The movie that helped Star Wars relaunce science fiction on the big screen.
Close Encounters of The Kind opened at the box office in November 1977. It proved the summer blockbuster trend of Jaws and Star Wars were not just a fad. It was also the first film to demonstrate Steven Spielberg’s command of the science fiction genre on the big screen. It starred Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, a loving husband and father who is alienated from his family because of his pursuing aliens from outer space. The film was supposed to open that summer, but there were delays due to problems with filming. Columbia Pictures pushed the release date to November 16.
The film drew inspiration from one night when Spielberg saw a meteor shower with his father. An early short film he made called Firelight is often considered to be a forerunner to Close Encounters. The theme involving a husband and father being alienated from his family was based on his experiences of being estranged from his father after his parents’ divorce. The combined box office power of Star Wars and this film inspired Paramount to take the proposed television series Star Trek Phase II and re-develop its two hour pilot into the first Star Trek movie.
It led to the development of Night Skies, a Spielberg film that never got off the ground. Yet it inspired such Spielberg hits as E.T., Poltergeist, and Gremlins. Ray Bradbury thought of it as the greatest science fiction film ever made. It was also nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Director, even though Spielberg did not win. Close Encounters also tied with Star Wars in a few nominations for the Saturn Awards. It even lost Best Dramatic Presentation to Star Wars at the Hugo Awards. Close Encounters and Star Wars are also both said have revived the science fiction genre at the box office after a decade long decline in mainstream popularity.
After working a decade directing television and two feature films, Close Encounters of The Third Kind proved Spielberg was not some one hit wonder with the box office success of JAWS. He was now a box office champ with two hits. Whatever successes or failures he would have during his career, he was now a proven name who made significant contributions to the industry. The success of JAWS and Close Encounters have given him a career that spanned three decades and made him the most influential film maker of all time.