ROCKLAND, Maine — Upcoming screenings of the 1975 classic “Jaws” have been canceled at an outdoors theater on the midcoast following last week’s fatal shark attack.
“We just felt given the circumstances with the recent shark attack that it wasn’t a necessity to screen the movie,” said Jessie Davis, executive director of the Strand Theatre in Rockland, which has hosted a pop-up movie series outside the Owls Head Transportation Museum this summer. “It was a shocking thing to happen. We all sort of share a coastal community.”
Instead, the theater will extend screenings of Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” for three consecutive nights beginning Thursday. The Strand showed the prehistoric-themed classic two weeks ago, and tickets sold out for all shows within minutes of going on sale.
“We had a lot of really disappointed families so we figured out a way to bring it back,” Davis said.
The Strand has been screening “throwback films” on an outdoor screen built especially so movie goers can safely socially distance during the pandemic. “Jaws” was selected as one of the films months ago due to “popular demand.” But after a New York woman was killed by a great white shark July 27 while swimming in Mackerel Cove off Bailey Island in Harpswell, Davis said the timing was just not right.
“Jaws” is about a great white shark that kills a young woman while skinny-dipping and terrorizes the fictional New England tourist town of Amity Island.
The Strand’s Main Street theater in Rockland has been closed since March because of the pandemic. With help from the Owls Head Transportation Museum and a little “Yankee ingenuity,” Davis said the staff was able to create a drive-in movie experience with almost no budget.
“This has given us a way to engage people in that personal way, as opposed to just [streaming] something into someone’s home,” Davis said. “We may be behind masks but we get to see people and we get to come together in a way that is safe at this time.”
Other films that have played at the Strand’s drive-in this summer were “Field of Dreams,” “E.T.,” and “Super 8.” The Spielberg-heavy line-up of films is due in part to the nostalgia of his movies which jive with a drive-in movie experience, but also because the films can be enjoyed by a wide audience.
“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a film for kids and it wasn’t just a film for adults, but instead striking that middle ground,” Davis said.
While the Strand only intended to screen films at the drive-in through July, the experience was so popular it extended the shows through August. Davis said there is a possibility of operating there into September.
“Like with all things during this uncertain time, it’s day-to-day and week-to-week,” Davis said.
Ticketing and showtime information for the Strand’s drive-in movie series can be found on its website.