'Jaws' celebrates 40th anniversary

Actors Richard Dreyfuss (L) and Robert Shaw lean off the back of their boat, holding ropes as they watch the giant Great White shark emerge from the water in a still from the film, 'Jaws'.
Universal Pictures | Getty Images
Actors Richard Dreyfuss (L) and Robert Shaw lean off the back of their boat, holding ropes as they watch the giant Great White shark emerge from the water in a still from the film, 'Jaws'.

Before the fame of Discovery Channel's Shark Week and "Sharknado," there was a little film released in 1975 that kicked off America's infatuation with sharks: "Jaws."

The film, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month, was first a 1974 novel written by Peter Benchley. According to The Guardian, Benchley was paid $150,000 for the film rights, plus an additional $25,000 for a first draft of the script—before the book was published.

It went on to sell 5.5 million copies before the movie's open, according to The Guardian.

In its first three days, "Jaws" earned $7 million, and later jumped to $14 million in its first week, according to data from Box Office Mojo.

The film was shown on more than 400 screens and was the first movie to ever top $7 million, Forbes says. It later went on to gross more than $460 million worldwide,setting the record for the highest grossing film of its time, according to Hollywood Reporter.

To create the now-iconic thriller, director Steven Spielberg had to bring movie magic to a new level. Three mechanical sharks were used for filming and cost roughly $150,000 each, per Gizmodo.

The success of "Jaws" was followed by the creation of several more films: "Jaws 2," "Jaws 3-D," and "Jaws: The Revenge." The original film has also inspired documentaries, books and even a festival called JawsFest.

To mark its anniversary, "Jaws" is returning to select theaters later this month.

It looks like they're going to need a bigger bank account.

Disclosure: "Jaws" was produced by Universal Studios which, like CNBC, is owned by Comcast.