The movie became a cult favorite among sci-fi fans, but did not turn out quite the way the director himself wanted.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a milestone in the history of science fiction. Spielberg's fourth movie, which could not have been made without the success of Jaws, was a challenge for both the director and Columbia Pictures.
Before this movie, projects about the arrival of aliens on Earth were mostly the lot of small studios making low-budget B-movies, so everyone was waiting for failure. But Spielberg believed in the project and his hopes had merit.
The result – cult status, 9 Oscar nominations, $288 million in box office against a $20 million budget, and the title of one of the best sci-fi films in history.
What few people know, however, is that the studio nearly condemned the movie to production hell. Spielberg was working on schedule when studio representatives suddenly demanded that he release the finished movie in November, even though the premiere was scheduled for the summer.
But the studio's demands didn't end with pushing back the release date. They also wanted Spielberg to include a scene that the director had never planned to shoot and was against:
“And then they said to me, ‘We’ll give you the money… if you show the inside of the mothership. Give us something we can hang a campaign on.’ And so I compromised and had Richard Dreyfuss walking inside the mothership. I never should have done, because that should have always been kept a mystery, the inside of that ship.”
A special edition of the movie was released in 1980, including deleted and newly added scenes. Spielberg agreed to make a special edition to add more scenes that he was unable to include in the original cut.
The director's dissatisfaction with the altered final mothership scene led to a third cut of the film, called the Director's Cut, released in 1998, which is the longest cut, combining Spielberg's favorite elements from the previous two releases, but removing the scenes inside the alien mothership.
The plot of Close Encounters of the Third Degree centers on a human encounter with an extraterrestrial civilization, symbolizing a "third-degree contact." The name comes from the actual classification of alien encounters, in which the third degree denotes human sightings of extraterrestrials or "animate beings."
Source: The Digital Fix