'Jaws' takes another chomp in movie theaters
Hunting a killer
Hot-weather blockbuster was marketed well
The film that is the granddaddy of summer blockbusters is returning to the big screen for another dip in the water.
“Jaws” hits select theaters in the United States for a 40th anniversary presentation at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time on both Sunday, June 21, and Wednesday, June 24.
Released in June 1975, the thriller about a voracious great white shark is generally considered to be the film that prompted major studios to strive for that next “summer blockbuster” during prime warm-weather months when kids are out of school and free time for movies is abundant.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, “Jaws” was adapted from the best-selling Peter Benchley novel about a giant predatory shark that terrorizes the popular resort area of Amity Island.
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” is a line from the movie that has been etched into pop-culture jargon.
“It had a huge impact, obviously, on Hollywood and cinema,” said Wes Gehring, distinguished professor of film in the telecommunications department at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. “I think it’s sometimes misconstrued as a horror film. I think it’s a great thriller.”
The special showings on June 21 and 24 include an introduction by Ben Mankiewicz, television host of Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
Rated PG, “Jaws” stars Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw.
Police Chief Martin Brody (played by Scheider) discovers the remains of a shark-attack victim, setting in motion the conflict between Brody and local businessmen over closing beaches to keep people out of the water.
In the early stages of the movie, the monster shark is not put on view for audiences.
“In a way, it’s old school, but executed very, very well,” said Gehring, the author of numerous cinema-related books.
Nearly 500 movie theaters in the United States will show “Jaws” via Fathom Events’ digital broadcast network, which Fathom says is “the largest cinema broadcast network in North America,” and can bring live events to hundreds of locations in various markets.
“ ‘Jaws’ is a classic thriller enjoyed by generations, and it is ready for a comeback,” said Fathom Events Vice President of Programming Kymberli Frueh-Owens in a press release. “Movie buffs will love seeing their favorite killer shark larger than life on the big screen.”
Based in Colorado, Fathom is presenting the two-day showing of “Jaws” in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Visit http://www.fathomevents.com/event/jaws for a complete list of theater locations, and to buy tickets online.
“TCM Presents: Jaws 40th Anniversary” will give movie fans the chance to relive the nautical adventures of police chief Brody, Hooper (Dreyfuss) and Quint (Shaw).
Quint -- the crusty seaman enlisted to track down the rogue predator -- provides “Jaws” with its most colorful character.
It was not, however, a smooth cruise for “Jaws” on its way to legendary status.
There were plenty of mechanical-shark malfunctions and implementation woes.
Delays in filming were monumental.
Fashioning a production on water was tougher than could be imagined.
There was kind of a lesson to be learned by movie studios, according to Gehring.
“You shouldn’t shoot stuff by the ocean or use the ocean, because it went wildly over budget,” Gehring noted.
Spending was 300 percent over original studio allocation, according to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
But it was all worth it in the end, as “Jaws” crushed ticket-sales records with its opening in close to 500 U.S. theaters.
“It’s often considered by some people as the beginning of what we called saturation booking,” Gehring said.
That model of distribution calls for opening a film on a large number of screens simultaneously instead of first rolling it out to a modest number of screens -- which had been the conventional method at the time.
Universal Pictures coupled its many-screens approach with numerous pre-opening promotional appearances by Spielberg and others associated with the movie.
“Jaws” was Time magazine’s cover story shortly before the motion picture premiered to the masses.
There also were commercials that flooded prime-time network television for three days before the wide-opening debut in American theaters on June 20, 1975, according to PBS.
“Jaws” remains a critical and commercial success that resonates with film studios in regard to demonstrating what it takes to be a long-lasting icon of entertainment.