NBC - Sci-fi classic "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is returning to theaters this week with a special 40th annniversary re-release.

Four movie theaters in the Phoenix area are showing the movie over Labor Day weekend:

AMC Arizona Center 24

565 N 3rd St., Phoenix, AZ 85004

Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square 14

7014 Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Harkins Tempe Marketplace 16

2000 E Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, AZ 85281

AMC Westgate 20

9400 West Hanna Lane, Glendale, AZ 85305

Archival interviews with director Steven Spielberg tell the story behind movie, including directing leading man Richard Dreyfuss.

Dreyfuss nailed the part, but he wasn't the first choice.

"Originally Steven Spielberg wanted Steve McQueen. but Steve wasn't so sure that he would be able to cry and bring the necessary emotions to the piece," says Fandango's Alicia Malone.

Malone says the emotional tone is one of the things that separates "Close Encounters" from another 1977 sci-fi flick, "Star Wars."

"This was really one of the first films to portray aliens as being peace-loving and sweet," she notes.

"Star Wars" has become one of the most successful franchises in movie history, but that never tempted Spielberg to create characters in a galaxy far, far away like friend George Lucas.

Still, "Close Encounters" could have been a very different film.

"The first concept of the mothership was terrible," Spielberg once said. "It was a black pie-shaped wedge with a little tip on the end -- that was the first concept and I saw it, they built the wedge for me. I said, 'I'm leading up to this in the third act of my movie? A black wedge?'"

The director said the final version of the mothership was inspired by the lights of an oil refinery in India, and the waving alien at the end of the movie was the inspiration for another film, "E-T."