JAWS, 1975

We’re gonna need a bigger screen: forty years after JAWS redefined the summer movie, it’s safe to go back in the Count Basie (formerly Carlton) Theatre to catch an anniversary screening, first in a series of seasonal blockbuster film events.

Under its earlier incarnation as the Carlton, the Count Basie Theatre entertained generations of Red Bank area locals with first-run (later second-run) product from the Hollywood glitterdome, projected on a screen that laid claim to being the biggest in Monmouth County.

While these days the films are just one component of the Count’s cultural menu, the big screen remains — and beginning this Wednesday, June 24, the Basie hosts the first in a free series of “Summer Blockbusters” classics.

It’s a fairly eclectic collection that ranges from family-friendly vintage musicals to blood-drenched Tarantinos — to the thriller that started the whole modern summer-blockbuster industry as we know it. What else but Jaws, the 1975 phenomenon that put director Steven Spielberg on the map; spawned a whole fishy franchise (Middletown’s own Billy Van Zandt would have a featured role in the 1977 sequel), and drew inspiration from a real-life 1916 shark attack near Matawan. The game-changer that celebrates its 40th anniversary this summer screens free of charge at 7 pm, in the first of a slate sponsored by the Count Basie Theatre Cinema Society.

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