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American Graffiti

Catalog Number
66010
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American Graffiti (1973)

Additional Information

Additional Information
Where were you in '62?


It's the last night of summer 1962, and the teenagers of Modesto, California, want to have some fun before adult responsibilities close in. Among them are Steve (Ron Howard) and Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), college-bound with mixed feelings about leaving home; nerdy Terry "The Toad" (Charles Martin Smith), who scores a dream date with blonde Debbie (Candy Clark); and John (Paul Le Mat ), a 22-year-old drag racer who wonders how much longer he can stay champion and how he got stuck with 13-year-old Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) in his deuce coupe. As D. J. Wolfman Jack spins 41 vintage tunes on the radio throughout the night, Steve ponders a future with girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams), Curt chases a mystery blonde, Terry tries to act cool, and Paul prepares for a race against Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford), but nothing can stop the next day from coming, and with it the vastly different future ushered in by the 1960s. Fresh off The Godfather (1972), producer Francis Ford Coppola had the clout to get his friend George Lucas's project made, but only for $750,000 on a 28-day shooting schedule. Despite technical obstacles, and having to shoot at night, cinematographer Haskell Wexler gave the film the neon-lit aura that Lucas wanted, evoking the authentic look of a suburban strip to go with the authentic sound of rock-n-roll. Universal, which wanted to call the film Another Slow Night in Modesto, thought it was unreleasable. But Lucas' period detail, co-writers Willard Huyck's and Gloria Katz's realistic dialogue, and the film's nostalgia for the pre-Vietnam years apparently appealed to a 1973 audience embroiled in cultural chaos: American Graffiti became the third most popular movie of 1973 (after The Exorcist and The Sting), establishing the reputations of Lucas (whose next film would be Star Wars) and his young cast, and furthering the onset of soundtrack-driven, youth-oriented movies. Although the film helped spark 1970s nostalgia for the 1950s, nothing else would capture the flavor of the era with the same humorous candor and latent sense of foreboding.

American Graffiti is a 1973 coming of age film directed and co-written by George Lucas starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips and Wolfman Jack; Suzanne Somers was the blonde in the T-bird. Set in 1962 Modesto, California, American Graffiti is a study of the cruising and rock and roll cultures popular among the post–World War II baby boom generation. The film is a nostalgic portrait of teenage life in the early 1960s told in a series of vignettes, featuring the story of a group of teenagers and their adventures within one night.
The genesis of American Graffiti was in Lucas' own teenage years in early 1960s Modesto. He was unsuccessful in pitching the concept to financiers and distributors but finally found favor at Universal Pictures after United Artists, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Paramount Pictures turned him down. Filming was initially set to take place in San Rafael, California, but the production crew was denied permission to shoot beyond a second day. As a result, most filming for American Graffiti was done in Petaluma.
American Graffiti was released to universal critical acclaim and financial success, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Produced on a $775,000 budget, the film has turned out to be one of the most profitable movies of all time. Since its initial release, American Graffiti has garnered an estimated return of well over $200 million in box office gross and home video sales, not including merchandising. In 1995, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.


Despite unanimous praise at a January 1973 test screening attended by Universal executive Ned Tanen, the studio told Lucas they wanted to re-edit his original cut of American Graffiti.[24] Producer Coppola sided with Lucas against Tanen and Universal, offering to "buy the film" from the studio and reimburse it for the $775,000 it had cost to make it.[18] 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures made similar offers to the studio.[3] Universal refused these offers and told Lucas they planned to have William Hornbeck re-edit the film.[25]
When Coppola's The Godfather (1972) won the Academy Award for Best Picture in March 1973, Universal relented, and agreed to cut only three scenes (about four minutes) from Lucas's cut—an encounter between Toad and a fast-talking car salesman, an argument between Steve and his former teacher Mr. Kroot at the sock hop, and an effort by Bob Falfa to serenade Laurie with "Some Enchanted Evening"—but decided that the film was only fit for release as a television movie.[18]
However, various studio employees who had seen the film began talking it up, and its reputation grew through word of mouth.[18] The studio dropped the TV movie idea and began arranging for a limited release in selected theaters in Los Angeles and New York.[8] Universal presidents Sidney Sheinberg and Lew Wasserman heard about the praise the film had been garnering in LA and New York, and the marketing department amped up their promotion strategy for it,[8] investing an additional $500,000 in marketing and promotion.[3] The film was released in the United States on August 1, 1973 to sleeper hit reception.[26] The film had cost only $1.27 million to produce and market, but yielded worldwide box office gross revenues of more than $55 million.[27] It had only modest success outside the United States, but became a cult film in France.[25]
Universal reissued Graffiti in 1978 and earned an additional $63 million, which brought the total revenue for the two releases to $118 million.[3] The reissue included stereophonic sound,[27] and the additional four minutes that the studio had removed from Lucas's original cut. All home video releases also included these scenes.[18] At the end of its theatrical run, American Graffiti had one of the lowest cost-to-profit ratios of a motion picture ever.[3] Producer Francis Ford Coppola regretted having not financed the film himself. Lucas recalled, "He would have made $30 million on the deal. He never got over it and he still kicks himself."[25] It was the thirteenth-highest grossing film of all time in 1977,[26] and, adjusted for inflation, is currently the forty-third highest.[28] By the 1990s, American Graffiti had earned more than $200 million in box office gross and home video sales.[3] In December 1997 Variety reported that the film had earned an additional $55.13 million in rental revenue.[29]
Universal Studios Home Entertainment first released the film on DVD in September 1998,[30] and once more as a double feature with More American Graffiti (1979) in January 2004.[31]
Aside from the four minutes originally deleted from Lucas' original cut retained, the only major change in the DVD version is the main title sequence, particularly the sky background to Mel's Drive-In, which was redone by ILM.
Universal released the film on Blu-ray on May 31, 2011.


nternet reviewer MaryAnn Johanson acknowledged that American Graffiti rekindled public and entertainment interest in the 1950s and 1960s, and influenced other films such as The Lords of Flatbush (1974) and Cooley High (1975) and the TV series Happy Days.[44] Alongside other films from the New Hollywood era, American Graffiti is often cited for helping give birth to the summer blockbuster.[45] The film's box office success made George Lucas an instant millionaire. He gave an amount of the film's profits to Haskell Wexler for his visual consulting help during filming, and to Wolfman Jack for "inspiration". Lucas's net worth was now $4 million, and he set aside a $300,000 independent fund for his long cherished space opera project, which would eventually become the basis for Star Wars (1977).[18]
The financial success of Graffiti also gave Lucas opportunities to establish more elaborate development for Lucasfilm, Skywalker Sound, and Industrial Light & Magic.[27] Based on the success of the 1977 reissue, Universal began production for the sequel More American Graffiti (1979).[3] Lucas and writers, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, later collaborated on Radioland Murders (1994), also released by Universal Pictures, for which Lucas acted as executive producer. The film features characters intended to be Curt and Laurie Henderson's parents, Roger and Penny Henderson.[27] In 1995 American Graffiti was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[46] In 1997 the city of Modesto, California, honored Lucas with a statue dedication of American Graffiti at George Lucas Plaza.[2]
In 1998 the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked it as the 77th greatest film ever in the 100 Years... 100 Movies list. When the 10th Anniversary Edition came in June 2007, AFI moved American Graffiti to the sixty-second greatest film.[47] The movie was also listed as the forty-third funniest.[48] The song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" was nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs.[49] Director David Fincher credited American Graffiti as a visual influence for Fight Club (1999).[50] Lucas's Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) features references to the film. The yellow airspeeder that Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi use to pursue the bounty hunter, Zam Wesell, is based on John Milner's yellow deuce coupe,[51] while Dex's Diner is reminiscent of Mel's Drive-In.[52] Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of MythBusters conducted the "rear axle" experiment on the January 11, 2004, episode.[53]
Given the popularity of the film's cars with customizers and hot rodders in the years since its release, their fate immediately after the film is ironic. All were offered for sale in San Francisco newspaper ads; only the '58 Impala (driven by Ron Howard) attracted a buyer, selling for only a few hundred dollars. The yellow Deuce and the white T-bird went unsold, despite being priced as low as US$3,000.[54] The registration plate on Milner's yellow, deuce coupe is THX 138 on a yellow, California license plate, slightly altered, reflecting Lucas's earlier science fiction film.

Release Date: August 11, 1973 @ The Sutton

Distrib: Universal

Boxoffice: $115,000,000 2013: $521,771,400

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American Graffiti (1973)
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66010
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