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Author Topic: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" 35th anniversary
Michael Coate
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1904
From: Los Angeles, California
Registered: Feb 2001

 - posted 06-17-2016 02:14 AM      Profile for Michael Coate   Email Michael Coate   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The Great Adventure: Remembering "Raiders of the Lost Ark" On Its 35th Anniversary


By Michael Coate

“The guys who made Jaws and Star Wars have done it again. It’s too good to be true.” — David Ansen, Newsweek

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective article commemorating the 35th anniversary of the release of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the immensely popular Spielberg & Lucas action extravaganza that introduced moviegoers to the globe-trotting adventures of Indiana Jones.

Raiders, featuring Harrison Ford as everyone’s favorite archaeologist, opened 35 years ago this week, and for the occasion The Bits features a compilation of box-office data that places the movie’s performance in context, production and exhibition information, a list of the film’s 70-millimeter “showcase” presentations, and an interview segment with a group of Spielberg authorities.

1 = Rank among top-earning movies during opening weekend
1 = Rank on list of top box-office earners of 1981 (calendar year)
1 = Rank on list of top box-office earners of 1981 (legacy)
1 = Rank on list of top box-office earners of 1981 (summer season)
1 = Rank on Paramount’s all-time list of top box-office earners at close of original release
2 = Rank of the Indiana Jones character on AFI’s list of the 100 Greatest Heroes and Villains
3 = Rank on all-time list of top box-office earners at close of original release (gross)
4 = Number of sequels, prequels and television series
4 = Rank among top-earning movies of the 1980s
4 = Rank on all-time list of top box-office earners at close of original release (rental)
5 = Number of Academy Awards (four competitive + one special achievement)
8 = Number of Academy Award nominations
8 = Number of weeks nation’s top-grossing movie (weeks 1, 6, 9-13, 26)
13 = Number of years Paramount Pictures’ top-earning film
21 = Rank on current list of all-time top-grossing movies (domestic, adjusted for inflation)
30 = Number of months between theatrical release and home-video release
49 = Number of 70mm prints
60 = Rank on American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest American Films
64 = Number of days to gross $100 million
73 = Number of days of principal photography
81 = Number of weeks of longest-running engagement
101 = Rank on current list of all-time top-grossing movies (domestic)
234 = Rank on current list of all-time top-grossing movies (worldwide)
304 = Number of days to gross $200 million
1,078 = Number of opening-week bookings in the United States and Canada
6,500 = Approximate number of snakes used for the Well of the Souls sequence
1.1 million = Number of home video units sold in 1983/84

$39.95 = Suggested retail price of original home video release
$7,704 = Opening-weekend per-screen average
$3.1 million = Box-office gross (2012 IMAX re-release)
$8.3 million = Box-office gross (opening weekend)
$11.4 million = Box-office gross (1983 re-release)
$21.4 million = Box-office gross (1982 re-release)
$22.8 million = Production cost
$60.0 million = Production cost (adjusted for inflation)
$90.4 million = Box-office rental (as of January 1, 1982)
$112.0 million = Box-office rental (as of January 1, 1983)
$115.6 million = Box-office rental (as of January 1, 1984)
$141.7 million = Box-office gross (international)
$209.6 million = Box-office gross (original release, 6/12/81-7/15/82)
$231.0 million = Box-office gross (as of 12/30/82 when last print is pulled from release)
$242.4 million = Box-office gross (original + ’82 & ’83 re-releases)
$248.2 million = Box-office gross (original + re-releases, special screenings, and adjustments)
$304.2 million = Box-office rental (domestic, adjusted for inflation)
$373.0 million = Box-office gross (international, adjusted for inflation)
$389.9 million = Box-office gross (worldwide)
$642.2 million = Box-office gross (domestic, adjusted for inflation)
$1.1 billion = Box-office gross (worldwide, adjusted for inflation)


“The guys who made Jaws and Star Wars have done it again. It’s too good to be true.” — David Ansen, Newsweek

“Raiders of the Lost Ark is sensational. This awesomely entertaining adventure spectacle succeeds in fusing the most playful and exciting elements of Spielberg’s Jaws and Lucas’s Star Wars in a fresh format.” — Gary Arnold, The Washington Post

“I don’t know how strong is Paramount’s percentage in the distribution of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but of one thing I’m certain — Lucas and Spielberg have just opened up another goldmine.” — Arthur Knight, The Hollywood Reporter

“Raiders is a great movie, but there’s too much to it. Ghosts of George Lucas and Spielberg keep parading into view. The storyline on this movie ought to read, Raiders of the Lost Ark have Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Star Wars and Jaws while The Empire Strikes Back in 1941. The movie has heaps of everything — action, comedy, adventure, stunts. It’s razzle-dazzle entertainment. But who needs this much?” — Carol Olten, The San Diego Union

“Raiders of the Lost Ark is about as entertaining as a commercial movie can be.” — Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

“It’s a humdinger and is an action-packed love letter to the serials and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ adventure novels of the past.” — Ralph B. Patterson, (Little Rock) Arkansas Gazette

“Raiders of the Lost Ark is the stuff that raucous Saturday matinees at the local Bijou once were made of, a crackerjack fantasy-adventure that shapes its pulp sensibilities and cliffhanging serial origins into an exhilarating escapist entertainment that will have broad-cased summer audiences in the palm of its hand. Even within this summer’s hot competitive environment, boxoffice prospects are within the top rank.” — Stephen Klain, Variety

“The opening sequence, set in South America, with Indy Jones entering a forbidden temple and fending off traps, snares, poisoned darts, tarantulas, stone doors with metal teeth, and the biggest damn boulder you’ve ever seen, is so thrill-packed you don’t have time to breathe — or to enjoy yourself much, either…. Seeing Raiders is like being put through a Cuisinart — something has been done to us, but not to our benefit…. Kinesthetically, the film gets to you. It gets your heart thumping. But there’s no exhilaration in this dumb, motor excitement…. John Williams’ pounding score could be the music from any old Tarzan movie, though with a fuller orchestra and at ten times the volume. Like just about everything else in the picture that misses, the klunky music can be said to be intentional — to represent fidelity to the genre. Yet, with the manicured wide-screen images and the scale of this production, klunkiness sticks out in a way that it didn’t in the serials.” — Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

“Raiders of the Lost Ark is as wondrous and delightful as we like to pretend the movies of yesterday were. The adventure epic raises pulp movie-making to the level of an art form.” — Philip Wuntch, The Dallas Morning News

“Now, you have to wonder about two guys who want nothing more in life than to spend $20 million recreating the fantasies of their adolescence in hitherto unknown perfection. That’s essentially what Spielberg and Lucas have accomplished in Raiders. All the while marveling at the trumpeting triviality of it all, I found myself utterly exhilarated by this shrewdly sophisticated boys’ adventure.” — Pat Dowell, The Washington Times

“Pooling their talents for the first time on-screen, the creators of Star Wars and Close Encounters have turned out what is far and away the wittiest, most exhilarating and outrageous cliffhanger in the history of movie serials…. Many young filmmakers rob from past film classics, but few do it as cleverly and affectionately as Spielberg and Lucas…. If this is a movie made by people who know nothing of the world but movies — the most common and, I think, fallacious criticism of the Spielberg-Lucas school of filmmaking — it’s also a movie that resourcefully uses those classic influences to create its own magic.” — John Hartl, The Seattle Times

“The intricate stunts keep the kids gasping, and the adults do get a lot of laughs. But the predictability of it all, even touched with parody and love for all those old movies on which Lucas and Spielberg cut their teeth, brings diminished returns. I realize I’m expressing a minority point of view, judging from the cheers in the audience and the look on the face of a 12-year-old boy who sighed, ‘It’s wonderful!’ But I think Lucas and Spielberg missed the chance to deepen their adventure by creating something other than stock villainous Nazis.” — Judy Stone, San Francisco Chronicle

“The new collaboration by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg is such a smashingly well-done movie that it makes virtues out of juvenility and superficiality. No one need apologize for enjoying Raiders of the Lost Ark, because it is masterful cinema.” — George Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Just when you’ve begun to lose hope in the magic of movies to entertain and enthrall, along comes Raiders of the Lost Ark. It thrills and scares and enraptures all in one splendid swoop. Here is film making at its best…. My advice is to rush out to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. The movie is destined to become a classic, since it wins your heart as it grabs your attention.” — Donna Chernin, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

“Raiders of the Lost Ark may not awaken the slumbering movie industry from its box office malaise. But if it doesn’t, nothing can.” — Jack Mathews, Detroit Free Press

“Director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas give us action and adventure in droves. But that’s about all they give us. The story is a simple one…. Star Wars fans may be somewhat disappointed to learn that Raiders of the Lost Ark doesn’t contain much in the way of special effects, though its supernatural finale is visually powerful.” — Owen Hardy, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal

“Raiders of the Lost Ark is this summer’s out-of-the-body experience, a movie of glorious imagination and breakneck speed that grabs you in the first shot, hurtles you through a series of incredible adventures, and deposits you outside the theater two hours later — breathless, dizzy, wrung-out, and with a silly grin on your face.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“Two hours of non-stop thrills condensed into one giant, fun-filled entertainment.” — Rex Reed, syndicated columnist

“Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most deliriously funny, ingenious and stylish American adventure movies ever made.” — Vincent Canby, The New York Times

“Hurrah and hallelujah! It’s hats-in-the-air, heart-in-the-mouth time at the movies again.” — Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times

“There’s a lot of fun and action, but nothing to chew on afterward.” — David Denby, New York

“Raiders has it all — the best two hours of pure entertainment anyone is going to find — a blockbuster on the order of Star Wars and Jaws.” — Richard Schickel, Time

“Spielberg has directed it all brilliantly, finding his own way to tell a 1930s story in 1981’s visual language…it’s the best movie he has ever made.” — Bernard Drew, Gannett News Service

“Raiders contains within five minutes more screams, thrills and action than can be accomplished by most movies in two hours.” — Ron Base, Toronto Star

“A frantic, frenetic, fantasy frolic that is sure to be one of this summer’s biggest box office hits.” — Gene Shalit, The Today Show

“Remember when movies used to promise a thrill a minute? Well, Raiders nearly doubles that ratio. It makes you feel like you’re beating the speed limit just sitting still.” — Michael Sragow, Rolling Stone

“[Raiders of the Lost Ark is] no more substantial than cotton candy, but it’s easily the best piece of entertainment Hollywood has produced in 1981.” — Bruce McCabe, The Boston Globe


Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed in 73 days, fifteen days ahead of schedule. Principal photography commenced on June 23rd, 1980, in La Rochelle, France. Several weeks of studio work was done at EMI Elstree in London. This was followed by a month of shooting in Tunisia before wrapping on October 3rd, 1980, in Kauai, Hawaii. Although not counted on the official principal photography schedule, the production also included several days of second unit work. Visual effects were produced at Industrial Light & Magic in Marin County, California. In addition, there were a couple of days of additional photography, in January 1981, in San Francisco and Stockton, California.

The idea for Raiders was told by George Lucas to Steven Spielberg on a beach in Hawaii during a May 1977 vacation following the completion and release of Lucas’s Star Wars and the completion of principal photography of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Raiders was test-screened on May 9th, 1981, at the Northpoint in San Francisco.

Paramount’s originally-scheduled release date for Raiders was June 19th, 1981. Shortly before release, so as not to compete during opening weekend with expected hits Superman II and The Cannonball Run, the studio moved up the release by one week where instead the opening-weekend competition was Clash of the Titans and History of the World Part I.

Raiders was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1981. As well, Raiders was screened as a sneak preview in several markets one week before release. And in lieu of a formal premiere, there were a series of invitational and charity previews in the days ahead of its June 12th release.

Two original documentaries were produced in 1981: The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (for public television) and Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark (for network television).

Raiders included footage from Lost Horizon (1973) and The Hindenburg (1975).

By the close of its theatrical release, Raiders had become the highest-grossing film in the history of Paramount Pictures, a position it held until dethroned thirteen years later by Forrest Gump.

The longest theatrical engagement of Raiders is believed to have been an 81-week run in San Jose (25 weeks at the Century 21 followed by a 56-week moveover run at the Century 25). The longest, continuous engagement in a single-screen theater is believed to have been a 58-week run at the Cinema Grossmont in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa.

Raiders was released to the home video market in December 1983, thirty months after initial theatrical release, and became the first home video release to sell over one million units. The Beta and VHS editions retailed for the then-low price of $39.95 and the videodisc editions for $29.95. Its first letterboxed edition was on a remastered LaserDisc release in 1992. It was subsequently released on DVD in 2003 and on Blu-ray Disc in 2012.

Raiders had its cable television premiere broadcasts during November 1984.

Raiders had its network television premiere broadcast (on ABC) on September 28th, 1986.

Raiders was Steven Spielberg’s fifth collaboration with composer John Williams and third with editor Michael Kahn.

Richard Amsel, famous for his numerous TV Guide covers, was the artist who painted the artwork used on the film’s promotional material.

Indiana was the name of one of George & Marcia Lucas’s pet dogs.

Raiders of the Lost Art was MAD Magazine’s spoofy take on Raiders.

Raiders was re-released during the summer of 1982 and spring of 1983. The re-release was promoted as “The Return of the Great Adventure.” There was an IMAX re-release during 2012.

Tom Selleck was originally cast in the role of Indiana Jones, but a commitment to CBS for the Magnum, P.I. television series prevented him from accepting the role. Shortly after Harrison Ford was cast and production began, a Writers Guild strike delayed the production of network television shows, a break which, ironically, would have enabled Selleck to have done Raiders. Selleck later would do a Raiders-esque episode of Magnum, P.I. as well as the similar adventure film High Road to China (1983)

The Star Wars connections are endless: The canyon where Indy threatens to blow up the Ark and subsequently surrenders to Belloq and the Nazis was the same Tunisia location where R2-D2 was captured by the jawas. Numerous crew members worked on both productions. As a joke, images of Star Wars characters R2-D2 and C-3PO were included among the hieroglyphics in the Well of the Souls set. The registration letters on Jock’s plane were OB-CPO (as in Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO). And, in addition to Harrison Ford, Star Wars actor William Hootkins (Porkins) appeared in Raiders (as Major Eaton).

The classic “Wilhelm” scream sound effect can be heard during the truck chase sequence.

The submarine featured in Raiders was used in Das Boot (full scale) and Spielberg’s 1941 (miniature model).

Actors Vic Tablian and Pat Roach each had a dual role in Raiders. Tablian played the Peruvian porter Barranca as well as the Monkey Man who attempts to poison Indy and Sallah. Roach played the Giant Sherpa in the Nepal sequence and the German mechanic Indy fights near the Flying Wing.

Producer Frank Marshall played the part of the pilot of the German Flying Wing.

In 1989, the leather jacket and fedora worn by Harrison Ford were donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

In 1999 Raiders was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.


The following is a list of the first-run 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo premium-format presentations of Raiders of the Lost Ark in the United States and Canada. These were, arguably, the best theaters in which to experience Raiders and the only way to faithfully hear the movie’s Oscar-winning audio mix. About five percent of the film’s original presentations were in the deluxe (and expensive) 70mm format, and of the movies released during 1981, Raiders was among only seven (plus a few re-releases) to have 70mm prints produced and it had the second-highest number of such prints that year behind The Ladd Company’s Outland.

The 70mm prints were blown up from anamorphic 35mm photography and had an aspect ratio of 2.20:1. The soundtrack was Format 42 (three screen/one surround + baby boom), and the noise-reduction and signal-processing format for the prints was Dolby “A.”

The focus of this listing is on the Initial Wave of bookings that commenced June 12th, 1981, followed by a chronological listing of 70mm engagements from later in its release and during its 1982 and 1983 re-releases. The listing does not include any international engagements, nor does it include any of the movie’s thousands of standard 35mm engagements or subsequent revival and festival presentations. (This section should be considered a work in progress.)

So, which North American theaters screened the 70mm version of Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Calgary — Chinook (48 weeks)
Edmonton — Westmount Twin (48)

Little Rock — Cinema 150 (23) <70mm from Week #14>

Burnaby — Lougheed Mall Triplex (48)
Vancouver — Vancouver Centre Twin (48)

Corte Madera — Cinema
Costa Mesa — South Coast Plaza Triplex (54)
La Mesa — Cinema Grossmont (58)
La Mirada — La Mirada Mall 6-plex (38) <70mm from Week #17>
Los Angeles (Hollywood) — Chinese Triplex (15)
Los Angeles (Westwood Village) — National (16)
Montclair — Montclair Triplex (27) <70mm from Week #23>
Orange — Cinedome 6-plex (56)
Sacramento — Century 6-plex
San Francisco — Regency I (23)
San Jose — Century 21 (25)
San Jose — Century 23 Twin (10)

Denver — Century 21 (25)

Washington — Cinema (25)

Calumet City — River Oaks 6-plex (#1: 27)
Calumet City — River Oaks 6-plex (#2: 1)
Evergreen Park — Evergreen Triplex (20)
Lombard — Yorktown 4-plex (16)
Niles — Golf Mill Triplex (15)
Northbrook — Edens Twin (15)
Schaumburg — Woodfield 4-plex (#1: 27)
Schaumburg — Woodfield 4-plex (#2: 1)

Louisville — Showcase 9-plex (57)

Winnipeg — Northstar Twin (48)

Boston — Cinema 57 Twin (27)

Southfield — Northland Twin (27)

Paramus — Route Four 4-plex (28) <70mm from Week #4>

Levittown — Nassau 4-plex (27) <70mm from Week #4>
New York — 34th Street Showplace Triplex (14)
New York — Astor Plaza (23)
New York — Orpheum Twin (14)
New York — State Twin
Pittsford — Loews Triplex (27) <70mm from Week #5>
Valley Stream — Sunrise 8-plex (15) <70mm from Week #4>

Springdale — Showcase 7-plex (27)

Scarborough — Cedarbrae 4-plex (25)
Toronto — Eglinton (25)
Toronto — Runnymede Twin (25)
Toronto — Uptown 5-plex (3)

Philadelphia — SamEric (20) <70mm from Week #2>

Montreal — Imperial (26)

Dallas — Caruth Plaza Twin (42) <70mm from Week #33>
Houston — Windsor Twin <70mm from Week #2>

Salt Lake City — Villa (53) <70mm from Week #6>

Tukwila — Southcenter (26)

1981-06-26 … Chicago, IL — Esquire (13)
1981-07-03 … Ottawa, ON — Nelson (35)
1981-07-03 … Toronto, ON — University (22)
1981-07-31 … Lakewood, CA — Lakewood Center 4-plex (9)
1981-08-21 … Des Moines, IA — River Hills (15)
1981-09-25 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Hollywood (7)
1981-10-09 … Sainte-Foy, QC — Canadien (10)
1981-11-06 … Los Angeles (Westwood Village), CA — National (4)
1981-11-13 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Chinese Triplex (5)
1981-11-20 … Lakewood, CA — Lakewood Center 4-plex (9)
1981-11-20 … San Francisco, CA — Royal
1981-12-04 … San Jose, CA — Century 25 Twin (56)
1981-12-11 … Montreal, QC — Imperial (9)
1981-12-11 … Montreal, QC — York (7)
1981-12-11 … Lynnwood, WA — Grand Alderwood 5-plex (31)
1981-12-25 … Cleveland, OH — Colony (4)

1982-01-22 … Los Angeles (Century City), CA — Century Plaza Twin (3)
1982-02-05 … Atlanta, GA — Phipps Plaza Triplex
1982-02-12 … Montreal, QC — Palace 6-plex (14)
1982-02-17 … Chicago, IL — State Lake (1)
1982-02-26 … Chicago, IL — McClurg Court (1)
1982-03-05 … Toronto, ON — Cumberland 4-plex (1) <“La Reserve”>
1982-04-02 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Cinerama Dome (10)
1982-04-16 … Portland, OR — Music Box (6)
1982-06-11 … Los Angeles (West Los Angeles), CA — Picwood (5)
1982-07-16 … Atlanta, GA — Fox
1982-07-16 … Los Angeles (Westwood Village), CA — Avco Center Triplex (3)
1982-07-16 … Montreal, QC — Le Parisien 5-plex (5)
1982-07-16 … New York, NY — Ziegfeld (3)
1982-07-16 … Renton, WA — Roxy (2)
1982-07-16 … Seattle, WA — Crest 4-plex (4)
1982-07-16 … Washington, DC — MacArthur (3)
1982-08-06 … New York, NY — Embassy I (3)
1982-08-20 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Cinerama Dome (5)
1982-08-20 … San Francisco, CA — Alexandria Triplex
1982-09-03 … Burnaby, BC — Lougheed Mall Triplex (1)
1982-09-24 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Chinese Triplex (7)

1983-03-25 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Chinese Triplex (1)
1983-03-25 … Los Angeles (Westwood Village), CA — Bruin (1)
1983-03-25 … Montreal, QC — Imperial (2)
1983-03-25 … New York, NY — Astor Plaza (3)
1983-03-25 … San Diego, CA — Valley Circle (1)
1983-03-25 … Toronto, ON — Hollywood Twin (2)
1983-03-25 … Toronto, ON — Uptown 5-plex (3)
1983-04-01 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Fox (2)
1983-04-01 … Riverside, CA — Canyon Crest 5-plex (6)
1983-04-08 … Toronto, ON — Palace Triplex (1)
1983-04-22 … San Francisco, CA — Regency II
1983-04-22 … San Jose, CA — Town & Country (3)
1983-05-20 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Chinese Triplex (3)
1983-06-17 … Chicago Ridge, IL — Chicago Ridge Mall Triplex (1)
1983-07-08 … New York, NY — Paramount (2)
1983-08-12 … Cleveland, OH — Colony (1)
1983-09-02 … San Francisco, CA — Cinema 21
1983-09-16 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Chinese Triplex (2)
1983-09-16 … Los Angeles (Westwood Village), CA — National (2)
1983-09-02 … Calgary, AB — Northill (6)
1983-09-09 … Edmonton, AB — Meadowlark (1)
1983-09-27 … Ottawa, ON — NAC Opera (2 days)

Note that some presentations were in 35mm during the latter weeks of engagement due to print damage or movement to a smaller, non-70mm-equipped auditorium within a cinema complex.


This segment of the article features a Q&A with a sextet of Spielberg authorities. The interviews were conducted separately and have been edited into a “roundtable” format.

Steven Awalt is the author of Steven Spielberg and Duel: The Making of a Film Career (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014; paperback, 2016). A film historian and noted Spielberg authority, Awalt was the editor of from 2001 to 2009 and appeared as an interview subject in the 2007 Jaws documentary, The Shark is Still Working. He is currently working on Steven Spielberg and The Sugarland Express.

Laurent Bouzereau is the author (with J. W. Rinzler) of The Complete Making of Indiana Jones: The Definitive Story Behind All Four Films (Ballantine/Del Rey, 2008) and the producer of the supplemental material on the Indiana Jones DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases (as well as several other Spielberg films). Some of his behind-the-scenes featurettes and documentary projects include Don’t Say No Until I Finish Talking: The Story of Richard D. Zanuck (2013), Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir (2011), A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King (2011), and The Making of American Graffiti (1998). His other books include Hitchcock: Piece by Piece (Abrams, 2010), The Art of Bond (Abrams, 2006), Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (Ballantine, 1997), and The DePalma Cut: The Films of America’s Most Controversial Director (Dembner, 1988).

Scott Higgins is the author of Matinee Melodrama: Playing with Formula in the Sound Serial (Rutgers University Press, 2016) and is Professor of Film Studies and Chair of the Film Department at Wesleyan University, where he teaches several film courses including Cinema of Adventure and Action. His other books include Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow: Color Design in the 1930s, (University of Texas Press, 2007) and Arnheim for Film and Media Studies (Routledge, 2010).

Eric Lichtenfeld is the author of Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie (Wesleyan, 2007), an authoritative and entertaining study of the action film genre. He has taught or spoken about film at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Cinematheque, Loyola Marymount University, UCLA, Wesleyan University, and the Harvard School of Law. Eric has also contributed supplemental material for several DVD and Blu-ray releases, including Speed, Predator and Die Hard. In 2011, he introduced Raiders of the Lost Ark and interviewed a number of its makers for the Academy's 30th anniversary tribute to the film.

Mike Matessino is an accomplished music producer, mixer, editor, mastering engineer and film music historian. While he hasn’t (as of yet) been formally involved with an Indiana Jones soundtrack, he has proven to be an expert on Spielberg/Williams collaboration, having worked on numerous titles including 1941, Empire of the Sun, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Jaws, all produced under the supervision of the composer and director. Other (non-Spielberg) John Williams projects include Star Wars, Superman and Home Alone, and Spielberg (non-Williams) projects include Poltergeist, Gremlins, The Goonies, Back to the Future, and Innerspace. He was the Restoration Supervisor for The Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and directed behind-the-scenes documentaries on The Sound of Music, Alien, The Last Starfighter, and John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Joseph McBride is the author of Steven Spielberg: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 1997; University Press of Mississippi, 2011, second edition; Faber & Faber, 2012, third edition; Chinese translation published in Beijing in 2012). A professor in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University, McBride has written several other books, including Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J.D. Tippit (Hightower Press, 2013), Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success (University Press of Mississippi, 2011), Searching for John Ford (University Press of Mississippi, 2011), Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career (University Press of Kentucky, 2006), and Writing in Pictures: Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless (Vintage, 2012). His latest book is The Broken Places: A Memoir (Hightower Press, 2015) and he is currently working on a critical study of Ernst Lubitsch. He was a co-producer on the documentary Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece and a co-writer of the screenplay for Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979). His website is

Michael Coate (The Digital Bits): In what way is Raiders of the Lost Ark worthy of celebration on its 35th anniversary?

Steven Awalt: Raiders of the Lost Ark is such a superb film from first viewing through as many times as you could wish to watch it. You can plainly see the finely-tuned machinery working in the plotting and within each set-piece and yet somehow the film still plays in so fresh even after watching it annually for 35 years. No matter how well I think I know the film and the behind-the-scenes production stories*, I never fail to get wrapped up in Raiders from its opening moments. Like most very special films, there's an ineffable alchemy at play in it. Movie magic. (*Speaking of production stories from the film, I can't suggest enough that your readers seek out Derek Taylor's The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark book released in 1981. It's one of the great boots on the ground, fly on the wall looks at the making of a motion picture.)

Laurent Bouzereau: Raiders of the Lost Ark was an event and a revelation. I don’t think there was necessarily a huge build up to it or expectations. It’s a film that completely lived on its own merit as pure entertainment. And while it paid homage to serial films, it was unique and felt fresh, original and unique.

Scott Higgins: Well, it is a landmark—one of the trio of films largely responsible for the action-adventure orientation of contemporary “four-quadrant” Hollywood cinema. (The others being Star Wars and Superman.) Some bemoan that, but I think the benefits outweigh the costs. But whatever you think of the trend that these films inspired, Raiders remains an elegant, rock-solid piece of craft and a source of joy.

Eric Lichtenfeld: As usual, you’re asking questions that can be answered a few different ways!.... Raiders deserves to be celebrated because it helped us recover the exuberant spirit of the serials — think 1940s pabulum like Don Winslow of the Navy, Spy Smasher, Jungle Girl and others — but married it to very high quality, even sophisticated, filmmaking. In fact, it didn’t just help recover that spirit; it helped elevate it…. Raiders also deserves to be celebrated because of the convergence of sheer talent it embodies. And I don’t just mean Lucas, Spielberg, Harrison Ford and John Williams (although that would be enough right there). I mean every department head — from cinematographer Douglas Slocombe and editor Michael Kahn to re-recording mixers Steve Maslow and Gregg Landaker, and everyone in between and beyond. And not only was each one the best in their field, but they were also, at that particular moment, working at their own personal best. So even though Lucas and Spielberg routinely have great collaborators, this kind of conjunction is still rare. I’d venture to say even for them…. But in the end, it comes down to something very simple, even elemental — and that thing is joy. Raiders is worth celebrating on its 35th anniversary because it’s been bringing us joy for 35 years. And not only in when we’re watching it, either. I mean, to this day, when I just make it through a yellow light, what piece of music do you think goes through my head? I’ll tell you this: it isn’t Pachelbel’s Canon.

Mike Matessino: A movie like Raiders is worth celebrating any year at any time because it is a template for not only the action genre but for cinematic structure in general. It’s a movie that itself celebrates everything that is fun about the movies in the classic sense. Dare I say, “it’s not the years it’s the mileage."

Joseph McBride: Steven Spielberg's reputation as a director of fantasy and action films is only part of his legacy. But it is an important part. Raiders of the Lost Ark is an efficient, lively, entertaining, but somewhat deplorable example of his skill in those genres.

Coate: When did you first see Raiders and what did you think of it?

Awalt: I'm very embarrassed to say this, especially given my background writing professionally about Steven Spielberg's work, but I claim the innocence of a kid who didn't know better: I first saw the film in 1981 before our folks even took us to see it on the big screen. Most of the kids in our suburbs were exposed to Raiders through a bootleg copy on VHS that was being passed around by the fathers in the neighborhood (along with a copy of The Empire Strikes Back). I remember the picture and sound were pretty dire, most likely shot with a video camera of the era pointed at a theater screen, but despite how crappy it looked and sounded, all of us kids were just completely enraptured by the film. We all wanted to be Indiana Jones after that, we wanted to study archaeology and go on exotic adventures, find buried treasures, mummy's tombs, and of course everyone wanted a bullwhip for our backyard horsing around. We wanted to kiss a girl as beautiful and as spunky as Marion Ravenwood. Kids of our generation were already in complete and total awe of Harrison Ford as Han Solo between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, so to see him in a brand-new, earthbound role just sent us all over the moon.

Bouzereau: I saw it in a packed theater in Paris on a warm weekend. I had already read the movie-tie-in novelization and knew the soundtrack by heart — as was always the case in my youth, films reached the European markets at least six months after the U.S. Even though I knew everything, I experienced the film as a revelation. It was amazing that aside from the brilliant directing and acting, the dialogue and writing stood out, even to someone like myself who was not fluent in English. I remember seeing it over and over, and quoting the dialogue.

Higgins: Sunday matinee, June 14th, 1981 — Showcase Cinemas near Pontiac, Michigan. It was an experience I immediately wanted to repeat. I spent many afternoons at the multiplex that summer, contemplating boulders, snakes, Karen Allen, and melting faces. The cut from the diving sub to the secret island always bugged me, and after the second or third viewing it became a subject of speculation and debate. The shot of Karen Allen dangling at the edge of the Well of Souls was another subject of intense rumination.

Lichtenfeld: As with Last Crusade, I have a clearer memory of my second time seeing Raiders. That’s because my dad, who had already taken me, insisted we go back and take my mom. I was young, but I knew that a movie like Raiders wasn’t her bag. So if we were taking her, then it had to mean that this was something special, something that crossed over.

Matessino: I saw Raiders at the first show on opening day. Curiously there were very few people there, but it was a Friday matinee and in those days you didn’t necessarily have the huge opening weekends for movies people knew little about. Reviews and word-of-mouth were still a factor. I had read the novelization before seeing the movie, so I already knew the story. But still it took me a few viewings to process what it had accomplished, how it was an homage to movies of the past while also being its own completely new thing. A big part of that for me was John Williams’ music. It’s not actually one of my top favorites of his works, but obviously the role it played is significant and is one of his most popular scores. There is, naturally, a focus on the famous Raiders March theme that is universally recognizable, but there are subtleties in the score that elevate it above the material’s B-movie and serial origins. The theme for the Ark is incredibly rich and intriguing, suggesting an ancient spiritual power the instant you hear it. And consider how Williams introduces Marion’s theme before we even meet the character. It is like an echo from a decade in the past… Williams musically reflects the characters and the backstory with incredible economy and hits a bullseye in doing so. The action music is great, of course, but what happens in the rest of the score, for me, helps turn a B-movie into a serious piece of art that absolutely deserved its Oscar nominations for Best Picture and all the other accolades it has received. It was very clear when I first saw Raiders that the combined talents of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had given birth to something very special.

McBride: I saw it when it came out — the early scene with the giant boulder was a terrific way to get into it. But I became increasingly dismayed by the film's mindlessness and racism. The direction of action is expert, there is a fair amount of goofy humor, akin to MAD magazine's Scenes We'd Like to See, but the storyline is preposterous, childish, and uninvolving, and the Third World characters are stereotyped. I found the scene in which Indiana Jones casually shoots a sword-wielding Arab offensive, although the audience seemed to love it, which made me even more depressed. When I interviewed the film's screenwriter, Lawrence Kasdan, for Steven Spielberg: A Biography, he told me he also found that improvised scene offensive. He said it "was very popular, but it disturbed me. I thought that was brutal in a way the rest of the movie wasn't. I'm never happy about making jokes out of killing people. Steven is more in touch with popular taste than I am." The fact that Indy loots Third World treasures harks back to the worst, most discredited B-movie, colonialist tropes of 1930s cinema, and the homages to serials are hardly worth making at such length (even if the truck sequence, directed by second-unit director Michael D. Moore, is nifty). With its reactionary politics, callousness, anti-intellectualism, and overall mindlessness, Raiders is the perfect film for the Reagan era, though I don't consider it responsible for all the crimes of the Reagan administration, as one hysterical anti-Spielberg critic seems to think it is.

Coate: How is Raiders significant within the action-adventure genre?

Awalt: Raiders is the perfect model adventure film of the so-called "blockbuster era," a huge influence on so much that came afterwards. It's unique, even considering the film itself was a pastiche of old serial films. Like he did with Star Wars, George Lucas's appropriation of these dusty cultural relics (the adventure serials) and audiences’ general, maybe even vague notion of them combined to make something that felt entirely new and yet completely familiar. Once Raiders proved to be such a popular film with audiences and the box-office, other filmmakers, lesser filmmakers as it goes, rushed to try and copy the formula that George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Larry Kasdan had so winningly concocted…. Despite the weak imitations both Spielberg and Lucas's work unintentionally wrought, Raiders will always stand apart from the copies, because Spielberg and Lucas understood the many ingredients and moving parts you need to make films that capture audiences' attention and imaginations. Raiders took those tropes of pulp and movie storytelling, in this case the cliffhanger adventure story, and it breathed new life into the genre by giving us what was then a contemporary hero (despite Indy's world being set in the pre-WWII past, four decades before the 1980s)…. The character of Indiana Jones himself is a unique creation. We first see Indy from behind or in silhouette and shadow, until just as the nefarious porter with the pistol is about to get the jump on him, the trademark whip lashes out and Indy steps from the shade into a character entrance and close-up worthy of Hollywood's Golden Age. Casting Harrison Ford was a boon, and for the very reason that Lucas resisted the idea following Ford's portrayal of Han Solo. Audiences had come to know Ford through the Star Wars films, so we had expectations in place — the cocky, overly confident braggart who somehow gets out of terrible situations by the skin of his teeth. When we first see Ford step out of the shadows as Indiana Jones though, we see a grizzled, unshaven, and rightly pissed off character that seems like he'll be worlds away from the character of Han Solo. Indiana Jones is introduced as this very imposing masculine figure, but then we see the filmmakers methodically chip away this man-of-action, soldier of fortune facade. Everything goes wrong for Indy inside the temple and we see him progressively revealed as a seat-of-his pants fella who clumsily improvises his way out of trap after trap just to stay alive — and it turns out he is somewhat of a close cousin to Han Solo in this regard. So casting Ford and playing against expectations while slowly unraveling and in turn revealing the nature of Indiana Jones's suddenly relatable character is something of a master stroke on numerous levels…. It's a brilliant deconstruction of the Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lester Dent, Ian Fleming man of brawn, cunning and skill, and I think that sly but loving humor toward and about Indy's character is one of the most significant aspects of the film and the entire Indiana Jones series. Others sought to copy Raiders, but they either took themselves too seriously, not seriously enough, or they didn't have the chops to walk the very fine line between two-fisted action film and endearing character work.

Bouzereau: The action sequences are so well choreographed but the magic of it is that we are so engaged with the characters. That was really what stood out for me — I identified with Indiana Jones, there was something relatable that made you want to be part of the action. And that was something I had so far only experienced in James Bond films.

Higgins: Pitfall! Tales of the Gold Monkey! Need I say more?.... It returned a vocabulary to the media that had been out of circulation since the 1950s…. Actually, I see it as a link between two eras of popular adventure cinema. Spielberg and Lucas were repurposing (and improving) their memories of Saturday afternoon serial matinees (which they probably saw on TV and in repertory theaters because they missed that era by a few years), and handing a storytelling formula to the next generation. Serials left the story unfinished and turned the audience into virtual filmmakers for a week as they figured out cliffhangers on the playground. Lucas and Spielberg became real filmmakers, and returned the favor to generations of viewers who haunted the multiplexes and took that world out of the cinema with them. Raiders is a first-rate film school (and not just for 13 year-olds). One of the reasons I wrote the book on serials was that it finally gave me a chance to look seriously at Raiders — and I was happy to find that the film still has much to teach. So, read my book! (Or, err, just watch Raiders again).

Lichtenfeld: This may sound nuts to some (and like heresy to others), but I don’t usually think of Raiders in the context of the genre. And I say that as someone who wrote a pretty definitive book on how the genre evolved! If anything, I tend to think of Raiders, along with some of Steven Spielberg’s other movies, in the context of great silent film comedy — with its sight gags and sequences built out of elaborate causal chains…. But as for the action film, I’m biased toward the period starting with the 1970s, since that’s when I think the genre formally came to be, and since that was the focus of my book. With Raiders, maybe it’s the period setting in conjunction with Spielberg’s distinctive style, but I just don’t experience it the way I experience a lot of those other movies, even great ones like First Blood or The Terminator. To me, those are all great action movies, and some of them are great movies period…but Raiders is Raiders.

Matessino: Just as the original Star Wars began with an action sequence, Raiders continued what George Lucas did in that movie by starting the film with the story basically already in progress. In this case it was the end of an adventure, so in that sense it had a James Bond-like structure, but what it really did was uphold the idea that “action is character.” It’s been pointed out the Indiana Jones doesn’t really influence the plot in any way, and while that might be an arguable point, what it leaves us with is a realization that it’s all about the journey and about the watching the character’s reactions to all the situations in which he finds himself. We subconsciously know it’s all going to turn out all right in the end, so the experience is all about the obstacles and the character’s responses to them, emotionally as well as physically. The problem is that when one tries to replicate this formula, it can feel forced. With Raiders the screenplay perfectly balanced story, action and character and there is not a single spare moment in it. It was lightning in a bottle.

McBride: It helped set a new standard for flashy, sophisticated, fast-paced visuals with cartoonish content. In so doing it followed the model established by George Lucas in Star Wars, which, when I first saw it, profoundly depressed me, because I realized I was witnessing the beginning of the end of cinema, or at least American cinema. Time has borne that out. Just about every Hollywood movie now resembles either Star Wars or Raiders, and that is not a compliment.

Coate: Where do you think Raiders ranks among director Steven Spielberg’s body of work?

Awalt: Raiders and the Indiana Jones films in general have always felt to me somewhat odd outliers contradictorily pushing in near the center of Steven Spielberg's work. When Raiders was released in 1981, it was following the unprecedented successes of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Spielberg's reputation as a filmmaker in the popular American imagination and zeitgeist was just starting to set because of these cultural milestones…. Even the original marketing for Raiders hinged on both Spielberg and Lucas's outsized successes and growing cultural cachet from Jaws, Close Encounters, and Star Wars, so these two men’s moments had arrived in the popular consciousness. And with Poltergeist and then the unimaginable heights that E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial took Spielberg and his work a mere 12 months later, his place in film history and our world culture was fully concretized. Not bad at all for a young man in his early 30s…. Despite all this, Raiders felt as something of an anomaly to Spielberg's already established voice and style when it came out in 1981. With Duel, The Sugarland Express, Jaws, and especially Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg showed the world he was both an expert director and highly technical filmmaker, but he'd also revealed a clear sense of personality, voice and even heart. The New Yorker critic Pauline Kael bemoaned Raiders as a large and damnable sidestep for Spielberg, being of an impersonal filmmaking nature she blamed on Lucas*. In some ways, she's right, Spielberg didn't agree to work on Raiders as a chance to put pieces of himself in his film as he demonstrably did in The Sugarland Express and Close Encounters. But Duel and Jaws were arguably and at Spielberg's own admission more mechanical exercises in manipulating the form and also his audiences. I think Raiders is an extension of those films' aims. They were all works for hire on which Spielberg still did a consummate expert's job where he could have done a journeyman's work. And he made it all look so easy. (*Kael clearly didn't grasp the voice and biography Lucas brought to American Graffiti and Star Wars, two very popular films imbued with their creator's personal concerns and feelings.)

Bouzereau: It ranks very high. It introduced us to yet another side of Steven’s immense talent.

Higgins: Just behind Jaws.

Lichtenfeld: It’s certainly high up there. It’s such a clear and high-level illustration of his whole approach to filmmaking: from his visual style to the silent-film-like construction of his action sequences to the themes that preoccupied him for so long…. In retrospect, it seems like one of the movies Spielberg was just destined to make — but of course, that’s often how history looks, and not how it actually unfolds. In fact, before he made Raiders, he told Rolling Stone, “Hopefully, 1941 is the last movie I make that celebrates the boy in me.” If there’s an alternate universe where that’s what happened, I can’t imagine how modern film history turned out. Come to think of it, I can’t imagine how I turned out.

Matessino: Steven Spielberg has remarked that he didn’t feel Raiders was personal in any way. However, it is a vitally important movie in his career. Prior to that he made three pictures that all went over budget and over schedule: Jaws, Close Encounters and 1941. The first two were redeemed by grand successes at the box office and with the critics. But 1941, as much as I and many fans of Spielberg’s work love that movie, was a very sobering experience for him. Thank God Raiders came to him when it did, because he achieved a discipline on that project that enabled him to grow as an artist and become a successful producer in his own right. Raiders actually came in under budget and ahead of schedule, and this directly paved the way for the one-two punch of Poltergeist and E.T. the following year and the formation of his production company. Even if Raiders had not been a box office success, it would be impossible to assess Steven Spielberg’s career without examining what he was able to pull off with it.

McBride: Not very high. The Spielberg films I most esteem are Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler’s List, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Those films have hearts, souls, and poetry, all of which Raiders lacks.

Coate: Where do you think Raiders ranks among the Indiana Jones movies?

Awalt: Without a doubt, Raiders is the very top-shelf in the Indiana Jones adventures. I'm a huge fan of Temple of Doom since back to 1984, and I enjoy Last Crusade and yes, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but Raiders stands very tall within the series and also within all adventure films throughout all of Hollywood history. It's where the world first met, fell in love with and thrilled to the adventures of Indiana Jones, Marion Ravenwood, Sallah and Marcus Brody. Everything that has followed builds on the rock-solid foundation that is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Bouzereau: It is the best of all the four films. It sets the tone and has an innocence to it… But I have to say that each of the other films are also quite special and original. I have experienced them through the years and have enjoyed rediscovering them through my documentaries. And working on Skull was a highlight of my own modest career as documentarian of behind-the-scenes. That’s an experience I’ll never forget!

Higgins: Far, far, far out ahead. I’m happy to defend the other films, but no matter how much I love them, I always feel like I’m making a case for them (and allowances for them) in light of Raiders. The highest achievements of the other films (the tank-vs horse fight/chase in Last Crusade) and their great weaknesses (the various ex machina) are never quite as good or are just a bit worse than Raiders.

Lichtenfeld: It’s first — in both senses of the word. But it’s so clearly the best that the question I always find more interesting is where do Temple of Doom and Last Crusade come out in the battle for second place?

Matessino: It’s clearly the tightest and most solidly successful of the series and is important because it’s the first one, but on a personal level I enjoy Last Crusade more. The themes of that picture, particularly the father/son aspect and the whole idea of a “leap of faith” resonate with me. When looking at all of the films I feel Last Crusade might be the only genuine Steven Spielberg movie of the series, at least thematically. Of course it never would have existed without Raiders, which, as I said, is a template for an entire genre.

McBride: I prefer Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, because it has Nazis as villains rather than Third World ethnic caricatures. We all despise Nazis. The filmmakers had trouble eventually finding acceptable villains for these films because they became more aware of the problems stereotyping ethnic groups and with the crassness and casual brutality of the central character; eventually, in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indy winds up on the side of the "natives" and returns treasures rather than looting them. Last Crusade also has a more relaxed, expansive visual feel and a more interesting storyline than the others, with its religious overtones. (Spielberg's films are full of Christian iconography and themes.) The most loathsome of the four films, by far, is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which is the most flagrantly racist, as well as filled with ghastly hyper-violence throughout, aside from a few comic setpieces such as Kate Capshaw's charming song number in Chinese. Spielberg was in a dark state of mind when he made that ugly film. Unlike many Indiana Jones fans, I sort of like Crystal Skull — or as someone called it, Indiana Jones and the Terrible Title. What I like about it is the generally unnoticed fact that Spielberg is amusing himself by parodying his work in various genres. The destruction of the fake suburban town — "Doom Town," or Spielbergland, in effect — is the best part of the film. Spielberg's gift for parody is rarely appreciated, but it's an integral part of his work. It is responsible for some of the better aspects of Raiders, (for example, the boulder).

Coate: Would you like to see more Indiana Jones movies?

Awalt: I have been hoping beyond hope that Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy, and the entire Raiders team would get back together for more Indy adventures. I love the whole Indiana Jones series dearly. Crystal Skull disappointed what seems to be a large set of very vocal fans, but it did receive a majority of positive professional notices, and it was undeniably a box-office smash in 2008. For that reason alone one would think there would be at least a studio imperative for carrying the beloved series forward…. I also see admirers like myself, who consider Crystal Skull an important progression in the adventures of these beloved characters. It has its flaws, especially compared to Raiders or Temple of Doom, but where everything clicks, I still maintain it’s a damned good expansion of the Indiana Jones mythos. I loved the Chariots of the Gods angle, the Soviet interest in the paranormal and especially seeing an aged Indy in a whole new era. I hope we can see more films set in that time period and with similar themes — Cold War, paranormal, supernatural and super-ordinary themes that were a part of the American imagination from the 1950s to the 1970s. I also hope that critical notices about the outre "alien" theme in Crystal Skull don't send the filmmakers back to safer ground like we saw with Last Crusade after outcry toward Temple of Doom in 1984. Keep pushing Indy into new realms, and make another film or two to be of a piece with Crystal Skull and this time in Indy's storied life.

Bouzereau: Absolutely!!

Higgins: I think the franchise has legs and unexplored potential. No question it needs a reboot, and not just another installment, but it is full of creative possibilities. The trick would be to pull this off without aping recent trends — that is without Indy becoming the morally ambiguous dark avenger, or another Marvelous hero. Probably would be safer to reboot Romancing the Stone; that way if it failed no one would care.

Lichtenfeld: Of course I would like to see more Indiana Jones movies. But that doesn’t mean I think more Indiana Jones movies should be made.

Matessino: I’d be all for one more Indiana Jones movie with Harrison Ford that wraps up the series in an appropriate and satisfying way, validates all four of the films (as well the Young Indiana Jones series), and which perhaps sets things up for a reboot in a way that audiences will accept and get excited about. I fully believe that something like that is achievable.

McBride: If Spielberg enjoys them, why not? They're divertissements in the midst of his more substantial work. I think it's good that he doesn't spend all his time making heavyweight films but also indulges his gift for escapism. He is an artist with many facets and that rare thing, a great popular artist.

Coate: What is the legacy of Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Awalt: The true legacy of Raiders of the Lost Ark is why I think pictures of its ilk are chiefly made: Films like Raiders forever place audiences under a completely enchanting, exciting and emotional spell as it sweeps viewers up. Few films have ever done that as brilliantly as Raiders of the Lost Ark, and its reputation with audiences over the last 35 years certainly bears this out. For me, Raiders is an oversized barrel of fresh, hot movie theater popcorn and a tall ice cold Coke on a summer's day in a dark and cavernous theater looking up toward a bright, massive movie screen. It's a dream of a movie, and movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark are made to help us all dream.

Bouzereau: It checks all of the boxes of what a great film should be.

Higgins: Pitfall! Tales of the Gold Monkey! And every summer action film. That legacy can go terribly, terribly, wrong — but it still pays off in movies that take pride in their craft, and have the courage to “rollick.”

Lichtenfeld: Raiders gave us a pop-culture icon. It gave us The Raiders March. It cemented the movie-star status of one of the great movie stars of his time, if not of all time. And it helped ensure that the 1980s would be the decade of the blockbuster. It also took an entire tradition of mostly forgettable filmmaking and gave legitimacy to its underlying spirit. That’s a lot for one movie to do…. But I hope that as people visit and revisit Raiders, they’ll see it not just as the beginning of something even bigger, but also as something all its own, and on its own merits. Because it’s one of those movies where everything matters: every sound, every cut, every movement, every composition. And if by some freak occurrence, none of the rest had happened — no sequels, no theme park attractions, no iconic status for Harrison Ford or for John Williams’ music, no influence on the film business or the cultural zeitgeist — that would still be more of a legacy than most movies leave behind.

Matessino: Raiders is the movie against which all others in its genre are measured. One comes away from watching it feeling completely satisfied with the action, with the story, and with the inner journey of the characters and repeated viewings don’t diminish its impact. How many movies have truly done that to the degree Raiders does?

McBride: I think I have said all I have to say about it here and in my biography of Spielberg!

Coate: Thank you, Steven, Laurent, Scott, Eric, Mike, and Joseph, for participating and sharing your thoughts on Raiders of the Lost Ark on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of its release.


Primary references for this project were promotional material published in hundreds of daily newspapers archived digitally and/or on microfilm plus numerous articles published in film industry trade publications Boxoffice, The Hollywood Reporter, Mad, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Time, and Variety. Film industry documents referenced included Dolby Stereo installation records. Books referenced included The Complete Making of Indiana Jones: The Definitive Story Behind All Four Films by Laurent Bouzereau & Jonathan Rinzler (2008, Ballantine/Del Rey), The Films of Steven Spielberg by Douglas Brode (1995, Citadel), George Lucas: The Creative Impulse by Charles Champlin (1992, Abrams), George Lucas’s Blockbusting: A Decade-By-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of their Financial and Cultural Success edited by Alex Ben Block and Lucy Autrey Wilson (2010, George Lucas Books/HarperCollins), The Hollywood Reporter Book of Box Office Hits by Susan Sackett (1996, Billboard), The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark by Derek Taylor (1981, Ballantine), The Movie Brats: How the Film Generation Took Over Hollywood by Michael Pye and Lynda Myles (1979, Holt, Rinehart and Winston), The Movie Business Book edited by Jason E. Squire (1983, Fireside), Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Illustrated Screenplay (1981, Ballantine), Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas by Dale Pollack (1983, Harmony), Spielberg: The Man, the Movies, the Mythology by Frank Sanello (1996, Taylor), Steven Spielberg: A Biography by Joseph McBride (1997, Simon & Schuster), Steven Spielberg: The Man, his Movies and their Meaning by Philip M. Taylor (1992, Continuum). The following films were referenced: Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Lucasfilm Ltd./Paramount Pictures), The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Lucasfilm Ltd./Paramount Pictures), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Lucasfilm Ltd./Paramount Pictures). Websites referenced include BoxOfficeMojo, CinemaTour, CinemaTreasures, FromScriptToDVD, The Numbers, and In70mm. This is a revised and updated version of a previously-published article.

Jerry Alexander, Al Alvarez, Steven Awalt, Laura Baas, Jim Barg, Kirk Besse, Larry Blake, Herbert Born, Laurent Bouzereau, Raymond Caple, Miguel Carrara, Bob Collins, John Cork, Jonathan Crist, Gerald DeLuca, Nick DiMaggio, Mike Durrett, Monte Fullmer, Steve Guttag, Thomas Hauerslev, John Hawkinson, John Hazelton, Mike Heenan, Scott Higgins, Sarah Kenyon, Bill Kretzel, Roberto Landazuri, Mark Lensenmayer, Eric Lichtenfeld, Stan Malone, Mike Matessino, Joseph McBride, Gabriel Neeb, Jim Perry, Grant Smith, Cliff Stephenson, John Stewart, Bob Throop, Joel Weide, Brian Whitish, Blaine Young, Vince Young, and to all of the librarians who helped with the research for this project.

Copyright Lucasfilm Ltd. / Paramount Pictures / Paramount Home Entertainment

All figures and data included in this article pertain to the United States and Canada except where stated otherwise.

Ronald Lacey (“Toht”), 1935-1991
Tutte Lemkow (“Imam”), 1918-1991
Denholm Elliott (“Marcus Brody”), 1922-1992
John Rees (“Sergeant”), 1927-1994
Ishaq Bux (“Omar”), 1917-2000
Anthony Chinn (“Mohan”), 1930-2000
Peter Diamond (Stunt Arranger), 1929-2004
Mary Selway (Casting), 1936-2004
Pat Roach (“Giant Sherpa” and “1st Mechanic”), 1937-2004
William Hootkins (“Major Eaton”), 1948-2005
Don Fellows (”Col. Musgrove”), 1922-2007
Patrick Durkin (“Australian Climber”), 1936-2009
Bill Varney (Re-Recording Mixer), 1934-2011
Ralph McQuarrie (Illustrator), 1929-2012
Michael Moore (Second Unit Director), 1914-2013
Terry Richards (“Arab Swordsman”), 1932-2014
Tony Vogel (“Tall Captain”), 1942-2015
Douglas Slocombe (Director of Photography), 1913-2016

-----Michael Coate

Michael Coate can be reached at:

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Mitchell Dvoskin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1869
From: West Milford, NJ, USA
Registered: Jan 2001

 - posted 06-17-2016 08:49 AM      Profile for Mitchell Dvoskin   Email Mitchell Dvoskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Very nice article. It brings back fond memories of the RKO Stanley Warner Route 4 Theatre in Paramus NJ.

I don't remember after all these years whether it was before or after they upgraded from 35mm to 70mm, but me and a bunch of friend were there one weekend at a sold out show (over 1000 people) when the sound died. They left the film running with no sound, and after about 5 minutes one of my friends stood up and in his loud deep voice said "I don't know about anyone else, but I want my money back". We all left, and apparently 400 or so people followed us out to the lobby. We didn't get our money back, but we all did get passes to come back at a later date. I felt sorry for the poor manager.

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Monte L Fullmer
Film God

Posts: 8367
From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
Registered: Nov 2004

 - posted 06-21-2016 03:11 AM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I saw "Raiders" at the Villa in 70mm .. being a 35mm blowup.

One of the last carbon arc, 70mm presentations there.

With "Temple" came out in 1984, MANN Theatres had dumped the SuperCorelites and went with Xetron 4K consoles.

Presentation really suffered with that lamphouse change.

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Bill Gabel
Film God

Posts: 3873
From: Technicolor / Postworks NY, USA
Registered: Jan 2002

 - posted 06-21-2016 03:46 PM      Profile for Bill Gabel   Email Bill Gabel   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Saw "Raiders of the Lost Ark" opening night in 70MM at Mann's National Theatre in Westwood near UCLA. Saw it later that week Mann's Chinese theatre also in 70MM. And later in other runs at Pacific's Cinerama Dome, Pacific's Picwood and Mann's Bruin theatre all in 70MM.

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Paul Linfesty
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1383
From: Bakersfield, CA, USA
Registered: Nov 1999

 - posted 06-23-2016 09:45 AM      Profile for Paul Linfesty   Email Paul Linfesty   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Mitchell Dvoskin
I don't remember after all these years whether it was before or after they upgraded from 35mm to 70mm
I assume the theatre opened with 70mm. This picture link shows movie ads from 1970:

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Michael Coate
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1904
From: Los Angeles, California
Registered: Feb 2001

 - posted 06-24-2016 11:01 PM      Profile for Michael Coate   Email Michael Coate   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Paul... I believe the upgrade Mitchell was referring to was that of the "Raiders" print, not whether or not the venue could handle 70mm at the time. (Yes, they had 70 capability there from Day One.) I think he was saying he couldn't remember if he saw "Raiders" during its first few weeks while it was screened in 35mm or if he saw it after they had switched over to a 70mm print.*

quote: Michael Coate, 'Raiders' article
Paramus — Route Four 4-plex (28 weeks) <70mm from Week #4>
*You'll note from looking over the 70mm list in the article that the Paramus, NJ, run was not the only one to have started in 35mm and switched mid-run to 70mm. (I've not been able to confirm if this was due to the lab being unable to complete the entire 70mm print order in time for the release, or if it was a case of the studio deciding to order additional 70mm prints after the movie was already in release.)

Whatever the case, while looking over the list to prep this comment, I noticed that the posting is incomplete for reasons I don't understand. The missing details certainly are present in the actual Digital Bits version, but certain parenthetical details have been omitted here. For instance, some of the Montreal engagements were in French and a few of the entries are missing a "moveover from..." notation. I guess the program Brad uses gets tripped up by () and <> icons and arbitrarily chooses not to include them and any characters contained within. Weird, because the "70mm from Week #..." items do appear to all be present. Also, any bolded or italicized words in the online original have lost that stylization here, which, in my opinion, gives an amateurish appearance and makes it more difficult to read. And the images are missing, too (but I expected that). I also noticed the last few entries on the 70mm list in the '83 re-release section are not in chronological order...but that's my fault!

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Ron Funderburg
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 814
From: Chickasha, Oklahoma, USA
Registered: Nov 2007

 - posted 07-02-2016 02:15 PM      Profile for Ron Funderburg   Author's Homepage   Email Ron Funderburg   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
K-Theaters in Longmont, CO ran Raiders for seven to nine months solid it only moved to a smaller screen after the fourth month. The last night it ran there were about 40 people in the 7:00 and maybe 15 in the late show. I'd be willing to bet everyone there had seen the movie at least one time before.

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