“Experience ‘Jaws’ like never before” is how Imax offers the chance to see the film in 1200 locations. Meanwhile, the modern blockbusters that mark the official last breath of summer are not premiering in theaters, but at home as major streaming titles gobble up the world of premium TV.
“Jaws” gets its close-up a few weeks after Spielberg’s “ET the Extraterrestrial” made its 40th anniversary, each in theaters hungry for products that still haven’t fully recovered from the global pandemic that shut them down in 2020.
Few films symbolize the relationship between Hollywood and summer more than “Jaws,” a film that influenced the business practices of the entertainment industry, inspired filmmakers and changed how many people watch the ocean.
“Jaws” yanked commercial victory from the jaws of defeat, overcoming technical difficulties, production delays and nervous studio executives to validate Universal’s bet on the then-twenties Spielberg.
In addition to financing the film, Universal’s gamble revolved around releasing the film in more than 450 cinemas, an unprecedented launch at the time that was designed to push the film’s box office forward. The film’s wide release was also accompanied by a major advertising blitz on network television, built around a campaign featuring the signature poster and its connection to Peter Benchley’s bestselling book.
“Jaws” paid off with handsome box office receipts, breaking records and swimming over $260 million in the US.
Studios soon realized there was something different about summer, a time when kids weren’t going to school and people might be looking for a certain kind of theatrical escapism.
Perhaps most importantly, “Jaws” embodied how the shared experience of watching movies could increase their impact. A documentary about the film illustrated the point, with the studio shooting night vision footage of moviegoers collectively reacting to key moments, such as the shocked breath when a dead fisherman’s head suddenly pops out of his boat.
Watching “Jaws” also made a powerful impression on a generation of directors. Steven Soderbergh told the New York Times that seeing the film at age 12 was “a turning point” for him, reflected in such talents as the late John Singleton, who reminisced about a similar sensation when he saw the film in a drive-in. watched theatre.
The irony, of course, is that “Jaws” is revisiting the theatrical waters at a time when movie attendance has seen various tensions and changes, some related to the pandemic but others the reality of improved home viewing options and delivery systems as streaming availability matures. On today’s larger TVs, something like “House of the Dragon” or “Lord of the Rings” can look and sound quite impressive even in a living room.
The one thing viewers don’t get in that setting are the cues associated with other people reacting the way they did when “Jaws” first excited and terrified moviegoers in 1975, tapping into deep-seated fears about what lies beneath the waves. could be lurking.
In that sense, when Chief Brody said, “You need a bigger boat” in one of the signature scenes of “Jaws,” he was only half right. Because when it comes to fully experiencing movies like the audience discovered ‘Jaws’ even on an Imax screen, it’s not just size that matters.
“Jaws” will be re-released on select Imax screens in the US on September 2.