You’ve probably never heard of “Breakout,” Columbia Pictures
’ 1975 prison-break movie starring Charles Bronson
. That’s to be expected — it’s a ‘B’ movie at best — but its successful release was one of the most important in film distribution history. Why? Because “Breakout
” was released on 1,300 screens simultaneously, with national TV advertising. At that time, TV ads for movies were all but unheard of, and releases tended to be either initially exclusive in downtown theaters, or shown in different territories at different times.
Despite predictions that it was a waste of money, “Breakout
” was an immediate hit. That convinced Universal to do the same thing for “Jaws
” less than a month later, and that film’s massive success remains the most significant change in exhibition history. By creating the notion of a shared experience for 2 million people, it created the template for how most studio features are released today.