Was the Original Theatrical Ending of “Close Encounters” Different Than Later Cuts?

Like many Steven Spielberg projects, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) has been released with a few different cuts over the years.

In the original theatrical version, after all the formerly-abducted citizens are returned, Roy (Richard Dreyfuss) alone joins the aliens. The inside of the ship is never seen.

A Special Edition version of Close Encounters was released in 1980, which contained Spielberg’s Director’s Cut of the film. In this version, he added seven minutes of total footage, but also removed ten minutes of existing footage, making the overall film three minutes shorter than the original. At the end of the Special Edition, the inside of the mothership is shown. This was done at the request of Columbia Pictures as a marketing ploy for the new cut. In the 1997 documentary The Making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg said he never should have shown the inside of the ship. He felt they destroyed the mystery of the aliens, which impacts the film in its entirety.

In 1998, the film was cut for a third time, creating the Collector’s Edition of the film. This version is a blend of the original 1977 film with the extended shots from the 1980 Special Edition, but omitting the interior shots of the mothership. Spielberg considers this version the “definitive” Close Encounters edit.

As with many films, other modifications to the film have been made for television broadcast, but they are not official Spielberg cuts.