Jaws 35th Anniversary: How One Shark Changed Summer Movies

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Post by Guest on Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:29 pm

Jaws 35th Anniversary: How One Shark Changed Summer Movies

Michael Avila
Livescience.com
June 17, 2010


In the summer of 1975, the movie "Jaws" made people across America stop thinking it was safe to go into the water.

Instead, they went to the movies to get scared half to death by a wunderkind director named Steven Spielberg, a testy mechanical shark and perhaps the most menacing musical score in the history of cinema.

"Jaws" debuted on June 20, 1975. Universal Studios gambled that by unleashing the movie in wide release to theaters across the country, then an uncommon practice, and coupling the release with a massive TV ad campaign, the film would be big. They were wrong.

It was huge.

"Jaws" played in theaters for months and earned more than $470 million, thus becoming the first summer movie blockbuster, according the book "Blockbuster: How the Jaws and Jedi Generation Turned Hollywood into a Boom-Town" (Simon & Schuster, 2004).

The picture remained the biggest box-office hit of all time until George Lucas bumped it from the top spot two years later with another summer smash, "Star Wars."

What makes the story even more remarkable is that "Jaws" was a movie plagued by production problems.

Spielberg, who had previously directed only one feature, "The Sugarland Express," was running behind schedule and way over budget. The movie was filmed on Martha's Vineyard and shooting lasted nearly 160 days, instead of the scheduled 55, and cost more than double its original $4 million budget, according to "America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry" (The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010).

To make matters worse, the film's title player, the actual shark, was a malfunctioning mess that rarely worked. In the "Making of Jaws," a documentary produced for the movie's 30th anniversary, Spielberg talked about the frustration he felt with the nonfunctioning Great White.

But those mechanical mishaps may have been the most important technical snafus in movie history.

The frequent delays allowed for the script to be continually refined. And because his primary special effects prop wasn't working properly, Spielberg had to improvise. As a result, the shark (nicknamed Bruce, after the director's lawyer) didn't make its first full appearance onscreen until 81 minutes into the 124-minute movie.

In keeping images of the shark off-screen for most of the film, Spielberg employed a strategy often used by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, wrote film critic Roger Ebert in his book, "Great Movies II" (Random House, 2005).

"A bomb is under the table and it explodes. That is surprise," Ebert quotes Hitchcock. "The bomb is under the table but it does not explode. That is suspense."

Spielberg leaves the toothy shark under the table for most of the movie, Ebert explains, and the payoff is one of the most effective thrillers ever made.

The eerie suspense, combined with the crisp cinematography and John Williams' unforgettable score, made "Jaws" a spine-tingling sensation.

The astounding success of "Jaws" opened the eyes of studio executives to the moneymaking ability of summer movies. It may be hard to believe today, but in 1975, the summer months were considered a dumping ground for movies, according to the industry compendium "George Lucas's Blockbusting" (Harper Collins, 2010).

"In the early 1970s, the only movies that got simultaneous wide release were big-budget turkeys that the studios wanted to play off quickly before word [got out]," according to "George Lucas's Blockbusting."

After "Jaws," studios reversed course and started programming big-budget, high-concept films for the summer. And instead of slow burning, word-of-mouth "platform" release patterns, Hollywood started rolling out its high-profile films in wide release, for maximum impact.

For better or worse, "Jaws" and its fellow 1970s phenomenon "Star Wars" ushered in the modern era of movies as mass commercial commodities, so-called tentpole pictures that could sell as much merchandise as movie tickets, according to "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," (Simon & Schuster, 1998). "Jaws" merchandise included t-shirts, plastic fins for swimmers and a game.

One can only wonder how it all would have turned out if the shark had actually worked the way Spielberg wanted it.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20100617/sc_livescience/jaws35thanniversaryhowonesharkchangedsummermovies


I can still remember being 10 years old and my sister driving me to the theatre to see that movie. I'd been excited for many weeks and thought they'd never show it in the larger town a half hour away. It was the first movie that I really wanted to see.


Last edited by TexasBlue on Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:06 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Got rid of HTML tags that interspersed within the story. - Tex)

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Post by TexasBlue on Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:08 pm

alland wrote:I can still remember being 10 years old and my sister driving me to the theatre to see that movie. I'd been excited for many weeks and thought they'd never show it in the larger town a half hour away. It was the first movie that I really wanted to see.

I also remember that movie as well. I'm a horror movie fan (modern horror) and am not scared easily. But when the head came out of the hull of that boat when the divers were inspecting as to what happened to it, i jumped out of my seat. ROFL
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Post by Guest on Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:41 pm

So did I. That scene, and the very last one in "Carrie", both scared the bejesus outta me Jaws 35th Anniversary: How One Shark Changed Summer Movies Affraid and I've never forgotten them.

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Post by TexasBlue on Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:44 pm

The only other thing that has made me jump is some of the things that happen in the game, Left 4 Dead. I've gotten rattled a couple times with that when playing with the lights low in my place at night. Then i feel like a dumbass. ROFL

Not many movies can scare me. Jaws did.
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Post by The_Amber_Spyglass on Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:28 am

Well I'm just about too young to have seen it at the cinema. It was one of the first "adult" films I ever saw though. Still one of my favourites.
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Post by TexasBlue on Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:15 am

Do they still have cinema's (movie theaters in the USA ROFL ) in this world? I thought everyone watched movies on their computer these days?
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Post by The_Amber_Spyglass on Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:44 am

lol. I still go to the cinema though not as regularly as I used too. I'm working again now, so should be able to start affording to go again. Watching it on a computer could never match up to crowding around a laptop.

A lot of cinemas are offering good deals for cinema goers these days. Odeon have a subscriber card where you can buy viewing packages. £20 a month for example might buy you unlimited visits. The Orange mobile phone network offers 2 for the price of 1 for their subscribers if you go on a Wednesday. Saved myself a lot of money doing that while at University and I'm an Orange subscriber. There was a small Odeon near us that charged £3.50 regular student rate (it was £6 until a brand new Vue opened half a mile away then they had to cut their prices). So on Wednesdays both me and the wife got to watch a film for £1.75 (about $2.50) each!
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Post by TexasBlue on Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:38 pm

I think it's because movie theaters are going by the way of the drive-in due to the internet. They have to put out the good deals. Also, you're seeing movie releases on dvd alot faster now than years ago. It used to be several months. Now it's done in a couple if even that.
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Post by Guest on Mon Aug 01, 2011 5:50 pm

TexasBlue wrote:Do they still have cinema's (movie theaters in the USA ROFL ) in this world? I thought everyone watched movies on their computer these days?

They sure do! The day they stop playing movies in cinemas altogether is the day that I don't see any movies, and that would be a drag, because I very much like to go to the movies and watch a movie on the great big, wide screen, in a real movie theatre, with the lights down low, as they're really meant to be viewed, and share the experience with a whole bunch of other people, whether one knows them or not.

I hold annual memberships at the two independent, non-profit movie theatres in my area, which helps a great deal.

Oh...I'm sorry...back to the subject at hand: I've seen the movie Jaws afew times, and I attended at least two 35th-year Anniversary screenings in my area last year. I enjoyed both screenings a great deal, despite being aware of the obviously fakery of the built shark, and the doll's leg in the water, after Chrissie Watkins got caught and eaten by the big White Sharks while swimming in the ocean at night.

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Post by Guest on Mon Aug 01, 2011 5:54 pm

TexasBlue wrote:The only other thing that has made me jump is some of the things that happen in the game, Left 4 Dead. I've gotten rattled a couple times with that when playing with the lights low in my place at night. Then i feel like a dumbass. ROFL

Not many movies can scare me. Jaws did.

I admittedly wasn't scared by Jaws. Not really, but maybe it's because I first saw it when it was already quite out of date.

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Post by dblboggie on Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:38 pm

I am old enough to have seen the movie when it was first released. I thought it was a great film, but it didn't really scare me. Of course, that's probably because I was high at the time... Snicker

It was the 70's after all, and I was in the Army with great connections to guys coming back from Thailand.

I really liked that Spielberg didn't reveal the shark until so late in the movie, but always thought that was on purpose. It was interesting to learn that this wasn't the original intention. Being a fan of Hitchcock, I just thought Spielberg was emulating him.
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Post by Guest on Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:58 pm

dblboggie wrote:I am old enough to have seen the movie when it was first released. I thought it was a great film, but it didn't really scare me. Of course, that's probably because I was high at the time... Snicker

It was the 70's after all, and I was in the Army with great connections to guys coming back from Thailand.

I really liked that Spielberg didn't reveal the shark until so late in the movie, but always thought that was on purpose. It was interesting to learn that this wasn't the original intention. Being a fan of Hitchcock, I just thought Spielberg was emulating him.

I remember when Jaws first came out, and everybody was talking about it how terrified they were during and after the movie, as well. I also read the book Close to Shore, which is a true store, and an excellent, but scary book, which Jaws is actually based on.'

Spielberg is a wonderful director of films. I like him.

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