Last week I found myself on a much-needed vacation. The destination was Austin, and although Austin might not seem like the ideal vacation destination, it’s a wonderful haven in the South for film buffs. Hours were spent strolling through the endless aisles of I Luv Video and Vulcan Video, admiring their wallpaper-like application of posters and adverts and gawking at the remarkable collection of Blu-rays, DVDs, and VHS. They carry everything; titles that you’ve never seen, some you never heard of. Come nighttime, we were finally ready to experience our first ever authentic Austin Alamo Drafthouse experience. Alamo Drafthouse has sort of redefined the modern cinema going experience. In an age where theaters are struggling to keep people coming back — unless of course they are touting the next big blockbuster —, Alamo Drafthouse has returned the spectacle to the cinema. They have done this by offering a barrage of extra-cinematic surprises, including drinks and food with unobtrusive service, and fun pre-show entertainment reels. Sitting in the seat and waiting for the film to begin, the only thoughts filling my head were: ‘it doesn’t get any better than this.’
Well, I was wrong. It does get better than that, because (thanks again to Alamo Drafthouse) Saturday night I got a chance to watch Jaws from an inner tube in a lake with about a few hundred other people. Needless to say, it was an experience I will never forget. Jaws in the Water was first commissioned in 2002, and since has been a talking point amongst both those who were lucky enough to attend and those forever jealous they missed out. In light of the film’s 40-year anniversary, Alamo Drafthouse decided it was time to make people afraid to get in the water again and kicked things back off with two special screenings at the Texas Ski Ranch, just an hour south of Austin as part of their Rolling Roadshows series.
Shortly after arriving and making it through the three lines (possibly four, there were a lot of different lines), I walked out to the shores of the manmade lake to witness, despite my early arrival, the party already well underway. Grills were going and the bars were open, everyone was just waiting for the sun to set to start the show. Once that time arrived and we got the ok to get in the water — only seconds after a giant shark fin traversed the width of the lake, just one of a few nice little treats Alamo prepared to get the crowd in the mood —, I joined a sea of people rushing into the water with our inner tubes, everyone eager to get a prime spot. What you don’t think about (unless, of course, you spend a lot of time watching movies from inner tubes, in which case, I salute you on a great life) is that perhaps being among the first to dive in is not the best strategy. Unlike seats in a theater, there really isn’t a way to anchor a tube; meaning all of us were kind of continually pushed closer and closer to the small island that housed the screen, as more people joined in.
By the time Quint is scratching his nails down the chalkboard, however, I started to get the hang of watching while tubing. It’s kind of a process and you can pretty much kiss any chance at staying in one place goodbye, but if you concentrate, you can do well to stay at least forward facing. Watching Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece from a body of water does not necessarily change my feelings towards the film, but I’d be lying if I say that I can ever look at it the same way again. It’s not fear, its more of a sensory overload — although part of the fun is imagining that just somehow a great white may invade the waters (anyone who has seen the ludicrous fourth installment in the series, Jaws: The Revenge, knows its potentially feasible).
Seeing a film set mostly on water, while simultaneously being submerged in a body of water activates all of your senses. Your eyes are fixated on Bill Butler’s concise cinematography and your ears locked in to John Williams foreboding, iconic score, while you feel the water rush passed your body and your nose encounters the scents of nature and of the lake (and if you are lucky, not your fellow man). The heightened, palpable aura of builds alongside the rising tension of the film, with everything culminating in an explosion of fireworks timed to coincide with the exact moment that “Bruce” is blown into pieces by a strategically aimed shot by Brody. At times, it’s almost too much but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
In reaction to the immense interest, Alamo Drafthouse added two additional screenings set to take place next Saturday and Sunday, August 8th and 9th. Unfortunately, both dates are both sold out, but keep an eye on the website in case more tickets/dates do get added.