NEW YORK: Nearly 40 years ago, a group of filmmakers trekked to a quiet resort island for what was to be a very troubled film shoot and changed Hollywood forever when they produced what would become the first-ever summer blockbuster.
An inexperienced director named Steven Spielberg and his cast battled with a malfunctioning mechanical shark nicknamed "Bruce" throughout that summer of 1974 as studio executives,
worried about delays and budget overruns, threatened to pull the plug.
About the only thing "Jaws" seemed to have going for it was its source material, the bestselling novel by Peter Benchley on which it was based.
But less than 80 days after its release, the film became Hollywood's all-time box office champion, a position it retained until the release of "Star Wars," which took six months to
depose the shark thriller, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.
"Jaws" was also the first film to top $100 million in U.S. box office receipts.
Today, Martha's Vineyard is a summer playground for presidents and Hollywood stars. Its summer population has ballooned, and traffic snarls the streets that criss-cross many
of the six towns on the island.
In a few weeks, thousands more visitors will arrive for "Jawsfest," a four-day tribute to the film that cemented the fame of Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts, as
the story's fictional Amity Island.
"Jawsfest," which runs from Aug. 9-12, also coincides with the 100th anniversary of Universal Pictures, which released the film in June 1975.
It will include appearances and discussions by the filmmakers and cast members, exhibitions, shark education and conservation programs and an outdoor screening of the film in
Oak Bluffs. Organizers expect from 5,000 to 10,000 attendees.
"Nobody knew this was going to be the hit it was," said Jeffrey Kramer, who played police chief Roy Scheider's deputy, the character who got physically sick when he discovered a
swimmer's partial remains crawling with tiny crabs.
The film shoot dragged on nearly six months, or four times the planned timespan.
"But it was such a terrifically exciting, heady time. It brought me to California, which changed my life," Kramer said. The deputy in "Jaws" was the first Hollywood film role for the
Emmy-winning producer of TV series "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice." AGENCIES