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Film Talk: Looking Back – A big bite at the box office with Jaws

The heat's been on this week folks, and those beaches have been looking mighty good. Alas, they looked pretty tempting to the guys and gals of Amity Island too (I know – you can count on us to cheer you up, right?).

Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss in 1975 classic, Jaws
Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss in 1975 classic, Jaws

Still, with the summer now hitting full swing, it's time to jump in that bigger boat and take a look back at the 47-year-old sunshine-season blockbuster that is the grandfather of them all. Let's do this...

Directed by the mighty Steven Spielberg and based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, 1975's Jaws stands as one of the most iconic cinema classics of all time, and remains one of the most celebrated films in history.

Starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw, this world-renowned flick tells the tale of a small American town under the siege of a terrifying beast of the deep, and the local police chief's efforts to stop said shark's indulgence at a bountiful buffet table made up of the town's residents.

Shot largely on location in Massachusetts, Jaws was in fact the first major film to be shot at sea. Unfortunately it had a troubled production because of this, going past its shooting schedule and also running over budget.

With the mechanical sharks manufactured by the flick's art team often malfunctioning, Spielberg made the decision to 'imply' the presence of the shark in most scenes that featured it, only showing the animal directly on minimal and crucial occasions. With this, he employed the use of music, and an ominous, sinister and foreboding theme to signal the terrible leviathan's impending presence. Composed by John Williams (naturally), the Jaws theme remains possibly the most famous piece of music that Hollywood has ever sired.

With its main cast completed by Murray Hamilton and Lorraine Gary, Jaws was promoted with an extensive marketing campaign and released to over 450 screens – quite the number at the time. But would this shark tale pack plenty of Great White bite at the box office? Spielberg and co. could only wait with bated breath... Daaa-dum... Daaa-dum...

The sun is shining on Amity Island, but as the beach town's annual July 4 celebrations approach, something is lurking below the water.

As the ravaged remains of a young swimmer are discovered, police chief Martin Brody (Scheider) suspects a predatory shark may be responsible.

Fearful for the safety of tourists due to descend on his town, Brody seeks to close its beaches, yet is persuaded to keep them open by Amity Island's greedy mayor (Hamilton), who puts the town's economy ahead of the safety of its residents and visitors.

Yet as further grisly attacks confirm an enormous Great White shark is plaguing the area, the guilt-ridden mayor is forced to concede his mistake, and the pursuit of the massive monster begins.

With the help of marine biologist Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss) and enigmatic shark hunter Quint (Shaw), Brody sets out to rid Amity Island of its terrible tormentor. But in trying to take down one of the world's greatest predators, have the trio bit off more than they can chew?..

In June 1975, Jaws opened with a record $7 million weekend, and grossed a record $21,116,354 in its first 10 days. In only 78 days, it supplanted The Godfather as the highest-grossing film at the North American box office, cruising past that fine flick's earnings of $86 million, and becoming the first film to earn $100 million in US theatrical rentals.

The flick that is indisputably the prototypical summer blockbuster, Jaws' release is regarded as a landmark moment in the history of the cinema industry – pivotal in establishing a modern model of Hollywood business, where high box-office returns are sought from action flicks with straightforward yet high-concept premises.

Until the release of 1977's Star Wars, Jaws stood as the highest-grossing film of all time, and along with this flick and others including The Godfather, Deliverance, A Clockwork Orange and Apocalypse Now, has cemented the 70s as one of cinema's most important and richly-yielding decades.

A consummate gem of the silver screen and a timeless classic of no mistaking, this one never fails to tempt us back into the water.

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