AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Director: Tobe Hooper (Dir)
Release Date:   4 Jun 1982
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 4 Jun 1982
Production Date:   11 May--17 Aug 1981 in Simi Valley, CA and Culver City, CA
Duration (in mins):   114
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast: Starring: JoBeth Williams (Diane Freeling)  
    Craig T. Nelson ([Steven] Steve Freeling)  
    Beatrice Straight (Dr. [Martha] Lesh)  
    Dominique Dunne (Dana Freeling)  
    Oliver Robins ([Robert] Robbie Freeling)  
  [and] Heather O'Rourke (Carol Anne Freeling)  
  Featuring: Marty Casella ([Dr.] Marty [Casey])  
    Richard Lawson (Ryan)  
    Zelda Rubinstein (Tangina [Barrons])  
    James Karen (Mr. Teague)  
    Dirk Blocker (Jeff Shaw)  
    Michael McManus (Ben Tuthill)  
    Helen Baron (Woman buyer)  
    Virginia Kiser (Mrs. Tuthill)  
    Allan Graff (Sam)  
    Robert Broyles (Pool worker #1)  
  [and] Lou Perry (Pugsley)  
    Clair Leucart (Bulldozer driver)  
    Joseph R. Walsh (Joey)  
    Noel Conlon (Husband)  
    Sonny Landham (Pool worker #2)  
    Bill Vail (Implosion man)  
    Jeffrey Bannister (Implosion man)  
    Phil Stone (Football announcer) NBC Sports
    Allan Graf (Neighbor)  
    Joseph R. Walsh (Neighbor)  
    Craig Simmons (Implosion man)  

Summary: Inside the Freeling family home in the suburban California community of Cuesta Verde, Steve Freeling dozes in front of a flickering television. The golden retriever, E. Buzz, walks through the bedrooms where housewife Diane Freeling and her children, sixteen-year-old Dana, eight-year-old Robbie, and five-year-old Carol Anne, are asleep. Carol Anne rises from her bed, descends the stairs, and sits in front of the screen’s static transmission. She speaks to the television, causing her parents and siblings to awaken in confusion. The next day, Diane notices that Carol Anne’s pet bird died. Downstairs, Steve watches football with a group of friends when the broadcast is suddenly interrupted by the television program, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Realizing the signal is crossed with his neighbor Ben Tuthill's, Steve goes outside and demands that Ben stop changing the channel. As Diane and Carol Anne bury the bird in a cigar box, Robbie climbs a tall, knobby tree and notices storm clouds looming overhead. That night, Diane tucks the children into bed and turns on the closet light to calm Carol Anne’s fear of the dark. In the master bedroom, Steve and Diane smoke marijuana, and Diane worries that their plan to build a swimming pool in the backyard could be dangerous with Carol Anne’s recent sleepwalking. Unable to sleep because of the rain, Robbie walks in on his inebriated parents, and Steve returns his son to his bedroom. When Robbie expresses his dislike of the tree outside his window, Steve tells him that his real estate development company built their home next to the old tree so it would protect their family. After he leaves, however, a loud boom of thunder forces Robbie and Carol Anne to retreat to their parents’ bed. While they sleep, the television turns to flickering static yet again. Carol Anne awakens and sits in front of the screen. As she reaches toward it, the ghostly image of a skeletal hand emerges from the picture, swirls through the air, and blasts through the wall above the bed. The room shakes violently, and Carol Anne announces, “They’re here.” In the morning, Steve insists that the disturbance was an earthquake, and multiple construction workers begin digging the pool. Over breakfast, Diane asks Carol Anne what she meant by saying, “They’re here,” and Carol Anne tells her that the “TV people” have arrived. Suddenly, Robbie’s milk glass shatters, his utensils bend, and the kitchen television set turns to static. When Diane notices Carol Anne transfixed by the fuzzy screen, she changes the channel. Upstairs, E. Buzz barks at the wall above the master bed. Later, Diane notices that the kitchen chairs have rearranged themselves around the room, and Carol Anne blames the invisible “TV people.” When Steve returns from work that evening, Diane takes him to the kitchen, where she demonstrates how an invisible force slides the chairs and Carol Anne across the room. During a tornado storm that night, a tree branch breaks through the children’s bedroom window and grabs Robbie. As Dana and her parents run outside to pull Robbie to safety, a vacuum force sucks the children’s toys, furniture, and Carol Anne into the closet. The Freelings return, but are unable to find their daughter. Upstairs, Robbie and Diane hear Carol Anne’s distant voice coming from the master bedroom’s static television screen. Three days later, Steve consults with a University of California, Irvine, psychology professor named Dr. Martha Lesh and her two associates, Ryan and Dr. Marty Casey. He brings them to the bedroom, where the children’s belongings float through the air. Dr. Lesh explains the strange occurrences are caused by a temporary poltergeist intrusion. Diane switches the television to a static transmission and speaks out loud to Carol Anne, asking if she can answer. Carol Anne’s voice replies, crying out that she is afraid of “the light.” Dr. Lesh urges Carol Anne to stay away from the light. Believing the presence to be a hoax, Dr. Casey runs upstairs. Moments later, a white glow emanates from the living room ceiling, as multiple pieces of antique jewelry fall to the ground. As Carol Anne yells that someone is coming for her, Diane claims that she felt her daughter’s spirit pass through her body. A gust of wind knocks the family to the floor, and Dr. Casey returns with a large bite wound on his abdomen from attempting to enter the children’s bedroom. That night, Dr. Lesh tells Robbie about the light many people believe they see before death. After they fall asleep, Dr. Casey attempts to cook a steak in the kitchen, but the meat slides across the counter and begins to mutate. He runs to the bathroom, where the light causes him to imagine flesh melting off his face. Meanwhile, Ryan’s video camera records the upstairs bedroom door opening, emitting a bright light and the swirling apparition of a figure descending the stairs. The poltergeist vanishes through the living room ceiling, and the group replays the tape. The video depicts a cluster of vivid orbs floating through the room, indicating the presence of more than one ghost. In the morning, Robbie and E. Buzz leave for their grandmother’s house, and Dr. Lesh takes the mysterious jewelry to her lab but promises to return with help. Steve’s boss, Mr. Teague, stops by the house and expresses his concern over Steve’s supposed sick leave from work. While walking up a hill overlooking the community, Mr. Teague reveals that the Freelings’ current home was constructed on top of a relocated cemetery but he assures Steve that the bodies were interred elsewhere. Later, Dr. Lesh returns with a clairvoyant named Tangina Barrons, who inspects the house and determines that Carol Anne is still alive. She claims that the souls inhabiting the house do not know they have died, and that Carol Anne must help them cross over into death; however, a demon called “the Beast” has been controlling her to keep the spirits away from the light. Diane speaks to Carol Anne and tells her to run toward the light so that the spirits will follow her. When Tangina opens the bedroom door, Steve throws a rope into the brightly illuminated closet, which falls out the portal’s exit in the living room ceiling. Diane kisses her husband before tying the rope around her waist and entering the closet. Tangina instructs Carol Anne to go into the light, but Steve panics and pulls the rope back. The Beast’s gigantic, ghostly skull appears in the doorway as Diane and Carol Anne’s bodies, covered in pink ectoplasm, drop onto the floor downstairs. Once they regain consciousness, Tangina proclaims the house is clean. Sometime later, the Freelings pack their belongings into a moving van, hoping to leave before morning. As Steve meets with Mr. Teague and the children go to bed, Diane draws a bath. Suddenly, Robbie’s clown toy grabs him around the neck and drags him under the bed. Diane hears him scream, but a force pushes her up onto the ceiling and into the hallway. The growling Beast blocks her from entering the children’s bedroom and she runs outside, slipping into the muddy swimming pool pit, filled with human skeletons. The neighboring Tuthills hear her screams and pull Diane to safety. She runs back to the bedroom, where Robbie and Carol Anne cling to the bed as a wind sucks them toward a glowing orange hole in the wall. As she pulls them to safety, Steve arrives home with Mr. Teague, and multiple coffins containing decomposed corpses unearth themselves from under the house. Steve yells at his boss for moving the cemetery headstones without transplanting the bodies. The Freelings drive away in their car while Mr. Teague watches the house emit a fiery light and implode. After the family checks into a motel, Steve pushes the room’s television set outside onto the balcony. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer  
Production Text: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Presents
A Tobe Hooper Film
A Steven Spielberg Production
Presented by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distribution Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer  
Director: Tobe Hooper (Dir)
  Dennis Jones (Prod mgr)
  Pat Kehoe (1st asst dir)
  Bob Roe (2d asst dir)
Producer: Steven Spielberg (Prod)
  Frank Marshall (Prod)
  Kathleen Kennedy (Assoc prod)
Writer: Steven Spielberg (Scr)
  Michael Grais (Scr)
  Mark Victor (Scr)
  Steven Spielberg (Story)
Photography: Matthew F. Leonetti (Dir of photog)
  Dennis Matsuda (Cam op)
  John Leonetti (1st asst cam)
  Tom Klines (2d asst cam)
  Bruce McBroom (Still photog)
  Pat Blymyer (Gaffer)
  Hugo Cortina (Best boy)
  John Linder (Key grip)
  Mark Averill (Dolly grip)
  Leonetti Cine Rentals Hollywood (Ultracam 35 cameras and JDC anamorphic lenses provided by)
Art Direction: James H. Spencer (Prod des)
  Ed Verreaux (Prod illustrator)
  Dick Lasley (Prod illustrator)
Film Editor: Michael Kahn (Ed)
  R. Fields (Assoc ed)
  Mel Friedman (Asst ed)
  Albert Coleman (Asst ed)
  Brian Ralph (Negative cutter)
Set Decoration: Cheryal Kearney (Set dec)
  Craig Raiche (Prop master)
  Michael L. Muscarella (Const coord)
  Greg Lynch (Leadman)
  Bill Matthews (Set des)
  Martha Johnson (Set des)
  Grand Tree Furniture Rentals and Sales (Furniture courtesy of)
Costumes: Ann Lambert (Cost supv)
  Buffy Snyder (Ladies cost)
  Charles DeMuth (Men`s cost)
Music: Jerry Goldsmith (Mus)
  Ken Hall (Mus ed)
  Arthur Morton (Orch)
  Harry V. Lojewski (Mus supv)
Sound: Art Rochester (Sd mixer)
  Richard Thornton (Boom person)
  Stephen Hunter Flick (Supv sd ed)
  Richard L. Anderson (Supv sd ed)
  Mark A. Mangini (Sd eff ed)
  John Chih Chao Dunn (Sd eff ed)
  Bonnie Koehler (Dial ed)
  Warren Hamilton, Jr. (Dial ed)
  Alan Howarth (Spec sd eff)
  John Roesch (Foley walker)
  Joan Rowe (Foley walker)
  Bill Varney (Re-rec mixer)
  Steve Maslow (Re-rec mixer)
  Kevin O'Connell (Re-rec mixer)
Special Effects: Richard Edlund (Visual eff supv)
  Mike Wood (Mechanical eff supv)
  Jeff Jarvis (Spec eff foreman)
  Mitch Suskin (Visual eff coord)
  MGM Title (Titles)
  Industrial Light and Magic Marin County, CA. (Spec visual eff prod at)
  Bruce Nicholson (Opt photog supv, ILM)
  Conrad Buff (Visual eff ed supv, ILM)
  Nilo Rodis (Eff art dir, ILM)
  Bill Neil (Eff cam, ILM)
  Rick Fichter (Eff cam, ILM)
  Tom Smith (Prod supv, ILM)
  Laurie Vermont (Prod coord, ILM)
  Michael Pangrazio (Matte painting supv, ILM)
  Neil Krepela (Matte photog, ILM)
  John Bruno (Anim supv, ILM)
  Gary Platek (Laser and cloud eff, ILM)
  Lorne Peterson (Modelshop supv, ILM)
  Paul Huston (Chief model maker, ILM)
  Sam Comstock (Technical anim supv, ILM)
  Peter Romano (1st asst cam, ILM)
  Robert Hill (1st asst cam, ILM)
  Garry Waller (1st asst cam, ILM)
  Kim Marks (1st asst cam, ILM)
  Ray Gilberti (2d asst cam, ILM)
  Jim Veilleux (Cam-addl scenes, ILM)
  John Ellis (Opt printer op, ILM)
  Mark Vargo (Opt printer op, ILM)
  Don Clark (Opt printer op, ILM)
  Dave Berry (Opt printer op, ILM)
  Ed Jones (Opt line-up, ILM)
  Tom Rosseter (Opt line-up, ILM)
  Ralph Gordon (Opt line-up, ILM)
  Tim Geideman (Opt technician, ILM)
  Duncan Meyers (Opt technician, ILM)
  Bob Chrisoulis (Opt technician, ILM)
  Ease Owyeung (Model maker, ILM)
  Barbara Gallucci (Model maker, ILM)
  Marc Thorpe (Model maker, ILM)
  Sean Casey (Model maker, ILM)
  Charlie Bailey (Model maker, ILM)
  Dave Sosalla (Model maker, ILM)
  Bruce Richardson (Model maker, ILM)
  Steve Gawley (Model maker, ILM)
  Grant Smith (Model maker, ILM)
  Larry Tan (Model maker, ILM)
  Jeff Mann (Model maker, ILM)
  Scott Marshall (Model maker, ILM)
  Marghe McMahon (Model maker, ILM)
  Toby Heindel (Model maker, ILM)
  Art Vitello (Key anim, ILM)
  Jose Able (Anim, ILM)
  Milt Gray (Anim, ILM)
  Terry Windell (Anim, ILM)
  James C. Keefer (Anim cam supv, ILM)
  Renee Holt (Anim asst supv, ILM)
  Mike Lessa (Key asst, ILM)
  Jack Mongovan (Asst anim, ILM)
  Peggy Tonkonogy (Asst anim, ILM)
  Scott Caple (Asst anim, ILM)
  Bob Deluca (Asst anim, ILM)
  Ellen Lichtwardt (Asst anim, ILM)
  Kathryn Lenihan (Matte anim, ILM)
  Kim Knowlton (Matte anim, ILM)
  Jay Davis (Matte anim, ILM)
  Judy Elkins (Matte anim, ILM)
  Craig Barron (Asst matte photog, ILM)
  Michael Shannon (Addl matte photog, ILM)
  Howard Stein (Visual eff ed, ILM)
  Peter Amundson (Asst visual eff ed, ILM)
  Ted Moehnke (Supv stage tech, ILM)
  Pat Fitzsimmons (Stage foreman, ILM)
  Dick Dova (Stage tech, ILM)
  Bobby Finley III (Stage tech, ILM)
  Edward Hirsh (Stage tech, ILM)
  John McCleod (Stage tech, ILM)
  Peter Stolz (Stage tech, ILM)
  Thaine Morris (Stage tech, ILM)
  Dave Childers (Stage tech, ILM)
  Harold Cole (Stage tech, ILM)
  Terry Chostner (Still photog, ILM)
  Roberto McGrath (Still photog, ILM)
  Kerry Nordquist (Still photog, ILM)
  Paula Paulson (Spec wire performance, ILM)
  Lisa Jean Mower (Spec ward, ILM)
  Laura Kaysen (Prod accountant, ILM)
  Chrissie England (Admin supv, ILM)
  Mary Lou Hale (Prod secy, ILM)
  Kathy Shine (Prod secy, ILM)
  Ed Breed (Prod procurer, ILM)
  Paula Karsh (Prod procurer, ILM)
  Jerry Jeffress (Elec system des, ILM)
  Kris Brown (Elec system software, ILM)
  Mike MacKenzie (Elec eng, ILM)
  Gary Leo (Elec eng, ILM)
  Marty Brenneis (Elec eng, ILM)
  Bessie Wiley (Elec tech, ILM)
  Melissa Cargill (Elec tech, ILM)
  Christi McCarthy (Elec coord, ILM)
  Mike Bolles (Des eng, ILM)
  Ed Tennler (Draftsman, ILM)
  Gene Whiteman (Equip eng supv, ILM)
  Udo Pampel (Machinist, ILM)
  Conrad Bonderson (Machinist, ILM)
  David Hanks (Apprentice machinist, ILM)
  Chris Rand (Apprentice machinist, ILM)
  Wade Childress (Equip maintenance, ILM)
  Michael Smith (Equip maintenance, ILM)
Make Up: Dottie Pearl (Makeup)
  Toni Walker (Hairdresser)
  Craig Reardon (Spec eff make-up)
Production Misc: Mike Fenton (Casting)
  Jane Feinberg (Casting)
  Marci Liroff (Casting)
  Beverly Webb (Prod coord)
  Marion Tumen (Scr supv)
  Paul Pav (Loc mgr)
  Patty Rumph (Asst to Mr. Marshall)
  Janice Pober (Asst to Mr. Spielberg)
  Christopher Reynolds (Prod assoc)
  Daphne Stacey (Asst to Mr. Hooper)
  Gary Hellerstein (Transportation coord)
  Jerry Moore (Craft service)
  Richard L. Calkins (Rip's owner & trainer)
  Don Levy (Unit pub)
  Denise Durham (Asst to Ms. Kennedy)
Stand In: Glenn Randall, Jr. (Stunt coord)
  Cindy Folkerson (Stunts)
  Dana Gendian (Stunts)
  Jaimi Gendian (Stunts)
  Beth Nufer (Stunts)
  Felix Silla (Stunts)
  George Wilbur (Stunts)
  Jean Epper (Stunts)
  Bob Yerkes (Stunts)
  Bob Herron (Stunts)
  Bobby Clark (Stunts)
  Donna Garrett (Stunts)
  Chuck Waters (Stunts)
Color Personnel: Bob McMillian (Col timing)
  Metrocolor® ([Col by])
MPAA Rating: PG
Country: United States
Language: English
Series: Poltergeist

Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Film Company & SLM Entertainment, Ltd. 8/7/1982 dd/mm/yyyy PA142980

PCA NO: 26466
Physical Properties: Sd: Recorded in Dolby Stereo™ in selected theatres

Genre: Horror
Subjects (Major): Children
  Family relationships
  Suburban life
Subjects (Minor): Abduction
  Extrasensory perception
  Haunted houses
  Housing industry
  Land developers
  Swimming pools

Note: Although not included in end credits, the film uses excerpts of John Stafford Smith’s music from “The Star-Spangled Banner” and footage from the 1943 motion picture A Guy Named Joe (see entry).
       A later home video release names the following production screen credits, which may not have been included in the original theatrical release: leadman Gary Lynch; assistant to Mrs. Kennedy, Denise Durham; production illustrator Dick Lasley; set designers Bill Matthews and Martha Johnson; furniture supplier Grand Tree Furniture Rentals and Sales; music supervisor Harry V. Lojewski; and stunt performers Bobby Clark, Donna Garrett, and Chuck Waters. The reissue cast credits also list Craig Simmons as “Implosion man,” and Allan Graf and Joseph R. Walsh as “Neighbors." While the theatrical production credits lists Dana Gendian and Jaimi Gendian under “Stunts,” the reissue includes them among the cast, as “Special children.”
       On 21 Apr 1981, DV announced that writer-producer Steven Spielberg would reteam with Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, see entry) producer Frank Marshall for Poltergeist, to be directed by Tobe Hooper. A 13 Aug 1981 LAT article claimed Spielberg cast Jobeth Williams as “Diane Freeling” after viewing an international cut of The Dogs of War (1980, see entry), featuring scenes with Williams that were edited out of the domestic release.
       According to the 8 May 1981 DV and 12 May 1981 HR, principal photography began 11 May 1981 in Simi Valley, CA. Production notes in AMPAS library files indicated that storm scenes were filmed on Stage 12 of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M) Studios in Culver City, CA, while a swimming pool and crawlspaces were built on three additional soundstages. The 10 Jun 1981 LAT noted that magician Larry Wilson had been hired to assure that the film’s ghostly “gags” looked believable, but he does not receive onscreen credit.
       Following a 12 Jun 1981 DV brief stating that production continued a day ahead of schedule, the 12 Aug 1981 Var reported that principal photography had concluded two days early at M-G-M’s Stage 30. The 13 Aug 1981 LAT stated that Spielberg visited the set in order to urge production to finish before the anticipated Directors Guild of America (DGA) strike in Jul 1981; he was often accompanied by friend and Industrial Light & Magic Co. founder, George Lucas.
       According to the 6 May 1982 LAHExam, Poltergeist was one of a dozen M-G-M/United Artists films partially financed by SLM Entertainment Ltd., which fronted between one third and one half of each picture’s budget, amounting to no more than $7.5 million. Poltergeist had an estimated total cost of $15 million, with an additional $9 million for prints and advertising. For a flat fee of $425,000, M-G-M/UA was granted supervision of theatrical distribution on all SLM films, as well as a 22.5% fee on all theatrical rentals. The article claimed that M-G-M relied on the film’s financial success to help alleviate the studio’s $600 million debts. A 31 May 1982 Newsweek article listed the final budget at $11 million.
       During production, a 2 Jun 1981 LAHExam article fueled speculation that, due his heavy involvement on set, Spielberg actually served as the project’s co-director. A follow-up LAHExam story on 5 Jun 1981 included a statement from Hooper clarifying that Spielberg had not overstepped his bounds as a producer, and had been preoccupied with preparations to direct another film, beginning Aug 1981. The 1 Feb 1982 DV stated that Spielberg was editing E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982, see entry) and working with composer Jerry Goldsmith to score Poltergeist before both pictures’ scheduled openings in Jun 1982. A 24 May 1982 LAT article stated that Goldsmith collaborated exclusively with Spielberg, and that Hooper had “no input whatsoever.” Additionally, the 13 Aug 1981 LAT cited Jobeth Williams’ claim that Spielberg and Hooper collaborated on set, but Spielberg had “the final say.” The 2 Jun 1982 NYT noted that Spielberg also completed storyboarding, selected cast and locations, and supervised editing. Despite a clause in Spielberg’s Universal Pictures contract preventing him from working on any motion picture while directing E.T., the filmmaker remained closely involved with Poltergeist to attempt to keep the budget within 10% of the approved $9.5 million limit set by M-G-M. Although Spielberg and Hooper insisted the arrangement was amicable, the 25 May 1982 HR announced that the Directors Guild of America (DGA) had begun a formal investigation to determine if Spielberg’s actions were “detracting from the director’s credit,” but made no mention of specific guild rules that may have been broken. On 8 Jun 1982, HR published a letter Spielberg wrote to Hooper on 2 Jun 1982, responding to the press’s allegations and testifying for Hooper’s agreeability throughout production.
       Two weeks later, the 18 Jun 1982 DV reported that M-G-M was required to pay Hooper $15,000 in damages for deliberately attempting to “enhance the box office appeal” by displaying “A Steven Spielberg Production” twice as large as Hooper’s name in promotional trailers. Although the DGA originally demanded $200,000 in damages and correction of all trailers, the case arbitrator ordered M-G-M to correct only trailers circulating in Los Angeles, CA, and New York City, in addition to all future trailers. The studio was also required to issue a public apology to Hooper and the DGA, which ran in the 9 Jul 1982 HR.
       A 5 Apr 1982 M-G-M press release in AMPAS library files announced that the studio was scheduled to host a 21 May 1982 preview screening and champagne reception at the AMPAS Samuel Goldwyn Theater, benefitting the Los Angeles Collegiate Council to aid local college students. A 24 Apr 1982 LAT item reported that Spielberg was expected to attend a 21 May 1982 screening benefitting the Southern California Society for Physical Research, at M-G-M Studios. The 24 May 1982 LAHExam reported sold-out preview screenings in Culver City, CA, Chicago, IL, and Toronto, Canada, also on 21 May 1982.
       The 5 May 1982 Var reported that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Classification & Rating Appeals Board agreed to change the film’s rating from 'R' to 'PG' after hearing statements from Spielberg, M-G-M chairman Frank Rosenfelt, and psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Jones in New York City on 30 Apr 1982. A 25 May 1982 HR item claimed the R-rating was assigned due to “children in peril,” despite no actual gore or bloodshed; however, the vote to appeal was unanimous. A 7 May 1982 LAT story stated that Spielberg advocated for the creation of a new category between PG and R. On 2 Jun 1982, NYT reported the ratings decision behind Poltergeist would likely force MPAA President Jack Valenti to consider the long-running debate of adding an “R-13” label. Meanwhile, the 3 Jun 1982 Evening Outlook stated that the city Motion Picture Classification Board of Dallas, TX, filed suit against M-G-M/UA to stop Poltergeist’s local release, arguing that the film was “not suitable for young persons.” In response, M-G-M/UA countersued, planning to ignore the motion and continue advertising. The 5 Jun 1982 LAT claimed that the film would be shown in seven Dallas theaters under the MPAA-issued PG rating until the local jury made its decision. A 15 Jun 1982 HR article stated that jury selection was underway before the hearing began later that same week. According to the 17 Jun 1982 HR, the Dallas board argued that the graphic nightmare scene featuring Marty Casella’s character, “Dr. Marty Casey,” made the film too violent for children under sixteen years of age. During a special screening, jury members compared the footage to the face-melting scene in Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, which passed with a PG rating from the local council. As a result, the board voted in favor of M-G-M.
       Prior to the film’s 4 Jun 1982 domestic opening in 900 theaters, an M-G-M press release announced that visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund would promote the film that week in Chicago, Dallas, and Boston, MA. Meanwhile, UCLA psychology professor Dr. Thelma Moss was scheduled to visit five major cities through 10 Jun 1982, to explain the poltergeist phenomenon.
       A 7 Jun 1982 M-G-M press release announced a three-day box office return of $6,896,612 in 890 theaters. According to a 27 Oct 1982 M-G-M announcement, the film was re-released in 864 theaters for Halloween, beginning 29 Oct 1982. A 20 Aug 2008 HR story reported that, to date, Poltergeist had grossed $122 million worldwide.
       On 18 Sep 1982, Var stated that The Beast Within (1982, see entry) actor Paul Clemens and screenwriting partner Bennett Yellin, planned to sue Spielberg and M-G-M for $37 million, alleging copyright infringement. The outcome of the lawsuit, however, could not be determined.
       Poltergeist received three Academy Award nominations for Music (Original Score), Sound Effects Editing, and Visual Effects. A 25 Feb 1983 DV item reported that composer Jerry Goldsmith received the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Musical Score from the National Horror Motion Picture Association; the picture was also honored as Best Film.
       Following the film’s sequels, Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986, see entry) and Poltergeist III (1988, see entry), the 25 Jan 1989 HR announced M-G-M/UA Television’s plans to develop a syndicated television program titled Poltergeist: The Series. The studio hoped to partner with companies in Canada, Australia, and Great Britain to produce ninety-two episodes, each budgeted between $400,000 and $500,000. Production did not move ahead, and on 10 Apr 1995, DV reported that M-G-M/UA was attempting to revive the idea as a cable series. The 20 Aug 2008 HR indicated that writers Juliet Snowden and Stiles White had written a script for M-G-M/UA’s planned motion picture remake of Poltergeist. Five years later, the 26 Sep 2013 HR announced that producer Sam Raimi and director Gil Kenan had cast Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt for the lead roles in another "reboot" script by David Lindsay-Abaire. As of the writing of this Note, release is scheduled for 24 Jul 2015. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   21 Apr 1981.   
Daily Variety   8 May 1981.   
Daily Variety   12 Jun 1981.   
Daily Variety   1 Feb 1982.   
Daily Variety   18 Jun 1982.   
Daily Variety   25 Feb 1983.   
Daily Variety   10 Apr 1995.   
Evening Outlook   3 Jun 1982.   
Hollywood Reporter   12 May 1981.   
Hollywood Reporter   21 May 1982   p. 3, 24.
Hollywood Reporter   25 May 1982.   
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jun 1982.   
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jun 1982.   
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jun 1982.   
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jul 1982.   
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jan 1989   p. 1, 81.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Aug 2008.   
Hollywood Reporter   29 Sep 2013.   
LAHExam   2 Jun 1981   Section A, p. 2.
LAHExam   5 Jun 1981.   
LAHExam   6 May 1982   Section D, p. 1, 4.
LAHExam   24 May 1982   Section C, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   10 Jun 1981.   
Los Angeles Times   13 Aug 1981   p. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times   24 Apr 1982.   
Los Angeles Times   7 May 1982   Section VI, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times   24 May 1982   Section VI, pp. 1-3.
Los Angeles Times   4 Jun 1982   p. 1, 10.
Los Angeles Times   5 Jun 1982   pp. 1-2.
Newsweek   31 May 1982   pp. 62-64.
New York Times   2 Jun 1982.   
New York Times   4 Jun 1982   p. 16.
Variety   12 Aug 1981.   
Variety   5 May 1982.   
Variety   26 May 1982   p. 14.
Variety   18 Sep 1982.   

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.