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‘Jaws on the Water’ is a scary good time

Jake Harris

Until last month, I had never seen “Jaws.” 

Sure, I know the musical cues. I’ve quoted “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” In college, a film class I took studied that zoom-in/pull-back camera move Steven Spielberg does with Roy Scheider on the beach. I understand its cultural significance, both for American pop culture and what it meant for summer moviegoing in the 70s.

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But up until June 23rd, I had never actually sat down and watched the thing. I’m not averse to scary movies, but growing up, my family was, so I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on much. (Plus, we used to live in Hawai’i. I knew good and well what awaited me if I swam too far out.)

So when I decided to finally watch Spielberg’s original summer blockbuster, I did it in grand fashion. I went to the Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow “Jaws on the Water” event at the Volente Beach Resort two weekends ago.

For those of you who don’t know, “Jaws on the Water” is exactly what it sounds like. You watch “Jaws” while floating on a tube in the water. In this case, the water was a small section of Lake Travis that was closed off by a dock close to the park. The giant inflatable Rolling Roadshow screen was set up on the beach, right next to a food stand and a cabana bar.

Oh, and the Drafthouse has employees in SCUBA gear swimming underneath you the whole time, ready to pull your leg or jostle your tube every time the famed white shark appears on screen.

For those of you who are thinking about going, here’s how it all went down.

The park

Situated on Lake Travis, the Volente Beach Resort  has mini-bars, a grassy area, picnic tables and slides and rides for you to take full advantage of from the moment you check in until the time the movie starts. Check-in is at 6:00, but if you want to spend the whole day at the resort leading up to the event, it’ll cost you extra.

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You’ll also need $7 for parking if you didn’t pre-pay online. 

Before you get in the water, there’s also spots where you can get fake “shark wound” tattoos for yourself. The tube also looks like it’s been bitten, with the yellow coloring fading out at the bottom in the shape of a jaw bite. 

And the whole place is set up to look like Amity Island, complete with a welcome sign.

Food and drink

When you buy your ticket, which includes an inflatable tube that you get to keep, you also get the option of adding a meal (mine was barbecue) and drink tickets. 

Now, you might be asking yourself, “Self, how will I be able to grab drinks if I’m out in the water?” Good question. Upon checking in, you’ll receive a wristband for each drink ticket you bought. You’ll also get a glow stick. Every time you want a drink, just raise your glow stick and shout to the bartender your beverage of choice, and then pass your wristband back to the bartender, who will pass your drink to you. 

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This method is used most frequently with people in the middle  of the pool (and there were a lot of us). The shouts and yells are a bit annoying at first, but much like a showing at a regular Drafthouse, you don’t notice the servers as much once you’re engrossed in the movie.

And, if you really want more drinks, there’s a bar situated up on the beach that will sell drink wristbands to you. Beer is cheaper; liquor is extra.

The movie

The big event. Once the sun goes down, the movie starts. Aside from drink orders, the crowd I was with was mostly quiet and reverent. Every so often there would be a scream from someone who had a spooky encounter with a SCUBA diver. That just added to the experience, though. And watching this film at night, out among the stars, floating in the water and drinking a Lone Star with a nice breeze blowing, was honestly pretty peaceful. The weather was nice, and the water wasn’t too cold.

When I wasn’t trying to make sure I didn’t float too far to the side of the pool, I was able to take in the many ways Spielberg ratchets up the tension, making you truly afraid of what you can’t see on screen. I was reminded a lot of “Jurassic Park” in the way he used physical effects, and in the ways that the human conflicts took center stage over the shark hunt. I’ve been thinking of that shot of Robert Shaw standing on the boat ever since I saw it.

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In addition to the SCUBA divers, there was one other bit of Draftouse showmanship. Right at the end when Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) kills the shark (spoilers, I guess?), fireworks lit up the night sky for a full minute. A fitting end to an explosive finale.

I don’t think I would have appreciated the film as much had I not seen it in this way, and it was a fun experience. If you’re thinking of going, “Jaws on the Water” will be playing at the Volente Beach Resort select weekends from now until Aug. 4. Grab tickets here. Cost starts at $55.

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