History, Legacy & Showmanship
Monday, 05 June 2017 02:01

Revisiting Cuesta Verde: Remembering “Poltergeist” on its 35th Anniversary

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“It knows what scares you.”

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective article commemorating the 35th anniversary of the release of Poltergeist, Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed horror film starring Jobeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson and Zelda Rubinstein and featuring Academy Award-nominated Visual Effects, Music and Sound Effects Editing. [Read on here...]

Poltergeist, one of the most popular horror films ever made, opened in theaters 35 years ago this week, and for the occasion The Bits features a compilation of statistics, trivia and box-office data that places the movie’s performance in context; passages from vintage film reviews; a reference/historical listing of the film’s premium-format presentations; and, finally, an interview segment with film music and Spielberg authority Mike Matessino.




  • 0 = Number of weeks nation’s top-grossing movie
  • 1 = Box-office rank among films in the Poltergeist series
  • 1 = Rank among top-earning horror films of 1982
  • 2 = Rank on list of top-earning films of MGM/UA’s 1982 slate
  • 3 = Number of Academy Award nominations
  • 3 = Rank among top-earning movies during opening weekend
  • 4 = Number of sequels, remakes and spin-offs
  • 5 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1982 (summer)
  • 6 = Number of months between theatrical release and home-video release
  • 8 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1982 (calendar year)
  • 28 = Number of weeks of longest-running engagement
  • 37 = Number of 70mm prints
  • 62 = Rank on all-time list of top box-office earners at close of original release
  • 890 = Number of opening-week engagements
  • $34.98 = Suggested retail price of initial home video release (videodiscs)
  • $79.98 = Suggested retail price of initial home video release (VHS and Beta)
  • $7,749 = Opening-weekend per-screen average
  • $6.9 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross
  • $10.7 million = Production cost
  • $17.5 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)
  • $27.1 million = Production cost (adjusted for inflation)
  • $36.2 million = Box-office rental (domestic; as of 12/31/82)
  • $37.7 million = Box-office rental (domestic; as of 12/31/83)
  • $38.2 million = Box-office rental (domestic; legacy)
  • $45.1 million = Box-office gross (international)
  • $76.6 million = Box-office gross (domestic)
  • $96.8 million = Box-office rental (domestic, adjusted for inflation)
  • $114.3 million = Box-office gross (international, adjusted for inflation)
  • $121.7 million = Box-office gross (worldwide)
  • $194.1 million = Box-office gross (domestic, adjusted for inflation)
  • $308.4 million = Box-office gross (worldwide, adjusted for inflation)





“This is the movie The Amityville Horror dreamed of being.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“[I]t is a pleasure to see a horror movie that does not base its entertainment on obscene fantasies about killing defenseless women.” — Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer

“There is no moviemaker anywhere who can wrest so much fun out of the commonplace — the toys, gimmicks, hardware and habits of contemporary America. Spielberg is simply a wizard at mirroring us and our manifold junk in brilliant satirical flourishes.” — Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle

“If ever a protest might be made of a PG rating, this would be the film.” — Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times

“Aside from a deliciously frightening locking of a door and a surprising tug on a mother’s dress, the new terror film Poltergeist is without terror, thrills or entertainment value. In fact, the last half of the picture is a bunch of silly mumbo jumbo that combines the worst elements of The Exorcist and the pseudoscientific laugh riot, Beyond and Back.” — Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

Poltergeist is like a thoroughly enjoyable nightmare, one that you know that you can always wake up from, and one in which, at the end, no one has permanently been damaged. It’s also witty in a fashion that Alfred Hitchcock might have appreciated. Offhand, I can’t think of many other directors who could raise goose bumps by playing The Star-Spangled Banner behind a film’s opening credits.” — Vincent Canby, The New York Times

“A superior, spectacular ghost story.” — Charles Michener, Newsweek

Poltergeist is a nice, civilized monster movie for anyone who giggled with terror at The Exorcist. It is true the film has something of an identity problem; often it seems unable to make up its mind whether it’s trying to scare the bejesus out of you or simply make you laugh. But then, perhaps this is due to the fact that the direction is shared by Tobe Hooper, who made the bloodspattered Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), who thinks of outer space as populated by colonies of Peter Pans.” — Gina Mallet, Toronto Star

“Honest thrills and spine-snapping chills.” — Richard Corliss, Time

Poltergeist provides a sharp and canny mixture of cerebral chills and raw, visceral thrills. Few other horror films have managed to merge the psychological and the literal with such harmonious results.” — Philip Wuntch, The Dallas Morning News

“[Poltergeist] is a dazzling, laser fun house of a film where the ride is too much fun to be anything scary.” — Jack Mathews, Detroit Free Press

Poltergeist, the first salvo from what may be remembered as Steven Spielberg Summer, has arrived and the results are oddly uneven. In terms of simple, flat-out, roof-rattling fright, Poltergeist gives full value. In terms of story, however, simple is indeed the word, and dumb might be a better one.” — Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times

Poltergeist is a walloping ghost story, as fun and entertaining to watch as it often is frightening. It has all the ingredients of a summer hit for Steven Spielberg who ran away with box office dollars last summer with Raiders of the Lost Ark and seems certain to do it again with this film as well as the upcoming E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.” — Carol Olten, The San Diego Union

“[Poltergeist] is a much more exciting experience in stereo and 70mm.” — Ted Mahar, The (Portland) Oregonian

“The slam-bang technical professionalism of Poltergeist is exhilarating. This is classically seamless Hollywood moviemaking evolved to its highest state.” — Scott Sublett, The Washington Times

Poltergeist reawakens childhood fears. For a couple of hours, it is a roller-coaster ride of thrills, chills and shivers. Spielberg says Poltergeist is his revenge on television. It may be just a splendidly crafted thriller, and it certainly could never happen in real life. But I, for one, am turning off the TV tonight before I go to sleep. Maybe even when I first get home.” — Donna Chernin, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

“It’s an absolutely irresistible good time. Poltergeist is intelligent, witty, and it will scare the bejeesus out of you. It even offers a moral to all unscrupulous real estate developers — but I can’t tell you anymore than that or I’ll spoil the story.” — Ellen Pfeifer, The Boston Herald

Poltergeist could have been a more frightening movie, with more chilling after-effects, but that’s not what Spielberg and Hooper had in mind. They clearly wanted the kind of horror movie you could take your kids or your parents to see, and they’ve succeeded.” — John Hartl, The Seattle Times

Poltergeist is the best ghost story I’ve ever seen. That’s the sort of sweeping statement I normally avoid, but there’s no need for quibbling this time. Steven Spielberg’s new production is unadultered good fun — as scary, happy and harmless as a roller coaster ride.” — George Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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