Chattanooga, Tenn. (Aug. 24, 2022) – After 47 years of giving beachgoers second thoughts about setting foot in the ocean, Jaws is making its way back to theaters in a format that won’t elicit the feeling that, “You’re gonna need a bigger screen.”
On Labor Day weekend, Steven Spielberg’s thrilling masterwork about a killer Great White Shark terrorizing a seaside town will premiere on the six-story screen at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater.
“Steven Spielberg redefined modern cinema and ushered in a new era of bold, swing-for-the-fences filmmaking,” Megan Colligan, president of IMAX Entertainment, told Deadline in an announcement about the re-release. “The IMAX Experience has expanded around the world because of the trail blazed by films like E.T. and Jaws.”
With a screen sprawling across double the footprint of the typical American home and the technological oomph of a cutting-edge IMAX with Laser projection system, Jaws will certainly make a big splash at the Tennessee Aquarium’s IMAX Theater. However, it’s rare for any movie to captivate the nation as thoroughly as Spielberg’s second big-screen feature did during its initial run in 1975.
In an age of billion-dollar Hollywood summertime success stories like The Avengers and Jurassic World, it can be hard to imagine going through the dog days of the calendar without a steady stream of must-see movies to enjoy. Prior to Jaws’ premiere on June 20, 1975, however, the warmer months were a cinematic wasteland.
Jaws changed all that.
Based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling 1974 novel of the same name, the public flocked in droves to see the film. Audiences thrilled at the creeping terror of the deep brought on by Spielberg’s tense pacing and John Williams iconic, dread-inducing score, which managed to ratchet up blood pressure and fray nerves with just two thrummingly bowed bass notes.
“The scientific types are horrified, but Jaws has made sharks popular,” NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw said during 1975 coverage of the rabid response to Jaws. “Society being what it is, popularity means success and success means money.”
Showings of the film sold out, with lines stretching around theaters. The film’s popularity prompted many cinemas to extend its residency on their screens, resulting in Jaws topping the charts for 14 consecutive weeks. It became the first film in Hollywood history to gross more than $100 million at the box office, introducing the world to the concept of the summer blockbuster.
Perhaps due to the same captivating storytelling that made it so effectively terrifying, Jaws did much to incite a rampant fear of sharks in the public consciousness. Despite their portrayal as mindless killing machines in Jaws — and subsequent shark-horror flicks such as Deep Blue Sea and Sharknado — sharks rarely attack humans.
In fact, sharks actually serve a hugely important role in their ecosystems, says Tennessee Aquarium Senior Aquarist Kyle McPheeters.
“They’re going to be the cleanup crew of their ecosystem, whether it’s a reef or the open ocean,” he says. “If we didn’t have sharks, the populations of smaller fish would explode, which would tax what’s below them in the food chain, whether that’s algae or even smaller fish or plankton.”
At the Aquarium, guests encounter half a dozen shark species, from bread loaf-sized Coral Catsharks to placid giants like Sand Tiger Sharks, which can reach 10 feet in length. Large and small, visitors can see — and sometimes touch — these sharks while exploring the Ocean Journey building’s Secret Reef exhibit and Stingray Bay touch tank.
Guests can also see (and enter) a diving cage used in the making of 1971’s Blue Water, White Death, a documentary about a team of divers seeking to find and film Great White Sharks. Released four years before Jaws, Blue Water, White Death portrays this infamous species as worthy of admiration and respect, not fear. The film also features Rodney Fox, an Australian diver and conservationist who was inspired to dedicate himself to studying and protecting sharks despite nearly losing his life to an attack by a Great White.
On average, sharks are responsible for only five unprovoked fatalities per year, according to records from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File.
“Big sharks really don’t have many natural predators, if any, except for us (humans),” McPheeters says. “Humans, worldwide, take millions of sharks from the ocean each year.”
Whether it’s their first time feeling the shiver of excitement from Spielberg’s masterful classic or their dozenth dip into its infamously fraught waters, the return of Jaws to the big screen opens up plenty of opportunity to appreciate the majesty and (fictional) menace of these marine predators.
Jaws has a runtime of 2 hours and 4 minutes and is rated PG. Tickets are $15 for all ages. To learn more or to purchase tickets in advance, visit tnaqua.org/imax/jaws.
Jaws Showtimes at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater:
September 1st @ 6:30 PM
September 2nd – September 4th @ 6:30 PM & 9:00 PM
September 5th – September 8th @ 6:30 PM
Some Jaw-some trivia
- Despite what movies like Jaws suggest, not all sharks are big. The Dwarf Lantern Shark is the world’s smallest shark, with males measuring just 6.3 inches. Females come in slightly larger at 7.4 inches. Bonus points, it’s also bioluminescent!
- The Great White Shark featured in Jaws is 25 feet long and weighs 3 tons (6,000 pounds). This is significantly larger than the largest recorded example of the species, Deep Blue, a female estimated to be 20 feet long and 2.75 tons (5,500 pounds).
- The nickname for the animatronic sharks on the Jaws set was “Bruce” in honor of Spielberg’s attorney, Bruce Ramer.
- Simply listed as “The Shark,” the toothsome antagonist in Jaws made the No. 18 spot on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years … 100 Heroes & Villains list.
- Accounting for inflation, the $3,000 bounty placed on the killer shark in Jaws in 1974 would be about $19,075 in 2022.
- After years out of the public eye in a private collection, the only remaining animatronic shark used in Jaws is now on display at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.
- Steven Spielberg is the world’s most commercially successful director with $10.6 billion grossed worldwide across 37 films. Jaws ranks as his ninth most-successful work at $470 million and was the first film to earn $100 million at the box office.
- Jaws received four nominations at the 1976 Academy Awards, including for Best Picture. It won three (sound, film editing and music).