Empire Records May Have Flopped But The Soundtrack Didn’t

“Empire Records” was released to mostly negative reviews and made about $150,000 on its opening weekend against a $10 million budget. At the time, Variety called the film a “soundtrack in search of a movie,” a sentiment music supervisor Mitchell Leib wouldn’t actually find offensive. He told ABC, “My job was to have hit singles and a giant soundtrack that was supposed to not only enhance the playability of the movie, but also was supposed to act as a marketing asset and launch the film.”

Leib did indeed have two #1 singles on his hands, with Gin Blossoms’ “Til I Hear It From You” and “A Girl Like You” by Edwyn Collins. A&M Records, who was releasing the soundtrack, was so confident in the early success of the songs that they decided to ship three million copies to record stores. That’s a big number, considering this was a soundtrack. However, Leib was called into a marketing meeting three weeks before “Empire Records” was set to hit theaters, only to be told the movie was dead in the water. It would have a very limited release before going straight to VHS — a true death sentence for any film. Leib called this “the biggest nightmare possible” and said the boss of A&M never spoke to him again after Leib broke the bad news.

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