Why George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead (1978) Isn’t Streaming

Zombies not practicing proper elevator etiquette in Dawn of the Dead

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Dawn of the Dead (1978) is arguably one of the best horror movies of all time, a seminal film that shouldn’t go overlooked or unwatched. But while all of the other George Romero zombie movies are streaming on various services and can be enjoyed with not much trouble, the second entry in his Living Dead series is oddly missing from any of the major streamers and elsewhere online. Why is that?

Even though it’s a fairly simple question as to why Dawn of the Dead isn’t streaming, the answer is anything but with no real definitive answer. And sure, there are a number of factors involved here, most notably the tangled distribution rights from the making of the film that have plagued the horror classic for decades, but it is still a mirky situation.

And don’t worry, there are no Dawn of the Dead spoilers anywhere in this article.

Gaylen Ross, David Emge, Ken Foree, and Scott Reiniger in Dawn of the Dead

Dawn Of The Dead Has Long Had A Complicated History With Distribution Rights

To help us better understand why we can’t watch Dawn of the Dead streaming, we first must break down the film’s complicated distribution rights. A lot of this goes back a decade earlier with George Romero's directorial debut, Night of the Living Dead, which entered the public domain after the film’s producers failed to copyright the movie’s title after changing it from Night of the Flesh Eaters prior to the film’s release.

Fast forward to the late ‘70s when George Romero and Richard P. Rubinstein (remember that name) were attempting to secure funding for Dawn of the Dead. Having no luck with the financing in the United States, the pair and their Laurel Group production company turned to famed Italian director Dario Argento, who helped fund the movie and worked on the script in return that he could make his own cut for an Italian release (which was called Zombi and had sequels of its own), acquiring foreign distribution rights in the process.

Ken Foree in Dawn of the Dead

It Could Have Something To Do With Richard P. Rubinstein’s Unreleased Dawn Of The Dead 3D

Remember the name Richard P. Rubinstein? Yeah? Good. As the producer of Dawn of the Dead and co-founder of Laurel Entertainment (which would later become a part of the Spelling Entertainment Group and eventually Viacom), Rubinstein, still owns the rights to the film (just like he did with Dune until recently). Over the years, Dawn of the Dead has seen several DVD and Blu-ray releases (more on those in a bit) but the film is in between distributors (at least the U.S. version of the horror classic), but why?

During a 2018 interview with Birth Movies Death, Richard P. Rubinstein discussed his long-in-the-works 3D conversion of Dawn of the Dead, the first seven minutes of which were shows to director George Romero prior to his 2017 death. During the conversation, the producer explained that he wanted younger audiences to be able to see the film on the big screen and that a 3D version was a way of doing that while also brining new life to socially-conscience horror flick. Despite a poor response from audiences at the 2016 Beyond Fest, Richard P. Rubinstein is unperturbed and made it sound like he was going to hold out and hold onto the idea that his 3D version is the way to go.

But why does the producer want the 3D version to work? It is speculated that he sunk a ton of cash, reportedly as much as $6 million, and he wants to make his money back. That can’t be confirmed, but until that’s worked out, it’s hard to say when we’ll be able to stream Dawn of the Dead.

Mike Christopher in Dawn of the Dead

Dawn Of The Dead Does Exist On DVD (And Blu-Ray), But You’ll Have To Work For It

With the movie being out of print in the United States (though you can buy foreign releases that either include the Argento cut or are region locked), tracking down a Dawn of the Dead DVD or Blu-ray isn’t a walk in the park either. There was a time when Anchor Bay had the domestic rights to the zombie classic and released several outstanding DVDs including the 2004 version that included the theatrical cut and several bonus features and the Ultimate Edition box set which included all three cuts of the film, hours of bonus features, and all other sorts of goodies. The company also released a Blu-ray version in 2007, but finding a copy on the cheap is damn near impossible in 2021.

There is always the eBay route, which has plenty of copies of the Dawn of the Dead DVD for decent prices, but you run the risk of purchasing a bootleg or sketchy copy that could very well end up being illegitimate. And even though video rental stores are becoming a thing of the past, especially with the 2021 closure of all Family Video locations, one method that has worked for me is requesting Dawn of the Dead at the library. I was able to find both 2004 Anchor Bay releases, including all those insane features of the Ultimate Edition.

But hope could be on the horizon…

Gaylen Ross in Dawn of the Dead

Second Sight Films Acquired The VOD Rights (In The U.K.) In 2019, But There Has Been No Digital Release

In January 2019, U.K.-based Second Sight Films announced on its official Twitter account that it had worked out a deal with New Amsterdam Entertainment (Richard P. Rubinstein’s current production company) to acquire the U.K. Blu-ray and VOD rights with a release planned later in the year. And while the Blu-ray, including a 4K UHD remaster of the various cuts have can be purchased (the 4K discs can be played anywhere but the standard Blu-ray disc is region locked), the VOD release is nowhere to be seen.

When Second Sight does release the VOD version of Dawn of the Dead, it’s not entirely clear if a global digital release will be made available. I mean, we have to work something out because currently Dawn of the Dead is the only title in the franchise that’s missing from the streaming world.

Russell Streiner in Night of the Living Dead

How To Stream George Romero’s Dead Movies And Zack Snyder’s 2004 Remake

All bummed out because you can’t watch Dawn of the Dead streaming? Well, you can watch the rest of the movies in George Romero’s influential Living Dead franchise as well as Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake:

That's a fairly comprehensive list, but it just looks so weird not seeing Dawn of the Dead included with its predecessor and sequels (and remake that actually doesn't suck).

Hopefully the issues surrounding the streaming release of Dawn of the Dead are worked out sooner rather than later so that a new generation of horror-hounds can watch not only one of George Romero’s best zombie movies but one of the best horror movies of all time.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.