NIGHT OF THE LIVING DISTRIBUTION
Final editing had been done on 16mm equipment since that was all that Latent Image had. In March 1968, the Latent Image screened the interlock print for everyone in their downstairs studio. Gary Streiner and John Russo printed it on film and after this, the gang was practically broke. And there was still some mixing to be done! Jack Napor, president of WRS Labs, had been at the screening and had found himself drinking with Russ Streiner, who challenged him to a game. If Russ won, the mixing would be done by WRS for free. If they lost, Image Ten would pay double.
Romero told Cinefantastique how distributors lost interest in NOTLD. "American International turned the picture down on the basis of it being too unmitigating. They told us that if we would re-shoot the end of it they would distribute it. Have Ben survive somehow." Columbia Pictures screened the picture then kept Image Ten waiting for three months until they decided they couldn’t sell a black and white horror movie.
Continental were unable to supply thousands of prints to garner a key run (nationwide) release so the prints were released region by region. The premiere at Pittsburgh's Fulton Theater took place on October 1, 1968. NOTLD played for a year in 1972 at Plaza Theatre in Brookline MA.
1971 a $50,000 policy covering death from heart attack for anyone in the
audience has been obtained through a leading insurance company Lloyds of London.
Image Ten felt this gimmick cheapened the reputation of the film.
NOTLD played a year and a half to theaters in Madrid and Rome. As further testament to its amazing popularity, there came the first wave of NOTLD ripoffs in the European zombie movie explosion of the early 70s. Perhaps rip-off is the wrong word as many of these films had unique takes on living dead mythology. From Spain, The Blind Dead films from director Amando Di Ossorio about mummified monks aboard a galleon; and The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue (1974) where the dead are revived by pesticide. Producers began retitling their movies to create the impression that they were zombie movies when in fact they weren't: Frozen Dead, Thirsty Dead, Invisible Dead, etc. An American film called Messiah of Evil in 1974, was retitled Return of the Living Dead
France: 1970 - Le Nuit des Morts Vivants (Etoile
Italy: 1970 – La Notte dei Morti Viventi (Fida Cinematograpica)
U.K. : 1971 by Monarch.
Germany: 1971 – Die Nacht der Lebenden Toten (Profilm Munchen)
Spain: 1970 – La Noche de los Muertos Vivientes (Jose Esteban)
No MPAA rating-Violence, brief nudity.
Running time: 96 minutes (from a 100 minute work print)