Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
As many of you know, this summer marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Jaws, and two months ago I celebrated the occasion by attending a screening of the film held at my neighborhood theater, the Harkins Arrowhead 16, which is just a short walk from my apartment here in Arizona. As I found out later, this wasn’t the officially sanctioned Turner Classic Movies presentation that was being held at cinemas across the country, but a local Tuesday Night Classics screening that happened to be scheduled during the film’s anniversary month of June. Which was fine with me, because a) the cost of a ticket was only $5, and b) Harkins has the best theater popcorn in the world.
But first, of course, I had to get the ticket. I’d gone to a Harkins screening of Jaws last year in Chandler, arriving there a half-hour early, and was lucky to get one of the last remaining tickets to what turned out to be a sold-out show. I wasn’t going to risk missing out this year, and though the screening this day was on a workday weeknight, I was able to race home and arrive at the theater box office nearly two hours before the 7:00 start time. I paid my five bucks and asked the cashier how many tickets had already been sold, and he told me only a few. I then asked if it was being shown in one of the smaller auditoriums, like it had been a year ago, or were they upgrading to one of their medium-sized screens. No, he said, it was being shown in their largest auditorium, the formidable #1, which was usually reserved for blockbuster openings on Fridays.
I told him I’d gone to the previous year’s showing, and how the auditorium then was one of the smaller ones, and he replied, “Well, they must have learned their lesson.” I agreed, and with that I headed for home, secure in the knowledge that not many tickets had been sold, and with the largest screen and seating capacity in the entire building at my disposal, there wasn’t much need to worry about a packed house and a lack of quality seating. Still, I decided I was going to arrive 45 minutes before showtime, just in case.
After I cleaned up and changed out of my biking clothes, I grabbed my $1.50 refill cup and free popcorn refill bag and walked back to the Arrowhead 16, an easy six-minute jaunt door-to-door, and approached the main entrance, expecting to see a large, frenzied crowd milling about. Nope, just a few people at the box office window, no doubt preparing to see Pitch Perfect 2 or San Andreas 3D. Since I already owned a ticket, I went straight inside and discovered…a large, frenzied crowd milling about. Or more specifically, a mob of Jaws fans lined up on the near side of the lobby, a line which began at the entrance of theater #1 and zig-zagged along a stanchioned path to the lobby doorway I’d just entered!
Scurrying employees were quickly putting up stanchions as fast as movie-goers were filling them…and they were rapidly running out of room in the lobby. I wasted no time collecting my bag of popcorn and drink from the concession stand and made my way to the end of the mile-long procession, and while I waited I thought about last year’s packed screening, and wondered if this was such a good idea; maybe I should’ve held out for the official presentation at the multiplex down the road. Then I remembered my last experience at the AMC Westgate a few years back (read about that slight bit of mayhem here), and thought about the 8-mile trek I’d have to make by bike to get there, and decided I was better off right where I was.
Soon enough, the line began moving, and once inside the auditorium I made a beeline for my usual spot: top row, last row on the far side. But alas, it was taken, as I’d already anticipated, but thankfully there were plenty of open seats left all around me, so I settled for one a few rows down, smack-dab in the middle…not a bad location at all. It didn’t take long for the theater to fill up, and without wasting time with previews or commercials or warnings about where to exit during fires, the 40th anniversary screening of Jaws began. And like last year’s sampling, this one was also a flawless print, either a digital projection or one from a Blu-ray, and like my five screenings in 1975, and the re-release in 1979, and last year’s show in Chandler, and the dozens of times I’ve watched it at home, I was still utterly entertained and hopelessly mesmerized.
The crowd around me—both young and old, which was cool to see—was great, and not once did I have to contend with inconsiderate talkers or cell phone users or those constantly walking back and forth to the snack stands; like me, and like it should have been, everyone was there to watch a movie. And as I said, after dozens of viewings, it was still an awesome experience, and so much more thrilling and real on the big screen. I discovered things I’d never noticed before (like Chief Brody’s truck in the background of the billboard scene), and people still jumped when the shark appeared through the chum to growl at Brody, and laughed when Hooper crushed the plastic cup, and screamed when the fisherman’s decapitated head suddenly materialized from the boat’s damaged hull. It was just so easy to get caught up in it all, thanks to Mr. Spielberg and a trio of wonderful actors, and a treat for me to be transported back once again to the summer of ’75.
And just like four decades ago, when I was twelve years old and sitting with my parents and my brother at our first-ever screening at the bygone Fashion Valley 4 in San Diego, I was once again left in a pensive mood when Brody and Hooper dog-paddled with their yellow barrels to shore, and the short end credits appeared while John Williams’ wistful end theme played out. And when the final shot of the Martha’s Vineyard coastline faded away, and screen went dark and the house lights came up, the man seated next to me, who’d brought his two kids to what was probably their maiden viewing, leaned my way and said, “Still fun, even after forty years.” Yes sir, I couldn’t agree more.
As I left the theater, and began my walk home under warm nighttime skies, I thought about the fact that this wasn’t the approved 40th anniversary exhibition, and how I missed out on the special pre-movie introduction from TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, and how I possibly missed out on a commemorative poster that may or may not have been handed out for free. But in the end, I got to see my favorite movie on the big screen once again, surrounded by a good and enthusiastic crowd, which helped make the night that much more enjoyable. So I had no complaints, save for the fact that I was going to have to wait ten years for the next such celebration.
And I’d like to thank everyone for sharing Jaws Month with me, and to give a special thanks to those who took the time to make a comment or two after each post. If you’ve never seen Jaws, and I can’t believe you’re reading this and haven’t, I hope my series of articles has given you a nudge (or a hearty shove) towards maybe renting the film someday and giving it a look. And unless you’re my sister’s husband, you shouldn’t be disappointed.