This month, Jaws has officially spent 40 years making beach bums afraid of going into the ocean. But Martha’s Vineyard, the idyllic setting that transformed into Amity Island for the film, won’t host another JawsFest to mark the milestone.
To be fair, the festival has graced the island just a couple of times in its history. It was a hit during its inaugural event in 2005, drawing nearly 5,000 attendees for the film’s 30th anniversary. It returned in 2012 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Universal Pictures, but to a much smaller crowd due to the weather.
Organizers, including the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, decided against bringing JawsFest back in 2015 due to the dwindling number of participants and high costs for running a large-scale event on the island.
“In the years that we’ve done it, we’ve brought cast and crew in from around the country, so it’s a very significant financial endeavor to take on an event like that, and with so much going on in the Vineyard, it’s always tricky,’’ said Susan Sigel-Goldsmith, event director for JawsFest. “While indeed there are a good number of fans who have enthusiasm for it, it’s not like we’ve had a sustainable, kind of on-going event that really makes sense.’’
Martha’s Vineyard has mixed feelings towards Jaws.
The iconic film just doesn’t seem to pique the island’s interests like it once did.
While much of Jaws was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard, residents haven’t been as vocal about celebrating the classic flick as fans from other parts of the country.
“Other than the loveable group of cine-addicts who love all things Jaws, and therefore are wonderful friends of the Vineyard, there didn’t seem an appetite on island to celebrate the 40th,’’ said Nancy Gardella, executive director at the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. “I think perhaps we’re ready for a new movie.’’
Fatigue has set in for some over the film’s continued legacy on Martha’s Vineyard, but not every resident is over Jaws just yet.
For some locals, particularly those who grew up on the island during the film’s production, they still have a special place in their hearts for the flick.
“I think people still feel honored by the fact that the movie was shot here, that there’s a pride, especially people who really grew up here,’’ said Richard Paradise, founder of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society.
Overall, though, residents are divided over the importance of Jaws to the island.
“There are those who love the idea that the filming happened here, and there are those who don’t care if it’s the filming of Jaws or a presidential visit,’’ Sigel-Goldsmith said. “In Martha’s Vineyard, everything’s equal.’’
Keeping Jaws-mania alive
Despite JawsFest being a no-go this year, there are still plenty of events happening around the island in celebration of the film’s 40th anniversary.
The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society is hosting Jaws screenings at the island’s newly rennovated Capawock Theater and Strand Theater on June 20. Paradise says the event will feature an appearance by Mike Haydn, the Martha’s Vineyard resident who played his guitar on the beach during the film’s opening sequence.
“Even though there may not be a major event going on this year, they should absolutely come out,’’ Sigel-Goldsmith said. “There are people that do Jaws tours of the island that can bring them to some of the sites and filming locations. The island itself is always a great place to come and get a sense of what it was like and that consistency is absolutely still there.’’
Looking toward the film’s 50th anniversary, Sigel-Goldsmith said it’s going to take a large grassroot effort by fans and businesses in order to bring JawsFest back. But she doesn’t rule out the possibility of the festival returning.
“The 50th anniversary is 10 years away, and I have no idea, personally, where my life will be 10 years from now, so I think it’s one of those things to be seen,’’ Sigel-Goldsmith said. “You never say never, but one step at a time, I think.’’
Photos: Behind the scenes of Jaws: