JEFFERSON — Movie fans never adhered the warnings to not go into the water.
They were told to stay away 45 years ago, but simply couldn’t resist the beach on a hot summer day.
“Dun, dunt. Dun, dunt.”
And now, all these years later, they still can’t.
“Dun, dunt. Dun, dunt. Dun, dunt.”
When “Jaws” hit theaters that summer of ‘75, a love affair with a giant shark helped create another summer tradition that has been going strong for decades – the summer blockbuster. Audiences became hooked, wanting to see action flicks and comedies that now are considered classics.
But going to see a summer blockbuster at a theater this year is a little different ... yet perhaps not different at all.
In a summer where movie theaters continue to be closed, the release of this summer’s blockbusters like the Tom Cruise “Top Gun” sequel “Maverick” and the film “Mulan” have been pushed back.
AMC, which has a location in Johnson Creek, was supposed to open this week across the country. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest theater chain in the country announced last week that the reopening is on hold until at least mid- to late August, in part because movie companies continue to postpone release dates of new films.
The Warner Bros. Sci-fi film “Tenet” was supposed to be released in July, but is now is slated for the last part of August for an international release and a release in the America a few days later.
So, the summer-blockbuster season this year might not have the same feeling, but there is one opportunity to see something on the big screen.
Go see past summer blockbusters that you know and love.
The Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre usually shows first-run hits during the summer, but with new movies delayed, they have not been able to get films.
So owner Lee Burgess decided to pick films that were once the summer blockbuster.
“Business has been pretty good,” he said of his single-screen outdoor theater that has been showing double features Fridays through Sundays. “Last weekend, we had one of the best weekends ever.”
More than 300 vehicles showed up, their passengers wanting to find out, “Who You Gonna Call?”
The 1980s hit “Ghostbusters” packed them in.
Now he is looking for more hits to show.
When Burgess opened his theater in June, he said he was committed to being open through July. He was hopeful new films would arrive, but that did not happen. To keep the theater open the rest of the summer would have to reflect people coming to classic summer blockbusters that have been out on digital demand for years.
And people have showed up. The warm weather over the last few weekends has packed the theater and this coming weekend should be no different with two of the largest summer blockbusters ever.
Both “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” will be shown.
“We will continue through Labor Day and may stay on in September,” Burgess said. “There’s not a lot of sports and all my staff will be at home e-learning.”
Burgess said he will keep an eye on business until then and he has films now booked through mid-August. While he does get plenty of suggestions on what to show, he talks with many other theater owners to see what has worked.
“’Jaws’ and ‘Jurassic’ did pretty well,” Burgess said.
One of the aspects of this summer that has impressed Burgess is how nice and respectful of the situation people have been.
Going to the theater during the pandemic, things are a little different. Food orders are placed through a Plexiglass window, and a text is sent when an order is ready. People then go and pick up their order at a table. The theater also spaces vehicles out.
“Last Saturday, we had over 300 people and no problem social distancing. And they are polite,” Burgess said.
With release dates constantly being shuffled, Burgess said, he didn’t know when theaters like AMC would open this year. Even the holiday season in November could be affected.
As a few events in Madison are moving to other counties with fewer pandemic restrictions to attract an audience — for instance, the Forward Madison soccer team is moving to Wauwatosa — there is a movie event also moving to Jefferson County.
“I got a film fest booking for the first week in October,” Burgess said. “The 48-Hour Film Festival out of Madison.”
As the weekend approaches and Burgess looks over a list of movies to show this summerw, there is one thing that is for certain.
After a long hot summer that’s filled with closings and a drought in the movie business, people are ready to go back in the water.