|“1975: Jaws (Universal), directed by Steven Spielberg, earned $130 million in domestic rentals.
“1976: Rocky, made without major stars and by little-known director John G. Avildsen, earned United Artists $56 million at the US box office.
“1977: Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind(Columbia; $82 million) and John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever(Paramount; $74 million) generated very healthy profits, but records were broken again by George Lucas’s Star Wars Episode IV: A NewHope (Fox). Costing $11 million, it began as a summer movie, ran continuously into 1978, and was rereleased in 1979. Star Wars earned over $190 million in US rentals and about $250 million worldwide, on a total ticket sales of over $500 million.
“No cluster of films had ever made so much money on initial release. Studios on the brink of bankruptcy found their profits hitting unprecedented levels. Richard F. Zanuck, the son of long-time 20th Century-Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck, produced The Sting and Jaws. He realized that ‘I had amassed more money with one or two pictures than my father had in a lifetime of work.’ During the boom of the early and mid-1970s, most Majors had at least one top hit, so the industry maintained its stability. Overall rentals from domestic and foreign release increased about $200 million per year, reaching $2 billion in 1979. Television networks and cable companies began paying large sums for rights to broadcast the new blockbusters. The 1970s resurgence catapulted several filmmakers to fame, with three becoming major producer-directors.
“The 1970s blockbusters made producers far less willing to let filmmakers experiment with plot, tone, and style. During the recession of the early 1970s, studios welcomed even a small hit: directors were not expected to create big pictures. By the late 1970s, however, companies did not want to risk money on untried subjects or approaches.”