It can be argued that the modern blockbuster formula originated in 1975 with Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws.” The classical film era was dead, and television had been eating into Hollywood’s profits since the 1950s. The blockbuster formula would see films turn into cultural commodities, with the movie as the core of a larger package being sold to audiences (alongside merchandise, video games, soundtracks, etc.). Movies were becoming part of a larger spectacle.
Spielberg confessed to Rolling Stone in 1982, “I’m just scared to death of is that someday I’m gonna wake up and bore somebody with a film. That’s kept me making movies that have tried to out-spectacle each other.” The director set out to top the success of “Jaws” with the 1977 sci-fi film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” François Truffaut played a French scientist in the film and offered the director some words of wisdom. Spielberg explained:
“François Truffaut helped inspire me to make ‘E.T.’ Simply by saying to me on the ‘Close Encounters’ set, ‘I like you with keeds, you are wonderful with keeds, you must do a movie just with keeds.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve always wanted to do a film about kids, but I’ve got to finish this, then I’m doing ‘1941’ about the Japanese attacking Los Angeles. And Truffaut told me I was making a big mistake.'”
Spielberg kept his commitment to “1941” and followed that up in 1981 with the first of five Indiana Jones movies, “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.” But after that, he returned to Truffaut’s advice and created the most memorable kids’ movie of the 1980s.