVD edition of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is about to come out that features the film in 3D. Can you tell us anything about that?
Romero: (Stunned) What?!
DW: (The release) is news to you?
Romero: It’s news to me! In 3D? How could they do it? It’s a flat image. We didn’t shoot with two cameras.
DW: How could anyone do a project like this without you being involved in any way?
Romero: Well, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the original I assume you mean, is in the public domain.
DW: How did it work out that way?
Romero: Well, we fought it for years. Our original title was THE FLESH EATERS. And when (distributor) Walter Reed picked the movie up, we were just (naive kids) who’d made a movie, you know? We made it in Pittsburgh and threw it in the trunk of a car and drove it to New York. We put the copyright sign on the title card (at the beginning of the movie), which was our mistake; we didn’t put it on the end of the movie. So when they changed the title, the (title card with the copyright) came off. It took about three or four years for people to realize that there was no copyright. We fought for years, our lawyers thought the film itself was the proof, but we didn’t win it. The US government said, nuh-uh.
DW: Do you get any share of the revenues?
R: Never have. We did in the beginning, when Walter Reed first picked it up. We wound up spending, after we’d paid off all of our debts, about 150 grand. It wound up making about 500 grand, in the first six months. After that, no one’s made a nickel on it.
DW: What about merchandising?
R: Are you kidding? Nah. And normally, even with everything (I’ve) done later, even done properly, you usually don’t get any of that action. Unless you’re the producer, or you’ve got a really malleable contract. There’s always ways to do creative accounting. For example, you make a movie for Paramount; the contract says, well, (the director) will get so much of the video market as well. And even though it’s (Paramont’s) own company, they basically sell it to Paramount video, with a very bad deal. So, no money ever comes back (to the filmmaker). There’s a million ways to skin a cat. Unless you’re Arnold or Bruce, you’ll never see those percentage dollars.