Released June 11, 1982, E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL is arguably the moment that Steven Spielberg became "Steven Spielberg." With a resume already boasting JAWS (1975), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), E.T. surpassed them all at the box office, remaining at the top for six weeks and ultimately grossing a then-unheard-of $359 million during its initial theatrical run. It was still in first-run theaters a year after its release. But it started relatively small, opening in first place with $11 million on 1100 screens. But great reviews and positive word of mouth caused it to get more popular as the weeks went on and moviegoers went back to see it multiple times. By its sixth week, it was still making more than it did during its initial weekend. Throughout the rest of the summer, it would be knocked out of the top spot three times by new films, but would be back on top the next weekend. As late as the weekend of October 15, 1982, E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL was still the #1 movie in the country.
|Spielberg directing Henry Thomas|
|Thomas, Drew Barrymore, and Robert MacNaughton.|
Like any huge success, E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL became a pop-culture phenomenon, and not just for adding "penis breath" to the lexicon. Sales of Reese's Pieces skyrocketed, "E.T. phone home!" became a catchphrase, Neil Diamond based his hit song "Heartlight" on it, and it also led to what's largely considered the worst Atari 2600 game ever created.
Neil Diamond was a big fan of the film and in response to it, wrote "Heartlight" with Carole Bayer Sager and Burt Bacharach. Released in late 1982, "Heartlight" is, to date, Diamond's last chart-topping single, though it cost him and his co-writers $25,000 to utilize the ideas from Spielberg's film in the song.
E.T. also spawned the usual ripoffs, though less in number than you'd expect. One highlight was the Spanish-made POD PEOPLE (1983), which became a classic MST3K episode. Directed by Juan Piquer Simon (PIECES), POD PEOPLE had a young boy befriending an aardvark-looking alien and naming him "Trumpy." Even worse than that was the positively fecal MAC AND ME (1988), a feature-length McDonald's commercial disguised as a movie. MAC AND ME is an embarrassment even by the standards of shameless ripoffs.
E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL is due out on Blu-ray later this year, and Spielberg has assured fans that the ill-advised changes he made to the 20th anniversary edition in 2002 will be reversed. Apparently suffering from an acute bout of George Lucasitis, Spielberg digitally removed some guns being waved by federal agents and replaced them with walkie-talkies. After the changes met with much criticism, Spielberg regretted his decision and vowed he was finished digitally altering his past films. If only he could convince Lucas to do the same.