Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jaws: The Interactive Experience




In the modern era of interactive entertainment, movie fans of all stripes have plenty of opportunities to immerse themselves within their favorite cinematic adventures, either through amusement park rides with cutting-edge technology or through video games with high-definition, three-dimensional graphics. Unfortunately, one of my favorite movies, Jaws, hasn't found the proper interactive niche to provide the uneasiness and shocks that a true immersive monster shark attack simulation should provide.

So far, the Jaws video games have been a bust. The 1987 Jaws game for the Nintendo Entertainment System had the dual drawbacks of being based on Jaws: The Revenge and having game play that was somewhat reminiscent of Activision's very scare-less Seaquest for the Atari 2600. Jaws Unleashed, for all of its vicarious violence and delightful destruction, featured no scares at all because you play as the shark. (In the game's defense, the levels of Jaws Unleashed which were based on scenes and scenarios in Jaws 3 were actually better than Jaws 3 itself.)

Of the Jaws rides at the Universal Studios Theme Parks, I've only been to the one in Florida and it's not that great of an interactive experience (unless you're unlucky enough to fall into the ride itself, at which point the ride becomes inappropriately interactive). When the shark finally appears in the ride, it's not much more than a series of fiberglass sharks, mounted on pistons and rails on both sides of the rail-guided "boat" which launch out of the water at pre-set times--not very suspenseful. (Then again, if one of those toothy shark heads would suddenly emerge out of the water next to me while I'm swimming, either in the ocean or in a pool, I can guarantee that I would lose control of at least one bodily function.)

Yes, even in this era of interactive entertainment, Jaws has remained without a successful interactive experience ... until now. Enter the Ultimate Jaws Floating Roadshow by Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Last weekend, the Alamo Drafthouse team not only held three late night showings of Jaws on an outdoor screen, but they arranged it so that the audience of the film was floating on inner tubes (supplied by Alamo Drafthouse) on Lake Travis in Windy Point Park in Austin, Texas. As part of this aquatic viewing experience, they also provided their own shark--sort of. Keep reading past the jump for the rest of the story, including pictures.

What the Jaws viewing audience didn't know was that Alamo Drafthouse brought in a few divers to occasionally bump the inner tubes and swim with a large dorsal fin through the floating crowd while the movie was playing. (Somewhere out there, William Castle is smiling.) James Michael Roddy, one of the producers of The Shark is Still Working documentary, co-hosted the event and graciously provided the photos below of the Jaws screening event, including the divers and their fin.



 


  

 




This particular three-night, waterlogged viewing of Jaws is part of Alamo Drafthouse's Shark Week, where a series of shark and shark-related movies are screened, one movie per night, in Austin for the duration of this week. Since I wasn't there, I can only speculate what kind of reactions this "shark" provoked among the unsuspecting audiences, and I suspect that the water became warmer than usual in some areas of Lake Travis during these interactive Jaws showings. From what I've heard, all three nights of the screening sold out so fast that this particular Jaws experience will be repeated again next year in Austin.

Go to The Shark is Still Working site to learn more about this definitive feature-length documentary about Jaws, including the dates and locations of upcoming screenings.


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