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Universal and Eminem Put on Detroit Bash for <I>8 Mile</I> DVD

14 Mar, 2003 By: Jessica Wolf

“This was the first time that anyone was trying to represent Detroit. I knew Eminem wouldn't let us down. I knew he would do it right.”

So said Detroit rapper “MarvWon,” who was just one of the rappers who turned out for Eminem's 8 Mile as an extra and who also showed up in support of the critically acclaimed $120 million box office hit's DVD, which streets March 18. And all were ready to give props to Eminem for 8 Mile's depiction of the Detroit hip-hop scene.

Universal Studios Home Video took the 8 Mile DVD back to its roots last night with a party at Detroit's Saint Andrews Hall, a.k.a “the Shelter” -- the club depicted in 8 Mile where an up-and-coming rapper named Marshall Mathers used to compete in freestyle rap battles.

MarvWon, part of Detroit's “Fat Killahz” rap crew, was the winner of a nationwide rap contest that culminated last night in the club's basement. Radio stations in large markets around the country conducted competitions, and Universal flew the winners out to the DVD party in Detroit last week. The city's local hip-hop station gave out 300 tickets to fill the venue with Eminem fans for a live concert with hip-hop artists D-12 and Xzibit.
BKen Graffeo, EVP of marketing for Universal Studios Home Video, said the studio's advance research has revealed an interest level in the 8 Mile DVD it has never seen before.

“Eminem was at the height of his popularity when the film opened up in theaters, with the No.1 album The Eminem Show and a No. 1 single ‘Lose yourself,’ he said. “The idea of this event was to recapture and regenerate that momentum for the DVD release.”

Graffeo said that a big push going into street date is growing more and more important and that the Wednesday after a title's DVD street date has become just as important as the Saturday after its box office release.

“By Wednesday morning we pretty much know exactly where it's going to be,” Graffeo said. “First-week sales are about 50 percent, and by three weeks out you've done 75 percent of your business on a title.”

With a title like 8 Mile, the content of the film drives the content of the DVD, Graffeo said. Universal took footage of rap battles between Eminem and four of the film's 140 rapper extras, which director Curtis Hanson originally meant to include as part of a montage of rap scenes shown at the end of the theatrical cut, but instead added it as deleted scenes on the DVD.

In one scene included on the DVD, Eminem, who was supposed to be lip-synching scripted lyrics, was inspired by his competitor and turned on his microphone for a freestyle riff. When Eminem heard Hanson intended this footage for the DVD, he brought up the idea of doing an interview on the disc. He wanted to explain why he turned on the mic and what this world of rap-battling meant to him, Graffeo said.

Getting more of that world and the story of the people living inside it onto the DVD release was what the fans wanted, Graffeo said, just as getting the story right for the film was what the rappers wanted.

And they say, Universal got it right on both counts.

MarvWon is the rapper battling Eminem in the freestyle deleted scene on the DVD.

“There is no difference [between the movie 8 Mile and the real thing],” he said. “Everything in the movie is 100 percent accurate. It's really that cutthroat. It was dead-on.”

Rapper DJ Proof -- a longtime friend of Eminem, a member of Eminem's old group D-12, and the man upon which Mekhi Phifer's character in the film is based -- agreed that 8 Mile really showed the grit and grime of Detroit's freestyle rapping scene, where Marshall Mathers first began to make his name.

But what did he think of Mathers the actor?

“Surprised is not the word,” DJ Proof said. “I was blown away.”

The man himself unobtrusively slinked onto the stage to perform with his pals D-12 as they performed their song from the 8 Mile soundtrack -- and the hundreds of Detroit hip-hop fans in the crowd went wild. The music and crowd roar rose to a fevered pitch as the star stuck around to segue into his Academy Award-nominated “Lose Yourself” even leaping off the stage for a little crowd surfing on his home turf.

“Detroit loves Eminem,” rapper MarvWon said. “He's us. He's the average blue-collar person. He's everyone. He's the guy working in the factory, the kid rapping here tonight.”

8 Mile star Phifer did a full shift of hip-hop Thursday night, MC-ing the rap competition with D-12's DJ Proof, talking to journalists and fans and joining Eminem onstage just in time for his vocal nod in “Lose Yourself.” Phifer was beaming from ear to ear the whole night, rapping onstage alongside the performers, giving shout-outs to the crowd and hyping the DVD.

“I love Detroit, for real. There's real energy here you don't get a lot of places,” Phifer said.

Giant TV screens positioned around the stage ran footage from the film and the DVD throughout the event. Before headliner Xzibit took the stage, Universal unveiled a sneak peek at the exclusive features on the disc. The crowd screamed in delight at the few glimpses of Eminem's steamy “Superman” music video, which is being released only on the DVD.

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