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State park: Just when you thought it was safe …
By Charles Swenson
It sent people packing from the beaches of Amity Island almost 40 years ago. When it comes to Huntington Beach State Park next month, organizers hope it will have the opposite effect.
Da-dum, da-dum, da-da, da-da, da-da…
“Jaws” is the second feature in a series of movies in the park that began this summer. The 1975 film is the quintessential summer blockbuster, but the park staff will give it a new twist by showing it on the beach.
“ ‘Jaws’ is such an iconic beach movie,” said Josslyn Stiner, the interpretive ranger at Atalaya, the former winter home of the park’s namesakes, Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington.
She had the idea of showing films in the palmetto-lined courtyard at the Moorish-style home, but decided the space wasn’t large enough. The park showed “The Lorax,” an animated feature based on the Dr. Seuss story earlier this summer and drew an audience of 52. The state parks service has two outdoor movie kits that include a projector, speakers and an inflatable screen.
“We wanted to do some trials with family movie nights,” Stiner said. “We would like to branch out and attract more people.”
She saw an outdoor screening of “Jaws” at Folly Beach when she was living in Charleston. “I just ran into it,” she recalled. “There were a lot of families there, people of different ages. It was kind of a farewell to summer.”
The concept drew praise from Karen Yaniga, the founder of the Strand Cinema, which shows independent and foreign films at the Strand Theater. “I think outdoor movies are wonderful,” she said.
Yaniga recalled seeing films at a state park in New York when she was a child. She didn’t recall the titles, but remembered the experience. “It competed with going to the dump and watching the bears,” she said. “It was a great experience.”
Stiner said she hopes to talk Mike Walker, the park’s naturalist, into giving a short talk on sharks before “Jaws.” She sees opportunities for beach flicks, such as those with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello or maybe Elvis Presley.
Although “Jaws” is frightening, Stiner thinks it’s so familiar that it won’t be disturbing. “Hopefully it won’t keep people out of the water,” she said.
“It’s an interesting idea,” said Doug Eggiman. “I remember when that came out. Nobody wanted to go into the water.”
He’s chief of Midway Fire and Rescue, which transported a man from Litchfield Beach last week with a shark bite.
“I would venture to say we encounter one every couple of years,” he said. “We see much more jellyfish and stingrays than we do shark bites.”
“Jaws” will be screened Aug. 17 at 8 p.m. It’s free with regular park admission. Stiner has already checked the tide, but weather could force a change in venue. Updates will be posted on the state parks Facebook page, she said.