James Cole Clay // Film Critic
JAWS is a Steven Spielberg film that always eluded me in my younger years. You’d hear, “that movie made me never want to go in the water again,” but I’m of the opinion that it’s always best to let a film find you. And then came film school and everything changed.
The beautiful thing is seeing Spielberg discover who he is as a filmmaker from the shark attacks, to the character development of its characters — Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), Quint (Robert Shaw) and Brody (Roy Scheider) — and even the heartfelt moments between a father and his son. But I can say with absolutely certainty that the 1975 thriller holds up as a masterwork of filmmaking. It’s perfect in every sense of the word, and what better way to experience it than on the water at Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow.
As I walked into Volente Beach Resort for JAWS ON THE WATER, an overwhelming feeling came over me. Was it excitement? Was it the anxiety of looking for a parking space, or figuring out where we needed to go, or am I just terrified of fish? Maybe it was a little of all three mixed, with an unfettered giddiness for an event that’s unlike any film going experience in Texas, possibly the country. But more on that later.
Luckily my guest and I allowed for some extra time to grab a snack, take some photos and cruise down the water slides. It takes about 30-45 minutes to get settled and figure out what you need, mainly a locker ($8-$20) and food/beverage vouchers ($4-6 and $12, respectively). The time to register and sign a waiver (unless you did that online) may put a limp in your hitch upon arrival, but that’s just the cost of doing business.
Volente Beach isn’t an overwhelmingly large site, but its beauty overlooking Lake Travis is a view your peepers won’t soon forget. This small town resort located about 45 minutes outside Austin has a kitschy-charm – that I found alluring – and a welcoming atmosphere for families and working professionals alike.
Blending these two companies has proved to be a match made in heaven. When you walk down into the park there’s a small shaded field used for a nice game of bags, or if you’re from the South, you know this pastime as “cornhole.” As you approach the seemingly shark-infested waters you’ll find three or four massive waterslides, complete with children cutting in line as well as a pool to lounge and a little tiki hut to order a brew.
There’s just something to a local watering hole that’s allows the mind to relax. The lines are minimal, the people are friendly and it’s just far enough outside of civilization that time starts to slip and eventually ceases to exist.
If you’ve ever been to a Drafthouse event you can bet on three small, yet hugely important things: “Don’t Text, Don’t Talk and Don’t Arrive Late,” especially if you’re going to be sandwiched in with four to five hundred tube-floating film goers. The no texting/talking policy isn’t enforced and you can buy reusable waterproof bags ($5-$10) for your cellphone use on site (for $10). But somehow, as the sun was setting and the 20 minute countdown started by some miracle, 98% of the audience was instantly captivated by the film’s 25 foot-high projection as it blows in the wind. However, there’s always that one loud person who is destined to become shark bait.
Admittedly I got a little cold sitting still in my custom-designed Alamo tube, that includes a cup holder and a headrest, about halfway through the two-hour run time. The waters become still and the sun is well nigh gone, but that twinge of a cold bite makes the atmosphere for the film’s incredible finale that much more special. Not to mention if you’re lucky you’ll get an explosive celebration at the end to commemorate the evening.
The show runs on Friday and Saturday nights, which draws the largest crowd on June 29 and 30, and resumes every weekend in starting July 13 through August 4.
If I were to offer any helpful suggestions for an optimal viewing experience, it would be hug the wall because you will drift throughout the film. I left my phone in a locker and sadly missed out on some Kodak moments, but had the fleeting feeling of being disconnected. And finally just take in the scenery, which isn’t a difficult task, but looking up at the clear Texas sky surrounding one of the greatest films is an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Come in with a smile and leave with a chill; there’s nothing quite as special as JAWS ON THE WATER.
A video from a previous year and at a different location: