PARKERSBURG - The local premiere of "Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies" has risen from the grave.
The first U.S. showing of the final cut of the movie filmed almost entirely in Parkersburg last year will take place at 5 p.m. March 28 in the auditorium at Parkersburg High School. It will be preceded by an event in the school cafeteria during which VIP and Superfan ticketholders can meet and get autographs from the movie's stars, including wrestlers "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, Matt Hardy and Shane Douglas, in addition to local cast members Andrew Clovis of St. Marys and Liam Swearingen of Parkersburg.
"We're thrilled to be back in Parkersburg and show the film there," said writer/director Cody Knotts. "That was our intention all along."
Mineral Wells resident Amy Giffin, right, poses with “Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies” star — and her favorite wrestler — “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan at a Pennsylvania screening of an early cut of the film. Giffin appears as a zombie in the film, which was shot mostly in Wood County. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
The movie's Facebook page posted a link in January announcing a premiere on March 28 at the Smoot Theatre in downtown Parkersburg, but there was no written agreement in place. Smoot director Felice Jorgeson said the film isn't the type of family entertainment the theater would show and she'd received emails from people concerned about it screening there.
Knotts said at the time the premiere would have to move to Charleston to have it at a venue large enough to seat the 700 to 800 people they expected to attend.
But one of the local extras in the film wasn't ready to let it go.
"It was very disappointing" to find out it wouldn't show here, said Mineral Wells resident Amy Giffin, who got to kill and be killed as a zombie in the movie. "So I just thought, 'It was filmed here. It ought to stay here.' I don't want to drive all the way to Charleston."
So Giffin reached out to Knotts and volunteered "to do the legwork" to find a new site.
"I went to several different locations until we found what they were looking for," she said.
The answer turned out to be Parkersburg High School.
Mike Fling, assistant superintendent of school services at Wood County Schools, confirmed Monday that the movie would be shown at PHS.
"The movie premiere is not a fundraiser; it is a straight-up rental," he said. "We do rentals of our facilities with other organizations. (The movie company) met the criteria, like having liability insurance and paying for custodial services and supplies."
Fling said there are some questions that need answered concerning security and how the renter will enforce any movie ratings to make sure underage viewers do not attend the event. The film promises "good old American violence" and most likely will be rated R.
"It's some strong language, and obviously because it's a zombie movie, there's some guts and gore," said executive producer Camera Bartolotta, who also appears in the film as a character named Amber. "But there is no nudity or sex or we would never have gotten the (West Virginia) film tax credit."
Fling added that the event will be held in the evening and while the school is closed for spring break.
"It's a unique situation," having a movie premiere at the school, Fling said. "We don't have this every day."
Bartolotta said the filmmakers wanted to hold the premiere in Parkersburg as a "huge thank you" to the community. City and county officials were extremely helpful in allowing the movie to film at locations, including the former Wood County Holding Center, City Park and Fort Boreman Hill, and local extras worked long hours, she said.
"Our first U.S. premiere had to be in Parkersburg," Bartolotta said.
Tickets for the event start at $20 for general admission. A $50 VIP ticket includes access to the pre-party and a movie poster, while the price is $100 for the Superfan experience, which includes a movie T-shirt and a copy of the three-disc set that includes the movie on BluRay and DVD and the film's soundtrack.
An after-party is being planned at J.P. Henry's, with access guaranteed for VIPs and Superfans, Knotts said.
Those sets will be on sale for the first time at the premiere, Bartolotta said.
(Staff writer Michael Erb contributed.)