On this day in 1975, Jaws, a film directed by Steven Spielberg (that made countless viewers afraid to go into the water), opened in theaters. The story of a great white shark that terrorizes a New England resort town became an instant blockbuster and was the highest-grossing film in movie history until it was bested by 1977’s Star Wars.
Jaws was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category and took home three Oscars, for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound. The film was a breakthrough for director Spielberg, then 27 years old, and spawned several sequels.
The film was set in the fictional beach town of Amity, and based on a best-selling novel, released in 1973, by Peter Benchley. Subsequent water-themed Benchley bestsellers also made it to the big screen, including The Deep (1977). The filming wrapped up in Martha's Vineyard in 1974 and Spielburg had a panic attack, fearing he would never work in Hollywood again. The budget for the film would ultimately tip the scales at $12 million, 300 percent over what the studios originally allocated and nearly four times as much as the average production cost for a film in 1975. Not only that, but the shooting schedule had ballooned from 55 to 159 days, plagued by delays and technical difficulties, including malfunctioning mechanical sharks.
Fortunately for Spielberg, the film easily surpassed the $100-million mark at the box office and broke the previous box-office records set by "The Godfather" and "The Exorcist." Ultimately, the movie would gross $260 million in the U.S. and over $470 million worldwide.
Jaws put director Steven Spielberg on the Hollywood map and was produced by the team of Richard Zanuck and David Brown. Spielberg, largely self-taught in filmmaking, made his feature-length directorial debut with The Sugarland Express in 1974. The film was critically well-received but a box-office flop. Following the success of Jaws, Spielberg went on to become one of the most influential, iconic people in the film world, with such epics as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), ET: the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). E.T., Jaws and Jurassic Park rank among the 10 highest-grossing movies of all time. In 1994, Spielberg formed DreamWorks SKG, with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.