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JAWSFEST returns to Martha’s Vineyard

Roy Scheider (center) and Richard Dreyfuss with the wrong shark in the movie “Jaws.”

It’s hard to imagine what the movie “Jaws” would be like without the Vineyard in a supporting role, but that was almost the case.

Initially, Nantucket was among the spots considered as a filming location. As the story goes, when a crewmember was sent to scout it out in February, the ferries were not running to Nantucket, but they were to the Vineyard. And so a star was born.

Between May and October 1974, director Steven Spielberg turned the Vineyard into Amity, the small New England resort town that is ravaged by a killer shark . The movie was based on the debut novel by Peter Benchley.


The 30th anniversary of the film in 2005 saw the island’s first JAWSFEST, a festival celebrating the movie, its legacy, the cast, and most of all — sharks. Seven years later the event is back. In the years since its release, “Jaws” has become a cult classic for horror movie buffs and Spielberg fanatics alike.

Susan Sigel Goldsmith, producer of JAWSFEST: The Tribute and the co-director for the festival in 2005, says that one of the reasons she loves organizing the event is the film’s many devoted fans, whose fervor and dedication she compares to Trekkies’.

“The fans showed up in costume, in character, knowing every line of the movie inside and out,” Goldsmith said of the turnout in 2005.

The 2012 festival will be held Aug. 9-12 and is expected to draw upward of 5,000 attendees, with a screening of the remastered film that Saturday in Ocean Park. The return of the festival coincides with Universal Pictures’ 100th anniversary and the Blu-Ray release of “Jaws.’’

“As part of the centennial celebration, [Universal has] gone through and looked at the 5,000 movies that they’ve produced over the last 100 years and chosen 12 to remaster and release,” Goldsmith said. “ ‘Jaws’ is one of those 12.”


In addition to the Blu-Ray screening, there will be an island-wide trivia hunt based on the film, live reenactments of some of the scenes, and a series of panel discussions called “Living Jaws,” where those involved with the making of the film will talk about their experiences. Keep an eye out for the “Welcome to Amity” signs, too.

The Daniel Fisher House in Edgartown will play host to a pop-up museum of sorts called “Behind the Screams,” which will feature memorabilia and a life-size replica of the characters Quint, Hooper, and Brody standing on the bow of the Orca.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, and shark specialists will be on hand during JAWSFEST to provide education and awareness about conservation efforts.

After his novel and the film helped turn sharks into a symbol of terror, Benchley devoted much of his time to educating the public about why sharks are important. For a number of years before his death in 2006, he was an active advocate for marine conservation. A goal of the event is not only to reflect back on the film, but also to carry on Benchley’s legacy .

VIP all-access bracelets $295 for an adult ($525 with the fan pack). General access bracelets $75. Tickets to individual “Living Jaws’’ sessions at the Old Whaling Church $30-$55. www.jawstribute.com

Nicole Cammorata can be reached at ncammorata@