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The release of "Jaws" represented another significant change in standard practice:opening a movie in hundreds of theaters at the same time. This trend wasactually set in motion before "Jaws," in the early 1970s, with the release ofFrancis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather." Prior to "The Godfather," high-profilemovies would typically play for three months or so in only one location beforeslowly moving into other major cities and then, finally, to second- andthird-run theaters in small towns across the country. Also, the first theaterto premier the film had a monopoly of sorts -- it had "clearance" over a largearea in which no other theater could play the same film. In 1972, Paramountopened "The Godfather" in five theaters at once, and moved to 316 theaters thefollowing week. The studio was able to challenge the theaters' clearancepolicy, and before long "The Godfather" was taking in $1 million a day andsetting box-office records.
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When young Steven Spielberg was first offered the screenplay for "Jaws," he said he would direct the movie on one condition: That he didn't have to show the shark for the first hour. By slowly building the audience's apprehension, he felt, the shark would be much more impressive when it finally arrived.