Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1977

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
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1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979

The Year 1977
Year
Event and Significance
1977
George Lucas' space opera Star Wars (1977), made for $11 million, was released in theaters in mid-summer and grossed nearly $200 million on its first release, topping Jaws (1975) as the highest earning film to date and generating an astoundingly lucrative merchandising campaign. It truly revolutionized movie merchandising. After adjusting for inflation, its US gross profit was second only to Gone with the Wind (1939). It ultimately helped to resurrect the financial viability of the science-fiction genre, a category of films that was considered frivolous and unprofitable, and its exhilarating, action-paced computer-generated effects thrilled audiences. Until Jaws (1975) and then Star Wars (1977), the summer was typically Hollywood's slow season -- not true afterwards.
1977
Star Wars (1977) was nominated for ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture), and won in six (mostly technical) categories. It marked the first use of an animated 3-D wire-frame graphic, and extensively used CGI. One of its negative influences was that it accelerated a trend towards special-effects-laden blockbuster films targeted at young people. It generated a remarkable two sequels (for the original trilogy) and three prequels, and led to the equally-successful collaboration between Spielberg and Lucas for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
1977
Director John Badham's Saturday Night Fever (1977) created a disco-dancing craze, popularized disco music, made a star of John Travolta, and the extremely popular songs by the BeeGees encouraged the future popularity of movie soundtracks. The then-23-year-old Travolta earned his first lead actor Oscar nomination as disco sensation Tony Manero in the film. New Jersey native Travolta's first significant role was in the mid-1970s TV series Welcome Back, Kotter, occurring simultaneously with his first major film role in DePalma's horror thriller Carrie (1976). These set the stage for his appearance as the lead in the disco dance blockbuster. His promising career was then uneven for almost a decade, but was rejuvenated by Look Who's Talking (1989) and Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994).
1977
Director/writer Steven Spielberg's successful science-fiction classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), presented a unique view of aliens as benign and kind --- and saved Columbia Pictures from bankruptcy by being the studio's biggest grossing film up to that time. It helped to usher in the era of the blockbuster sci-fi/fantasy film. It was Spielberg's first film after his enormously successful blockbuster Jaws (1975). As a high school junior, Spielberg's first feature film, shot in 8 mm, was Firelight (1964) - the inspirational precursor to this film, about a town terrorized by UFOs.
1977
Woody Allen's semi-autobiographical romantic comedy Annie Hall (1977), a marked departure from Allen's earlier slapstick-filled pictures, won the Best Picture honors over the special-effects blockbuster Star Wars (1977), and gave the director/star/writer two Oscars (Best Screenplay and Best Director). The costuming of the title character (Best Actress winner Diane Keaton) -- dubbed the 'Annie Hall' look -- created a fashion craze. Woody Allen became the first director to win an Academy Award for a film he starred in. From five nominations, the film won a total of four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay), losing only Allen's own Best Actor nomination. Allen declined to attend the awards ceremony, instead playing jazz on his clarinet in NYC's Michael's Pub.
1977
Canadian writer/director David Cronenberg's low-budget horror film Rabid (1977) starred ex-porn film star Marilyn Chambers (the ex "Ivory Snow girl") in the lead role as Rose, a mutant predator with vampirish blood cravings following plastic surgery. It was a notable cross-over role for the former hard-core adult film actress - she was one of the first adult stars to cross over into a mainstream film.
1977
Andre Blay, who had founded an audio/video production and duplication company in 1968 called Magnetic Video, established the first video distribution company (in Detroit, Michigan) in 1977 to license, market and distribute half-inch videotape cassettes (both Betamax and VHS) to consumers. It was the first company to sell pre-recorded videos. He offered the first group of fifty best-selling movies (from Twentieth Century Fox) to the public through a direct-mail sales operation called the Video Club of America, advertised in TV Guide. His revolutionary company ushered in the lucrative era of home-video.
1977
George Atkinson of Los Angeles began to advertise the rental of 50 Magnetic Video titles of his own collection in the Los Angeles Times, and launched the first video rental store, Video Station. It was a 600-square-foot storefront on Wilshire Boulevard. In order to raise capital, Atkinson charged $50 for an "annual membership" and $100 for a "lifetime membership," which provided the opportunity to rent the videos for $10 a day. Atkinson was threatened with a lawsuit for renting the videos, but quickly discovered that U.S. copyright law gave him the right to rent and resell videos he owned. Within five years, he franchised more than 400 Video Station stores across the country.
1977
Respected 43 year-old Polish director Roman Polanski had sex with a 13-year-old girl (Samantha Gailey (now Geimer)) following champagne (and allegedly, quaaludes) in actor Jack Nicholson's hot tub in his LA home. Known for directing Rosemary's Baby (1968) (his debut Hollywood film) and the highly-acclaimed Chinatown (1974) which revitalized the film noir genre, and for being the widower of the brutally-murdered Manson victim and 26 year-old pregnant wife Sharon Tate in August, 1969, Polanski pleaded guilty to a single count of unlawful sexual intercourse with the minor but fled to France in February, 1978 before his sentencing. In exile, he went on to direct Tess (1980), Frantic (1988) (featuring the first starring role of Emmanuelle Seigner - his future wife), the erotic thriller Bitter Moon (1992), and The Pianist (2002), which was nominated for Best Picture and won three Oscars, including Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director (unclaimed, since he remained a fugitive from US justice). [Footnote: After 31 years as a fugitive for charges of statutory rape, 76 year-old Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 while enroute to the Zurich Film Festival, with possible extradition to the US to face sentencing for his conviction, although he was released by the Swiss as a "free man" in mid-2010.]
1977
"The King" Elvis Presley died at the age of 42 on August 16, 1977 at his Memphis, Tennessee home -- Graceland. The rock 'n' roll king had been suffering from the effects of drug abuse and suddenly died of a heart attack. On June 26, 1977, Elvis had performed his last concert at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana.
1977
American comedian Groucho Marx, the most recognizable of the Marx Brothers with a cigar, thick eyebrows and mustache, died at the age of 86. He had also served as the host of the popular radio and TV game-quiz show You Bet Your Life.
1977
On July 13, 1977, a blackout in NYC - lasting for 25 hours - resulted in looting, arson, and other civic unrest, unlike the earlier Northeast blackout of 1965. More than 10 million people were affected by the power outage.
1977
Charlie Chaplin, a famous actor/producer/director/writer and mime from the silent era into the 1950s, died (on Christmas Day) at the age of 88, at his home in Switzerland. He was considered one of the greatest male screen legends of all time. His most famous character role was as the Tramp, debuted in Kid Auto Races in Venice (1914). He co-founded United Artists Studios in 1919, and he was known for two of the greatest films ever made: City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936). His final directed film was A Countess From Hong Kong (1967).
1977
Talented director/producer/writer Howard Hawks, known for a wide-ranging number of classic Hollywood films (Scarface (1932), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), Sergeant York (1941), The Big Sleep (1946), Red River (1948), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and Rio Bravo (1959)), died at the age of 81.
1977
David Begelman, the executive head of Columbia Studios, was suspended for confessed embezzlement and forgery. In late 1977, he was reinstated, but then by early 1978, Hollywood gossip columnists Rona Barrett and Liz Smith exposed the story to a mass audience, dubbed "Hollywoodgate". Shortly afterwards, Begelman was reinstated and then running United Artists for MGM, while actor/whistleblower Cliff Robertson was blacklisted for four years.
1977
The TV mini-series Roots premiered on ABC-TV on January 23, 1977, based on Alex Haley's novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. It was one of the first examples of the mini-series format. It originally aired for eight consecutive nights, and was one of the top-rated, most-watched broadcast TV shows of all-time.
1977
Actress Joan Crawford (born Lucille LeSueur) died at the age 72. She had begun her career as a dancer and after a number of roles (including Grand Hotel (1932)) soon became known as one of Hollywood's greatest stars. Although she was labeled as "box-office poison," by the 40s, she made a comeback in Warners' film noir Mildred Pierce (1945) and won the Best Actress Oscar. Other memorable films included Johnny Guitar (1954), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), and her last major film was the science-fiction horror film Trog (1970). She was famously portrayed by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest (1981).
1977
Director Moustapha Akkad's The Message (1976, 1977) (aka Mohammed, Messenger of God), was an epic-length 178 minute dramatic biopic, taglined: "The Story of Islam." It starred Mexican-born actor Anthony Quinn (Abdallah Geith in the 198 minute Arabic version) - following his success in the desert epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962) -- as Mohammed's desert-dwelling warrior uncle Hamza. It was set in 7th century Mecca and documented the beginnings of Islam and the life and teachings of the prophet. Various religious groups called the film 'sacrilegious' and 'an insult to Islam' and it was banned from showings in much of the Arab world. There was further controversy when the film premiered in the U.S. in Washington, DC, in March, 1977. The Hanafi Black Muslim extremist group led by Hamas Abdul Khaalis staged a heavily-armed siege against the local Jewish chapter of the B'nai B'rith (its national headquarters) under the mistaken belief (without having seen the film) that Anthony Quinn played Mohammed in the film. During the two-day crisis, they took nearly 150 people hostage, and threatened to blow up the building while demanding the film opening's cancellation. Future DC mayor Marion Barry was shot when the terrorists overran the District Building, and many others were injured. The hostage situation was eventually defused by the FBI and Muslim ambassadors, and the theater chain that had booked the film cancelled the showing. This disastrous opening unfortunately ruined US box-office for the controversial film, as various moviehouses were forced to cancel their showings due to political pressures and further fears of violence.
1977
Director Herbert Ross' The Turning Point (1977) was the dramatic story of two dancers, both blessed and cursed by their own 'turning point' choices in life between career or marriage/motherhood. The film has the dubious distinction of having a record number of nominations - eleven - without winning a single Oscar. Its record was later tied by Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985).
1977
The first openly gay man elected to public office in California, Harvey Milk, was elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors on November 8, 1977. His life (and tragic assassination at the age of 48 on November 27, 1978) was chronicled in director Gus Van Sant's biopic Milk (2008), starring Best Actor-winning Sean Penn as Milk.


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