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Chapter 7: The great adventure returns


Raiders of the Lost Ark came out on June 12, 1981 in 1708 theaters across the United States and soon became the most profitable film and the cinematic event of the year.

Spielberg in front of Raiders posterThe film opens with a great 15-minute sequence filled with so much action that the audience could leave the theater in these first minutes totally satisfied. Spielberg's intention was to keep close to the spirit of the old serials, which always began with a brisk reprise of the previous week's cliffhanger. "It's not part of Raiders at all. It belongs to the film that comes before it - Raiders of the Lost Fertility Idol, if you like", was Spielberg's aspect. On the other hand Spielberg was fulfilling an old desire. To make a James Bond film. In all the James Bond films their opening sequence had nothing to do with the movie's real plot. So, in Raiders Spielberg uses this style of storytelling to introduce the character of Indiana Jones.

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Ford with his sons.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was a hit not only in the United States but all over the world making Ford begin a tour around Europe to promote it. He attended the London opening in July and several festivals. In Britain in less than two weeks into its initial run Raiders earned nearly $5 million and became the number one slot in bookings outpacing England's "national" hero James Bond's For Your Eyes Only. In Paris, 500 people were turned away when Raiders opened to a full house on the Champs Elysees. French spurred by a chorus of rave reviews from critics at the Deauville film festival, Raiders drew fully 21% of all filmgoers in the French capital on its opening day. In Italy a month before the scheduled opening day Raiders distributor ordered a record number of prints to satisfy a demand that is soaring on word-of-mouth alone.

At the Venice film festival, the normally blasé audience at a Raiders screening cheered wildly for the good guys and hissed the bud guys just like kids used to do when they went to the movies years ago.

Audiences around the world responded to Harrison Ford's heroisms transforming him into a real superstar. His performance as Indiana Jones marvelously, combines elements of Errol Flynn, Cary Grand and Clark Gable. From the first moment of casting for Raiders Spielberg wanted someone like Harrison Ford. Someone who could be villainous and romantic at the same time. Derek Taylor wrote for Ford's performance, "Harrison was so crucial to the film and so rarely off screen that had he been unpleasant, things could have been really miserable".

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Karen Allen in action.

Of course credits should be given to the rest of the cast, too. Especially, to Karen Allen, who was the only woman in the film. Allen with her intense presence and her aggressive sexuality managed to impose her role as equal among the other male characters creating a 80s female profile although it was referring in the late 30s.

The success of Raiders grew even more when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science nominated it for eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, only to win five of them.

Raiders of the Lost Ark earned $384 million worldwide and became the first video to sell a million.

Paramount made $49 million in film rentals, recovering its $22 million production investment in the process. Spielberg made in excess of $22 million, more than he had earned from all his previous hit movies combined. Lucasfilm made $21 million from Raiders and Lucas personally earned only $2,5 million as producer. The other profit participants, including actors and crew members, divided more than $7 million in profit percentages. Lucasfilm now gets 50% of everything Raiders earns after Spielberg's share is deducted. Paramount has maintained the right to distribute Raiders forever.

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