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Making this cold fish hot again

'Jaws' anniversary DVD spawns a festival on Martha's Vineyard, the latest version of a glitzy premiere by the home video industry.

June 14, 2005|Elaine Dutka | Times Staff Writer

Approaching the event as a homespun, fan-based affair, Universal stayed on the sidelines -- until they heard "Jaws" would be projected on a sail. Unwilling to risk the low-tech approach, they brought in state-of-the-art equipment for the Friday night screening. Held on a Vineyard Haven hillside, it attracted a crowd of 2,000 or so -- far more than originally expected. Five hundred people turned up for a free conversation between Gottlieb and Benchley at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. And though the $75 price-tags were off-putting to some islanders, Saturday night's "Amity Ball" and a Sunday clambake attracted a healthy mix of tourists and locals.

On the publicity end, Universal lined up outlets such as "The CBS Evening News," BBC Radio, "Extra," and "The Today Show"--which went live. (At Friday morning's ribbon-cutting ceremony, some bystanders observed, the press seemed to outnumber the "fin-atics."). With no big names, "Jaws Fest" VIPs were primarily behind-the-scenes talent such as production designer Joe Alves or those with minor on-camera roles. Jeffrey Kramer, who had a small featured part as a sheriff's deputy, had a brief brush with superstardom. Though he'd tabled his acting career in 1988, the co-executive producer of "Chicago Hope," "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice" found himself posing with celebrity-hungry fans and signing autographs nonstop. An unexpected moment in the sun, he observed -- which, after a cold, rainy May made a welcome, long-overdue appearance.

Arriving with her family in a spray-painted "Jawsmobile," Michigan resident Becki Reiner anticipated more glitz. Sporting a T-shirt that read "Matt Hooper is My Boyfriend," she particularly bemoaned the absence of Dreyfuss, who played that character.

"Chris Kiszka, whose world-class collection of "Jaws" memorabilia was displayed in Tisbury's Grange Hall, took a philosophical approach. The real star of the movie was the shark, he said -- a creature the crew dubbed "Bruce" after Spielberg's attorney, Bruce Ramer.

" 'Jaws' is finally getting the respect it deserves," Kiszka said of the movie's first fan-based event. "And those who attended are normal, everyday people -- nowhere as weird as the Trekkies."

"Jaws Fest" was an infusion of fast-track marketing expertise into a sleepy little town, said Susan Sigel Goldsmith, co-director of the event.

"We just wanted to get on the map," she said. "But, hooking up with Universal, we had a shark by tail. This festival gave us visibility during the slow stretch between Memorial Day and July 4th. We're hoping it has longevity and becomes an annual event. "

If Martha's Vineyard got a fiscal shot-in-the arm, Universal got its promotional blitz -- stars or no stars.

"The absence of a red carpet calls for greater imagination," said Steve Feldstein, senior vice president of marketing communications for Fox Home Entertainment.

"It's all about marketing to the consumer, generating that extra layer of publicity. When our theatrical colleagues have exploited every media opportunity, we're forced to be more creative."

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