‘Jaws’ Swam Into Movie Theaters in June 1975 & We Are Still Afraid of the Water

JAWS, 1975
Everett Collection


Based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, the movie was directed by a young and relatively unknown Steven Spielberg and starred Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw. Everything that could have gone wrong did during the filming; the mechanical shark used for the mayhem kept malfunctioning, earning it the name Bruce, the first name of Spielberg’s lawyer who was probably preparing for all the lawsuits from the movie being delivered so late. All the hassle paid off — the film premiered June 20, 1975, just when summer beach vacations were rolling out, and Jaws was a smash hit, sending audiences on a terrified thrill ride from start to finish. Everything that damn mechanical shark couldn’t deliver became the ominous unseen — a reincarnation of Alfred Hitchcock’s brilliant device.

JAWS, director Steven Spielberg on set, 1975

Everett Collection

The orchestral score by John Williams with its suspenseful alternation between two notes became the master class in foreboding. The effect of the movie on the culture was gripping, with filmgoers fearing sharks the same way they feared showers after the release of Psycho.

Jaws (Summertime Box Office: $69.7 million) ultimately became the first U.S. film to gross over $100 million at the box office, with most of its total coming during a summer release that also served to scare many viewers away from beaches that season. Jaws was the harbinger of a new blockbuster era; its long lines of eager filmgoers, many of whom saw the film multiple times, showed studios that summertime — before then, considered a largely slow time at theaters — could be big business for movies. In short order, Jaws broke box office records, surpassing The Godfather as the highest-grossing film ever in just 78 days.

And it certainly wasn’t the last time that Spielberg’s name would be attached to a summer blockbuster. Jaws would stay atop the earnings pile for two years until another summer spectacular — the first Star Wars — blasted in from a galaxy far, far away.

JAWS, running out of water, 1975

Everett Collection

Today, it is a cult classic with many still fearing the water. We are sure you can find it playing at a drive-in near you this summer.

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Summer Fun

July 2022

Take a look back to the summer nights when you were young, so full of adventure and possibility.

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