Published May 16, 2019
Widely considered one of the first successful cultural crossover movies, Prince's Purple Rain hauled in over $7 million on its opening weekend. Its worldwide gross was a little over $80 million — pretty serious business for 1984. Prince had a blind ambition about this film, a passion project based on his early life in Minneapolis.
You know the drill — a kid from across the tracks, with a troubled home life and peer rivals to contend with, but boy could 'The Kid' play. Prince's unbelievable skill and searing musical talent were undeniable, adding significantly to the film's credibility. Prince and his band the Revolution were so good, in fact, that in order to credibly have a scene rival in the film — local funk band The Time — Prince wrote all their music as well. Prince's only competition was himself.
Case in point; after Prince had finalized all the songs for Purple Rain, director Albert Magnoli asked him to write a song that would play over a montage. Within 24 hours, he returned with a fully produced recording of "When Doves Cry"; the film's first single, it garnered platinum sales.
Yet Purple Rain was almost shelved. The distributor was hesitant to release it, and considered it to be a "black film" with too limited an audience. A handful of internal supporters persisted, like music PR veteran Howard Bloom, who insisted the film was a "cultural milestone" and killing the project would be a "sin against art." Warner agreed to a small run on 200 screens, assuming that would (probably) be that.
The filmmakers, who believed Purple Rain had crossover appeal, were issued a challenge: to screen it in rural Texas for a largely white audience. Five minutes into the film's rousing opening rock anthem, "Let's Go Crazy," that audience were on their feet, dancing. Warner added 700 more screens; after it broke even on opening weekend, they added 1,000 more. Purple Rain became the biggest film, album and single ("When Doves Cry") of 1984.
You can see Purple Rain the way it was meant to be seen, and heard. Exclaim! presents Screenjams, a celebration of music movies at Cineplex theatres. Come celebrate Prince's birthday on June 7 for a special screening, just hit up cineplex.com/events for details.