It’s been 39 years since Steven Spielberg’s Jaws hit theaters and changed cinema forever.
Before June 20, 1975 there was no such thing as a “summer blockbuster,” but after Brody and Hooper hit the sea and scared up $260M every studio was clamoring for their own summer hit.
Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss star in Jaws, which is more about how the town reacts to a potential economic disaster than the shark itself. In it, “When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.”
Amity counts on the summer for their small business, and when a shark stirs up trouble, the leaders of the town refuse to accept their fate at the cost of people’s lives. It’s a remarkably important and still relevant movie that ages like fine wine. It’s kind of amazing how well the film turned out considering the big joke on set was “the shark is not working.”
Here’s a fun bit about the theatrical run via WIKI:
The glowing audience response to a rough cut of the film at two test screenings in Dallas on March 26, 1975, and one in Long Beach, on March 28, along with the success of Benchley’s novel and the early stages of Universal’s marketing campaign, generated great interest among theater owners, facilitating the studio’s plan to debut Jaws at hundreds of cinemas simultaneously. A third and final preview screening, of a cut incorporating changes inspired by the previous presentations, was held in Hollywood on April 24. After Universal chairman Lew Wasserman attended one of the screenings, he ordered the film’s initial release—planned for a massive total of as many as 900 theaters—to be cut down, declaring, “I want this picture to run all summer long. I don’t want people in Palm Springs to see the picture in Palm Springs. I want them to have to get in their cars and drive to see it in Hollywood.” Nonetheless, the several hundred theaters that were still booked for the opening represented what was then an unusually wide release. At the time, wide openings were associated with movies of doubtful quality; not uncommon on the exploitation side of the industry, they were customarily employed to diminish the effect of negative reviews and word of mouth. There had been some recent exceptions, precedents that included the rerelease of Billy Jack and the original release of its sequel The Trial of Billy Jack, the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force, and the latest installments in the James Bond series. Still, the typical major studio film release at the time involved opening at a few big-city theaters, which allowed for a series of premieres. Distributors would then slowly forward prints to additional locales across the country, capitalizing on any positive critical or audience response. The outsized success of The Godfather in 1972 had sparked a trend toward wider releases, but even that film had debuted in just five theaters, before going wide in its second weekend.
On June 20, Jaws opened across North America on 464 screens—409 in the United States, the remainder in Canada. The coupling of this broad distribution pattern with the movie’s then even rarer national television marketing campaign yielded a release method virtually unheard-of at the time. (A month earlier, Columbia Pictures had done something similar with a Charles Bronson thriller, Breakout, though that film’s prospects for an extended run were much slimmer.) Universal president Sid Sheinberg reasoned that nationwide marketing costs would be amortized at a more favorable rate per print relative to a slow, scaled release. Building on the film’s success, the release was subsequently expanded on July 25 to nearly 700 theaters, and on August 15 to more than 950. Overseas distribution followed the same pattern, with intensive television campaigns and wide releases—in Great Britain, for instance, Jaws opened in December at more than 100 theaters.
Jaws has since made $470M worldwide without inflation (which is around $1B!).
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