For movie-goers of the 1970s, disaster was a constant theme – and established the key way for these type of movies to be created.
Starting in 1970, Airport starring Dean Martin, Burt Lancaster, George Kennedy and Jacqueline Bisset was the first of the genre.
The ensemble cast battled the after-effects of a bomb exploding on a plane. Viewers rushed to the box office, and $45 million in ticket sales confirmed a new trend for producers.
Thus the blueprint was created – multiple storylines connected to a major disaster, and several well-known stars leading mini-movies within the film.
Next came The Poseidon Adventure in 1972, loosely based on the story of the Titanic, except this ship was sinking due to an ocean earthquake. Starring Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters and Red Buttons, this film not only did well at the box office – $93.3 million – but also did well in rental adding another $45 million to the earnings.
In 1974, the theme was kicked into high gear with The Towering Inferno. Starring Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden and Faye Dunaway, the imminent collapse of a highrise due to fire was a box office bonanaza – $139.7 million.
1975 brought the sequel Airport 1975, starring Charlton Heston, Karen Black and George Kennedy brought another $47 million in box office.
And other films were gaining attention and sales – Earthquake, The Swarm, The Hindenburg, Hurricane and sequels Airport ’77 and The Concorde – Airport 1979.
During this time, Sensurround, which added massive sub-woofer speakers to the movie sound system to simulate more effects were debuted during the release of the film Earthquake – adding to the movie experience.
But by the end of the decade, the thrill of the disaster had run out and so had the storylines, with films like Meteor, The Swarm and When Time Ran Out…not getting the attention of their disaster predecessors.
For those fans of disaster – planes, highrises and Mother Nature’s worst were the best way to get people in front of the big screen in the 1970s.