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January 6, 2003


2003 will find Stax Records—its artists and musical legacy—very much in view. First off, the documentary feature Wattstax will be screened at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah (1/16-
26) as part of the festival’s prestigious Sundance Collection.

Thirty years after its original theatrical run, Wattstax will also be shown in limited theatrical
release in spring 2003 through Columbia Pictures Repertory. The new edition of Wattstax restores the film’s original ending—Isaac Hayes’s performance of “Shaft” and “Soulsville” (which had to be cut prior to the 1973 theatrical run because of a re-recording rights dispute).

Originally billed as the “black Woodstock,” Wattstax was a seven-hour concert for the benefit of the Watts Summer Festival, held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 20, 1972. More than 110,000 people were in attendance; among the artists who performed were the Staple Sisters, the Bar-Kays, Albert King, Rufus Thomas (leading the multitudes in the funky chicken), and Isaac Hayes.

Wattstax the film intersperses concert footage with candid commentary by Watts residents and, in brilliant form, Richard Pryor (“feral in his swiftness; you can see the routines cooking up in his head,” wrote Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times). It was directed by Mel Stuart, who also produced the film with Larry Shaw (Al Bell and David L. Wolper were executive producers; editor was Robert K. Lambert; cinematographers were Roderick Young, Robert Marks, Jose Mignone, and Larry Clark).

Mel Stuart’s extensive credits as producer and/or director include feature films (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium; Four Days in November) , documentary specials (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, The Making of the President, Life Goes to the Movies), and television dramatic films (Sophia Loren, Her Own Story; Ruby and Oswald; The Triangle Factory Fire). His work has earned him four Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and an Oscar nomination.

The new edition of the film has a superb audio track completely remastered from the original concert 2-inch, 16-track masters and is being released in 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. The Wattstax restoration was a collaboration between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Fantasy, Inc. Work on the picture and sound was completed at The Saul Zaentz Film Center in Berkeley, with Tom Christopher serving as restoration picture editor; Stephen Hart and James Austin were re-recording mixers. Laboratory services were provided by Monaco Labs of San Francisco.

Synonymous with Southern soul music, Stax Records was founded in Memphis in 1959 by Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton, taking its name from the two initials of their last names. Among the many artists who scored hits on Stax and its Volt subsidiary during the Sixties were Rufus and Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MGs (an interracial instrumental quartet that also served as the company’s rhythm section), Sam and Dave, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, and Otis Redding, followed by a later wave of hitmakers including Isaac Hayes, the Staple Sisters, and the Dramatics. In June 1977, a year and a half after Stax went bankrupt, the company’s masters were purchased by Berkeley’s Fantasy, Inc., which has kept this great body of work in print as well as periodically releasing previously unissued recordings by selected Stax artists.

On April 1, Fantasy plans to release a CD of Isaac Hayes’s hour-long Wattstax performance to coincide with the late-April opening of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis. All but one of the tracks on the Hayes disc are previously unissued. Two hours of highlights from the soundtrack of Wattstax are already available in a double-CD set on Stax.

Only the Strong Survive, D.A. Pennebaker’s film on the surviving members of the Stax Record label who continue to tour and perform, premiered at Sundance last year. Miramax Pictures has scheduled it for a second-quarter theatrical release.

Fantasy anticipates a fall 2003 DVD release of Wattstax.

• Wattstax web site (after January 16):

• Fantasy, Inc. web site:

• Saul Zaentz Film Center web site:

• Stax Museum of American Soul Music web site:

• Monaco Lab web site:

• Print rental contact:
Michael Schlesinger
Columbia Pictures Repertory
10202 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Terri Hinte
TOLL-FREE 800/227-0466
FAX 510/486-2015

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