This Day in Pop Culture for November 23

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

1977: ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ Opens in Theaters

It is said that the science fiction film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was partially responsible for saving Columbia Pictures from bankruptcy. Written and directed by Steven Spielberg (although he was aided in the writing my several others) the film centered on Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss) an everyday man living in Indiana whose life is turned upside down after his encounter with an UFO. Initially, Spielberg told Columbia that he estimated that the film would cost $2.7 million to make. In the end, the film wound up costing around $19.4 million. If they studio had known just how expensive the film was to produce, they never would have approved of the project. The movie was supposed to be released during the summer of 1977 but got pushed back because of delays. Spielberg wanted to wait until the following summer to release the film, but Columbia pushed to have the film’s wide release be on this day in 1977. Also starring Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr and François Truffaut, the film was able to make about $300 million worldwide. Close Encounters was nominated for eight Academy Awards but only won one for cinematography. After the success of the film, Spielberg went back to Columbia asking to make a director’s cut of the movie. They gave the “go ahead” on the condition that he would include a shot from the inside of the spacecraft. Spielberg agreed, but he didn’t like the idea. He thought it should have remained a mystery. Spielberg added seven minutes of new footage that helped to develop the characters better and took away ten minutes of previous scenes. The “special edition” of the film was released in August of 1980.

1936: Debut of the ‘New’ LIFE Magazine

Originally a humor and general interest magazine, LIFE began publishing in 1883. However, it wasn’t until this day in 1936 that became the photojournal magazine that it is known for. Henry Luce, founder of Time magazine purchased LIFE earlier in the year and shifted its focus to news. He believed that pictures could tell stories instead of just illustrating text. Photos were printed on thick glossy paper. The format was a success. The first issue was published during the Great Depression and instead of focusing on the war, the first cover showed the Fort Peck Dam in Montana photographed by Margaret Bourke-White. By the 1950’s the magazine started to lose reader due to the popularity of TV. On December 29, 1972, LIFE printed its last weekly publication.


  • 1888: Harpo Marx (actor)
  • 1971: Chris Hardwick (TV host)
  • 1992: Miley Cyrus (singer)

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