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On this day in history, June 20, 1975, groundbreaking and terrifying movie 'Jaws' opens in theaters

On this day in history, June 20, 1975, the movie “Jaws,” directed by Steven Spielberg, opened in theaters in the United States. 

“Jaws” tells the fictional story of a great white shark that terrorizes a New England beach resort town. The movie was a blockbuster and the highest-grossing film in movie history until it was outpaced by 1977’s “Star Wars,” according to History.com.

The iconic film — which made people think twice about going into the water, according to Slashfilms.com — won three Oscars, for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound. 

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The film was based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, released in 1973. 

Film producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown were given a copy of the novel “and were hooked,” says Collider.com.

“They knew it had the makings for a great movie, so they went through their checklist. The story? Good. Can we afford to make it? We can’t not afford to make it, so yes,” the site continues.

The producers bought the movie rights for $175,000, before the novel was even released to the public. 

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“The question they should have asked? Can it be made,” says Collider.

“The theme from the 1975 shark-infested blockbuster, ‘Jaws,’ is thrilling, terrifying, but most of all, impressive.”

“One time, the Orca [the shark-hunting boat] began to sink while the actors were on board,” Collider notes.

Composed by John Williams, the eerie movie soundtrack is today part of American pop culture. 

Jaws movie poster

The “Jaws” movie poster from 1975, the year the film was released. (LMPC via Getty Images)

“Two notes. That’s it. ‘Duuuunnnn duun.’ Two notes are all it takes for listeners’ hearts to drop into their stomachs, and for their goose-bumping flesh to break out in a cold sweat,” said American Songwriter. 

“Despite the universally beloved nature of the original film, the sequels have truly stained the franchise,” that site says.  

“While the second and third films in the franchise were underwhelming at best, it was the fourth film, ‘Jaws: The Revenge,’ that truly took things too far, being labeled one of the worst movies ever made and putting a final nail in the franchise’s coffin.”

Actor Robert Shaw, who played shark-hunter Quint, in a scene from “Jaws.” (Universal Pictures/Getty Images)

Steven Spielberg “truly regrets” that the bloodthirsty portrayal of great white sharks in “Jaws” contributed to a sharp decline in the animals’ population, said Smithsonian Magazine, quoting the director from a 2022 interview with the BBC. 

“The summer blockbuster was born on June 20, 1975, when ‘Jaws’ opened wide,” wrote the Financial Times’ Nigel Andrews.

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He added, “In the years after ‘Jaws,’ the entire release calendar changed.”

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