This collection of cinema facts and figures of the 20th century does not shy away from the perceived impact that Jaws (1975) had on the film industry. What’s interesting is the way in which Jaws revolutionized the marketing and maximization of profits of cinema. Specifically, the collection illustrates how Universal Studios used the medium of television to bring Jaws into the spotlight. This marketing technique relies on the fact that, at that time, millions of Americans had adopted the relatively new technology of television. TVs were in abundance, but marketing film on television had never really been done. The author of the collection states that Universal embarked on an epic TV marketing campaign costing “$700,000”(AMC). Universal also booked 460 theaters for the opening run of Jaws. Jaws’ success was also in-part due to the success of the book that it is based on. The book, which was on the bestseller list for 44 weeks in 1974, gave the movie an additional boost of anticipation before its premiere.
According to the collection, Universal spent almost $2 million on TV ads and promotions: posters, mugs, and t-shirts that were pumped out bearing the famous image of the giant shark zooming towards that unfortunate female bather. Within 38 days of release, Jaws had sold almost $2 billion worth of tickets.
These innovative marketing techniques used in Jaws combined with the thrill and terror of the actual film ensured a tremendously successful run of Jaws, as well as a new precedent of the summer blockbuster.
On an interesting side note, in order to preserve the identity of the film and book, director Steven Spielberg determined that all advertising should bear the same haunting shark logo. It appeared throughout the film and on thousands of bill boards throughout the country
“’Jaws’ Becomes No. 1 Film.” Review of Jaws. Los Angeles Times, 11 Sept. 1975, p. 16.
This 1975 newspaper clipping from the LA Times provides interesting insight into the blockbuster phenomenon. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was the first blockbuster film to top the $100 million record in box-office business in North America. The author of the article remarks how The Godfather, which previously held the position of top seller at the box office, had been surpassed by Jaws. The article title itself suggests the popularity of Spielberg’s film. It is interesting to note that even during the cultural moment of 1975, journalists and even possibly the general public realized the growing trend of blockbuster films. Another thing to take into account is the brevity of the piece. While informative, the length gives the feeling that Jaws’ success is commonplace and not noteworthy enough for a more in-depth piece.
“FILM | Rise of the Blockbuster.” BBC News, BBC, 16 Nov. 2001
The retrospective, taken from a 2001 BBC article, details the rise of the Hollywood blockbuster from a modern point of view. In particular, the author of the article writes about Jaws and how the film came to symbolize the revolution in Hollywood. Up until the release of Jaws, the summer months were considered to be of little value to distributors. Large budget films were commonly released in the winter around Christmas. Yet again, this retrospective pushes the idea that Universal’s approach to marketing the film was revolutionary. Universal decided to give the film a wide release, as opposed to releasing the film in a few cities. The author of the BBC article also discusses how merchandising and soundtrack played into the success of Jaws. Obviously, John Williams’ famous theme is the first thing to come to mind. However, the article points out that knick knacks such as T-shirts, caps, and action figures also featured prominently in sales.
The author also discusses what happened to the blockbuster genre post-Jaws. A backlash occurred after years of focusing on creating blockbuster after blockbuster. It appears that studios wanted to recreate the hype and sales of Jaws. However, the rarity of the Jaws phenomenon was over and as production values climbed, studios became less willing to take risks. According to the article, this lead to movies being marketed towards the greatest common audience.
McGilligan, Patrick. “’Jaws’ Film Crew Feels Atlantic’s Bite.” Boston Globe, 12 May 1974, p. 104.
This 1974 Boston Globe article provides an interesting glimpse into the lives of Spielberg and others working during the production of Jaws. It is fascinating to note that the Boston Globe was given access to the production of the film before the completion of the final product. In all likelihood, this is part of Universal’s attempt to drum up the maximum amount of excitement as possible before the release of the film.
In addition, this interview contains hints that not everything was going to plan during the production of Jaws. In the final section, it is explained that the production was at the mercy of the weather. As we’ll learn in future documents, this admission couldn’t be less of an understatement.
Whitington, Paul. How ‘Jaws’ Created the Summer Blockbuster: Rookie Film Director Steven Spielberg Stumbled on a Winning Formula That Everyone’s Been Copying for the Past 39 Years. Irish Independent, 5 July 2014
In this Jaws retrospective from the Irish Independent, the author of the article goes into depth about the state of the blockbuster formula before the smash success of the film. As mentioned in previous documents, nothing much of note was released in June, July, or August. Apparently, most Americans preferred going to the beach rather than going to the movies. Summer movie experiences came in the shape of drive in movie theaters, and even those were disappearing fast by the 1970s. According to the document, the distribution companies needed something new in order to get the masses to the theaters. By creating Jaws, director Steven Spielberg and Universal Studios discovered the lucrative blockbuster formula that has been in use ever since.
In addition, Whitington goes into detail about the nightmare that was production. Spielberg’s decision to shoot the film in the Atlantic Ocean cost him dearly, as the choice caused enormous delays. Shots were ruined when boats drifted into frame, the bad weather forced a total cessation of filming, and robotic sharks malfunctioned or lacked realistic features. While