September 1, 2017
In Theaters

Watch: ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ Gets the Trailer it Deserves for 2017

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
40 years later, we make contact again.

Steven Spielberg's 1977 sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind has been revisited and re-released multiple times. Columbia Pictures pushed back the film's original release from summer 1977 to November 1977 because of production issues, but Spielberg reportedly wanted more time and a summer 1978 release date. Columbia needed a hit in 1977, so November it was. In 1980, Spielberg convinced Columbia to give him more financing to tweak the film, and the Special Edition was released theatrically with additional scenes (including the inside of the mothership, per Columbia Pictures' re-release marketing request against Spielberg's wishes) and some cuts to the original.

Sony has released a new 4K digital remastered version of Spielberg's preferred cut into theatres across the U.S.

In 1998, Spielberg returned to the film once again to create the Collector's Edition, a third version of the film that re-edits the original with elements of the 1980 Special Edition minus the mothership interiors. Thanks to all of this tinkering, a plethora of VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-ray packages have been released over the years to cater to the most ardent fans of the film.

Today, Sony (née Columbia Pictures) has released a new 4K digital remastered version of Spielberg's preferred cut into theatres across the U.S. With the major studios essentially giving up the Labor Day weekend with no new major wide release, this is the perfect time to revisit this sci-fi gem on the big screen.

With the 40th anniversary re-release of Close Encounters, we thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the styles of the original 1977 trailer for the film and the trailer for the 2017 theatrical re-release. First, here's the original 1977 trailer, clocking in at over four-and-a-half minutes:

Watching this trailer now makes us believe this may not have been the theatrical trailer, but rather a promo reel to show theatre owners at a convention like ShoWest (now CinemaCon) to convince them to book the film.

Then again, the studio also realized that audiences had never seen anything like Spielberg's film, and the title Close Encounters of the Third Kind would mean nothing to anyone who wasn't already a UFO aficionado and an avid reader of J. Allen Hynek's book, The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry, which introduced the three kinds of alien encounters. With all of this in mind, this very well may have been the trailer Columbia rolled out into theatres to educate the public ahead of the film's release. And after Jaws literally defined the term "blockbuster" two years earlier, we could imagine Columbia and theatre owners indulging the overly long marketing piece for Spielberg's next film.

Now, in true 2017 marketing fashion, the studio couldn't just release a trailer for the 40th anniversary of the film. The campaign needed to start with a teaser:

We get audio from the original film, scrambled iconic images, and those tones known across the universe. No title necessary. We don't even need to go to the promotional website. We know we are about to experience yet another close encounter of the third kind.

And yet, a full trailer is in order for this re-re-re-release:

This trailer has all of the elements we have come to expect from a major sci-fi blockbuster release: deep, ominous bass tones; single piano notes on successive cuts; airy crescendos over a series of ominous images; the hard percussive impacts as we cut to black; then more hard percussive impacts as we cut to the major images of the film. No voiceover necessary, no narrator telling us, "In a world..." because our world has never seen anything like this (except 40 years ago, and 37 years ago, and 19 years ago).

Our world has never seen anything like this (except 40 years ago, and 37 years ago, and 19 years ago).

This trailer uses key title cards, succinctly reminding us of the three kinds of encounters, employing that oh-so-recognizable Handel Gothic font forever melded with this film, with those tones and color schemes subtlely accenting the titles.

Audiences don't want a John Williams score for their trailers. They want that same ol' "hold on to your butts because this movie has some major sci-fi action sequences that are gonna blow you away" score.

And I have to say, I wasn't sure I could convince my 14-year-old daughter to join me to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the big screen. But after watching that new trailer, there's no way my daughter will be able to resist.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is in theatres now in the U.S. for a one-week engagement, so don't miss your chance to see this classic on the big screen. And make contact again.      

Your Comment

2 Comments

I understand the need to market to a modern audience, but it's a disappointing trailer for me. Super excited for the re(rere)release, but did they have to spoil the ending?! Those booming notes from the ship shattering the glass gave me hair-standing goosebumps when I first saw it - not sure it would do the same if I'd already seen the imagery.

September 5, 2017 at 11:06AM, Edited September 5, 11:06AM

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This release is marred by the asinine inclusion of a documentary BEFORE the movie; it largely ruins it for those who've never seen the movie.

Unbelievably dumb move. But hey, what do you expect from studios today?

September 11, 2017 at 10:51PM, Edited September 11, 10:51PM

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David Gurney
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