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Fathom of the Opera : Swim Center Rides Wave of Success With 'Swim-In' Movies


CERRITOS — It was Saturday night at the movies, and the promise of good theater was in the chlorine-scented air. Had there been ushers instead of lifeguards, they might have said, "May I show you to your raft?"

A projector, holding a reel from "Sister Act," was aimed toward a portable screen that stood on the deck at the deep end of the Cerritos Olympic Swim Center. The pool was about to present another in its summer series of "Family Swim-In Movies."

The moviegoers, who paid $3, were wearing bathing suits. With their rafts and inner tubes, they would form a floating audience.

Half an hour before show time, the spacious Mediterranean-style center, which is on 166th Street between Shoemaker and Carmenita avenues, looked deserted. A few people began a game of pool basketball in the shallow end.

Those who had come for the movie were putting their rafts in the water or inflating them.

"I'm going to be so dizzy, I'll drown," said Sonia Levitt, who was trying to blow up a yellow raft that had a hole in it. Her 8-year-old daughter, Paula, already had an inflated raft that was big enough for the two of them.

This is the second summer for the swim-in movies. "People just love it," said Lori Winn, director of the center. "The crowds were bigger last year with the heat."

"Jaws," naturally, kicked off the three-movie series, which ends Aug. 21 with a version of "Aladdin."

When "Jaws" was shown last year, the pool provided its own shark--someone in a fin and wet suit who swam around scaring viewers during the attack scenes.

"Creature From the Black Lagoon" was another of last year's features, and for that, 3-D glasses were handed out.

The start of "Sister Act" was now approaching, and the lights were dimmed. That caused a lifeguard to shout, "That's good, turn out all the lights so we can't see anyone."

James Trotter, another lifeguard, said, "We have a little less visibility (on movie nights) but we compensate by having three guards."

Trotter climbed down from his tower, picked up a microphone and said, "Grab a hot dog and get ready for the movie in 15 minutes."

Chips and soft drinks also were included in the admission fee, but there was no popcorn and no one seemed to knew why. No eating is allowed in the pool anyway.

Most of the moviegoers were teen-agers or children with their parents, but one young adult couple was keeping alive the romantic movie tradition of Saturday night. Craig Santy and his wife, Chen-Cho, held hands as they floated dreamily in separate rafts on the placid turquoise water.

They had come, they said, because it was something new and sounded like fun.

By this time, about 30 rafts and inner tubes were jockeying for position in the corner of the pool closest to the screen. Finally, all the lights except those in the pool were turned off, and the swim center acquired the look of a tropical resort--but without the palm trees.

The projector started. On the screen, Whoopi Goldberg, in a sequined dress, was singing "Heat Wave" just loud enough to be heard over the incessant sound of water.

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