April 11, 1979
An invitation-only advance press screening of the film is held at United Artist Eastside Cinema in New York City, nine days ahead of its widespread local release. The preview is then followed by a special luncheon at the nearby “Michael’s Pub”; with all four lead actors, George Romero, Richard Rubinstein, Tom Savini, and investor/presenter Billy Baxter attending. Publicists Renee Furst and Francine Davidoff are hosting the event, while guests are being served Bloody Marys, “ghoulash”, and “scream-cheese cake” by waiters in zombie make-up.
April 12, 1979
Gala premiere of Dawn of the Dead at the Gateway Theatre in downtown Pittsburgh.
April 13, 1979
UFDC president Richard Hassanein issues an internal company memo outlining the nationwide release pattern for Dawn of the Dead, with a total of 449 prints scheduled for distribution through June 8.
April 13, 1979
Limited U.S. advance theatrical release of Dawn of the Dead on just three screens in the Pittsburgh area (including the “Cinemette East” located at the Monroeville Mall), with engagements eventually expanded to a total of 17 indoor theaters (as well as eight drive-ins) around town five weeks later. First local newspaper reviews of the film by critics Donald Miller of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Ed Blank of the Pittsburgh Press are of a decidedly mixed nature: While Miller’s article is less than favorable overall, Blank does praise the lead actors, Romero’s directing and editing, and Goblin’s music score in particular, but at the same time is taken aback by some of the audience reactions. In any event, Dawn’s total gross over its debut Pittsburgh week already amounts to an estimated $55,000.
In addition to the Dawn of the Dead movie novelization and soundtrack album, a fold-out “poster book” (featuring original art by Pittsburgh-based illustrator Ron Mahoney and Andy Warhol’s nephew, James Warhola) as well as a commemorative t-shirt are made available as official merchandise items to tie in with the film’s U.S. release.