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Jaws is a box office hit again, thanks to National Cinema Day — and 3D

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This Saturday was dubbed “National Cinema Day,” in which theaters around the US cut their ticket prices to $3 in an effort to keep bringing people back to the movie theater. And it worked! More than 8.1 million people went to the movies on Saturday, Variety found, compared to 1 million the day before and 1.7 million the day after. National Cinema Day brought the biggest crowds to theaters of any day in 2022, which leads to one inevitable conclusion: people will go to movies when movies only cost three bucks. Who knew!

One thing not needed to get the butts back in the seats? New movies. August has been a month-long movie doldrums, the result of so many pandemic shutdowns and general supply chain issues. Tom Cruise always has the answer, though: the top grosser of the day was Top Gun: Maverick, which added about $6 million to its box office haul over the long weekend. (Cruise and co. have been keeping theaters afloat all summer, actually, bringing in $698 million overall since the movie’s release in May.) Spider-Man: No Way Home, which came out last Christmas, took second place in the box office. The best-performing new movie this weekend — Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.came in at #14.

But the real dark horse, the shark in the water nobody saw coming, was a little flick you might have heard of called Jaws. Playing in theaters around the country, the movie made about $2.6 million over the three-day weekend. That put it 10th for the weekend, just behind Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero and just ahead of Where The Crawdads Sing. (Like I said, it’s not a banner moment for movies.) On a per-theater basis, Jaws actually outperformed every other movie in theaters this weekend. Not bad for a movie that originally hit theaters in 1975 — and only made about $7 million its opening weekend.

It surely helped Jaws’ case that the movie was shown in 3D and IMAX for the first time ever. The 3D experience, which stereographer Jeremy Carroll told The Hollywood Reporter was designed to “make you feel like you’re in the water,” has been getting rave reviews. “We can play out the stereo to make you feel like you’re really in the water with the characters and the kids that are playing,” Carroll said, which is about as good a case for 3D movies as you’re ever going to hear.

Even at 47 years old, Jaws is a perfect symbol for the future of movies. It’s the film many credit as the original blockbuster, and was one of the reasons that studios started to put out their best and most successful movies in the summer. It’s a much slower movie than most recent big-budget hits, and I can safely say the special effects have gotten a lot better in the last half-century. But the things that make a great movie don’t really change, and Jaws remains a great movie.

There’s also a lesson in here for movie theaters in general, which are desperately looking for ways to convince people to leave their comfy couch and huge TV and go see movies in theaters instead. Cheap tickets are one very compelling case. So is new content: Spider-Man: No Way Home hit theaters again this weekend with 11 extra minutes of movie for fans to enjoy. But maybe so too are these occasional cultural moments, in which millions of people get to experience a film they loved — or maybe a classic they’ve never seen before — in a new way. Half the fun of streaming is wading back through all the movies of your childhood; who says movie theaters can’t do that too?

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