Flashback 1977: ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ Opens

Forty years ago today Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi masterpiece Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a tale about UFOs and the ultimate alien encounter, opened in a limited number of theaters before hitting “theaters everywhere” in December 1977.

The second highest grossing film of 1977, Close Encounters had a lavish $20 million production budget, nearly twice that of the year’s biggest film, Star Wars, and more than three times that of Jaws, the 1975 blockbuster that put Spielberg on the path toward becoming one of the most successful and beloved directors of all time.

Despite facing stiff competition from other blockbuster films, including Saturday Night Fever and Smokey and the Bandit , Close Encounters was a critical and financial success, raking in $169 million in domestic box office receipts and more than $300 million worldwide. How’d the competition do? Star Wars grossed $461 million domestically, while Saturday Night Fever and Smokey and the Bandit pulled in $139 million and $126 million, respectively

In 2007, the U.S. Library of Congress deemed Close Encounters “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and the film was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry. A soundtrack album featuring the John Williams score was released in three formats — LP, 8-track tape, and audio cassette — and reached No. 17 on Billboard’s U.S. album charts in February 1978. In September, Sony Pictures released the 40th Anniversary Edition of the film on 4K/Ultra HD Blu-ray.

See Buy it Again Sam for Tom Norton’s take on the 4K version of Close Encounters.

pw's picture

How much cocaine was snorted on the CE3K set??
The film seems paced to a coke high, every 20 minutes or so a set piece..