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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Living Dead Museum rises again to salute classic horror film

MONROEVILLE, Pennsylvania — It’s no shock {that a} museum devoted to zombies couldn’t keep in its grave for lengthy.

The Living Dead Museum, an establishment devoted to honoring the seminal 1968 zombie film “Night of the Living Dead” and its auteur, George Romero, had been a fixture in downtown Evans City since 2013. The film was shot in and across the small Butler County neighborhood that prides itself on being the birthplace of the zombie style.

But in October, the museum closed its Evans City doorways — solely to rise again the next month on the Monroeville Mall, the place the sequel “Dawn of the Dead” was filmed. And followers can relaxation simple.

“Be assured that everything that was in Evans City will still be available and represented in Monroeville, plus a lot of great new surprises,” stated Kevin Kriess, the proprietor and curator of the Living Dead Museum.

The new museum will comprise loads of previous favourite displays in regards to the world of horror movies, resembling a timeline that traces 50-plus years of zombie film historical past and the “Maul of Fame,” a wall of movie star horror stars’ handprints. It will even make some extent to delve extra into Monroeville Mall’s “Dawn of the Dead” bona fides.

“The new location … will dig much deeper into that film with exhibits featuring screen-used props and set pieces, including the original (J.C.) Penney’s Flyboy elevator — which has been resurrected from the dead,” Mr. Kriess stated. Fans will perceive the reference to a famed zombie character.

A scene from the classic horror flick
A scene from the classic horror flick “Night of the Living Dead,” which is getting an acceptable tribute inside a Pennsylvania mall seen in a film sequel.
Everett Collection

And, enjoying to an viewers that is aware of its style nicely, the brand new museum will even characteristic an unique cabin and workshed from horror classic “Evil Dead 2,” in addition to objects from different ties to the buying heart’s pop-culture previous — together with films “Flashdance” from 1983 and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” from 2008, the Stephen King novel “Christine” and the current Netflix sequence “Mindhunter.”

That’s all nicely and good for Monroeville, but it surely does depart the city that Romero’s work made iconic a bit extra, nicely, zombie-like.

Rising again in Monroeville

The Living Dead Museum was born in 2008 as one among many native monuments to Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” but it surely really began at Monroeville Mall. After about 5 years, the museum was moved to downtown Evans City.

Mr. Kriess desires to be clear that the choice to depart for Monroeville had nothing to do with Evans City itself and the whole lot to do with the unlucky realities of attempting to run a business throughout a world pandemic.

About two years in the past, he started planning to increase to a brand new Monroeville Mall location that might complement the Evans City museum’s points of interest. He didn’t publicize that info pre-pandemic. He needed it to be a shock for horror followers the world over when it was prepared — full with a grand opening.

The Monroeville growth was set to open in spring 2020, which is when COVID-19 upended all best-laid plans.

Financial constraints due to the pandemic pressured Mr. Kriess into making the tough choice to shut one of many museums, and since he had already put a lot effort and time into Monroeville development, he opted to shutter the Evans City location.

“For all intents and purposes we did move, but it didn’t start out with that plan.”

At the second, solely the museum’s reward store is open on the mall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Kriess hopes the total show of memorabilia can be publicly accessible by this summer time.

Zombie city

Back in Evans City, Mayor Dean Zinkhann is conscious about how a lot his metropolis will miss the Living Dead Museum.

He stated it was an excellent attraction for the city — a small borough in Butler County with an estimated inhabitants of 1,710 as of 2019, in accordance to U.S. Census information — that sees loads of tourism from horror followers making the pilgrimage.

Folks come from everywhere in the world for the “Living Dead” expertise, together with a pair from Australia who bought married on the Evans City Cemetery Chapel. As a lot as he’ll miss these novelty ballpoint pens that shoot out pretend blood, Mr. Zinkhann understands why the museum had to go.

“Money talks and people walk,” he stated. “And they don’t have the money to pay the rent and employees. What are you going to do?”

The Living Dead Museum blends right in among other stores at Pennsylvania's Monroeville Mall.
The Living Dead Museum blends proper in amongst different shops at Pennsylvania’s Monroeville Mall.
AP

Mr. Zinkhann hopes the guests will maintain coming anyway. Tourists will nonetheless have the option to try all the opposite tributes to “Night of the Living Dead” round Evans City, together with “Living Dead” historic markers downtown, locations seen within the film such because the cemetery and chapel, and the Evans City Historical Society Museum, which options tons of details about the film.

The mayor’s view that the financial hit can be restricted is supported by Jerry Oliver, 54, of Center Township, who owns a number of buildings surrounding the previous Living Dead Museum and is presently attempting to purchase that house as nicely. He’s assured Evans City will proceed to be the “best kept secret north of Pittsburgh.”

“That building will be reinvented,” stated Mr. Oliver. “The Living Dead Museum was great but pretty niche. I think the business impact was sporadic at best, and maybe something that’s more regular and mainstream will do just fine.”

Not forgotten

It helps that the museum will nonetheless be placing on its biannual Living Dead Weekends, festivals celebrating all issues horror, in each Monroeville and Evans City.

One of the co-founders of the festivals is Gary Streiner, 74, of Evans City, who labored as a sound engineer on “Night of the Living Dead” and is now on the board of Image Ten Inc., the manufacturing company that handles the “Living Dead” franchise’s affairs.

“‘Night of the Living Dead’ found Evans City, but the two came together at a point in 1967 that will go on forever,” he stated.

To Mr. Streiner’s level, the movies have displayed an everlasting recognition, exemplified simply final week when a gaggle of University of Pittsburgh film college students screened their new documentary “George Romero & Pittsburgh: The Early Years” that used footage from the varsity’s Romero archives to chronicle how the filmmaker rose to prominence.

Visitors Iris Smith and Paxon Masters, both of Sewickley, check out the gift shop at the Living Dead Museum at Monroeville Mall.
Visitors Iris Smith and Paxon Masters, each of Sewickley, try the reward store on the Living Dead Museum at Monroeville Mall.
AP

Rick Reifenstein, 80, of Evans City, is the opposite co-founder of Living Dead Weekend and likewise president of the Evans City Historical Society. He plans to make his museum’s “Living Dead” exhibitions “a little more visible” now that the opposite museum is in Monroeville.

He believes the films have executed fairly a bit for the native economic system, though some locals nonetheless “don’t realize the weight of the whole deal, the value of it all.”

“I don’t think the pandemic is going to dampen anybody’s spirits for that,” he stated. “I’m sure they’re still going to be coming in here.”

Even with the Living Dead Museum gone for the foreseeable future, the city that helped encourage its existence isn’t removed from Mr. Kriess’ thoughts.

“We’re not giving up on Evans City,” he stated. “Evans City is very important to me and what we do.”

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