The summer movie blockbuster season is upon us. This year it may look a little different because of how the world has been for the past year. But make no mistake, we are in the thick of the summer movie season, traditionally the biggest of the year for Hollywood box office. A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far far away Hollywood took the summer off.
Then one man and one movie changed everything in the 70s. Now the summer is reserved for big budget films and has a mix of everything from over-the-top action movies, comedy, love stories and children’s movies. And the big budget blockbuster movie season is not just for show, The Academy pays attention too. Jurassic Park, Star Wars, The Lion King, Back to the Future, and Raiders of the Lost Ark are just a handful of blockbuster films that were released in theaters during the summer season. Some ended up taking home Oscars the next year.
Before we look back at some of the more memorable summers at the box office let us first look at the man who started it all, Steven Spielberg. In 1975 Jaws turned Hollywood upside down as the film that broke all the rules. Shot on location in Martha’s Vineyard, Spielberg made the studio nervous when he went over budget. In the end the gamble paid off when Jaws blew the competition out of the water making more than $250 million dollars at the box office domestically and over $470 million globally.
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone reminiscing about the summer of 1975 without having a story about seeing Jaws in the theater. If they weren’t at the beach they were lining up at the theater to buy tickets to see the film about a man eating shark. And if they were at the beach they were staying on land because Jaws made them too afraid to get into the water.
Jaws became Hollywood’s first summer movie blockbuster and changed how studios marketed movies and how they viewed the summer movie season. Jaws won 3 Academy Awards and was viewed as the most successful film at the box office at the time before it was upstaged by the Star Wars franchise two years later. Star Wars was released in the summer of 1977 and the success of the two films in the summer months changed attitudes and changed the model for Hollywood forever.
According to imdb.com the highest grossing film for all of 1974 was Blazing Saddles at $119.5 million. Jaws doubled that in just its domestic box office returns. The movie redefined all the metrics and measurements for a blockbuster movie in Hollywood.
Ever since 1975 Hollywood has cranked up the heat at the box office in the summer and it seemed to reach a fever pitch in the late 80s and the 90s. Die Hard was released in July 1988 and more action movies followed and exploded onto the screen in June, July and August. Disney got involved in the 90s and scheduled several animated films for a summer release. And this was pre-Pixar Disney where they would work on the animated film for several months before it came out in theaters and held a weekly spot atop the box office.
So for the nostalgia of summer, we’re going to take a closer look back at a few specific years of summer box office. We’ll showcase the movies that dominated the summer that year along with a few surprises, flops and those summer films that made an impact at the Oscars. Spielberg’s Jaws took a huge bite out of Hollywood and laid the groundwork for the summer movie season. Stay tuned as we celebrate the summer movies of years past that aimed to follow in its tracks.