Free movie series in Coral Gables premieres with ‘Jaws’

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, Jaws is coming back to take another bite out of the city.

The 1975 Steven Spielberg thriller, the smash film that basically created the summer movie blockbuster, will be the premiere screening at the new Rediscover the Miracle Community Film Series at Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre.

The film, which screens Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, was chosen to launch the series because practically everyone of a certain age who grew up in South Florida caught the shark tale at the Miracle 38 years ago.

“That’s where I saw Jaws and I have been scarred for life,” joked Silvia Clarke, 50, of Miami Shores. “I was 12 years old and my parents were getting a divorce. My mom took my brother — 8 at the time — and me to the movies to see Jaws. She never imagined this movie would be so intense. When the movie was over, she had a massive headache. I can’t help laugh remembering how frazzled my mom was after the movie. It was a good experience and I’m glad the theater is still around. So much of what we remember growing up doesn’t exist anymore.”

WSVN-7 Deco Drive personality Louis Aguirre, 46, also remembers a childhood Jaws screening at the Miracle in that summer of ’75.

“That’s the theater my dad took me to go see Jaws back in ’75. I was so excited, terrified and happy at the same time. I remember it well. Great father-son bonding moment. How great they’re playing it there again,” he said.

These boomer memories, of course, are a major reason for the theater’s choice of Jaws to kick start the series. The other films — including Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris and the current version of The Great Gatsby — were chosen because they dovetail nicely with the performing arts theater’s play and musical offerings for its 26th season.

Meanwhile, a single late-night screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in October and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation serve as Halloween and Christmas holiday offerings.

“People are absolutely going crazy over the idea of this series and when they hear Jaws, they all remember,” said Actors’ Playhouse executive director Barbara Stein.

The theater also hopes to bring in the younger generations, in keeping with Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason’s oft-stated desire to have more youthful offerings on the Mile and downtown to keep its business professionals and residents from having to go to Coconut Grove, South Beach and the Design District for date-nights and other activities.

“We wanted to develop the younger generation audience in their 20s and 30s who like to stay out late but are sick of the bar scene,” Stein said.

The movies are free to the public — a donation at the door is welcome after you RSVP ahead of time. There also will be refreshments on sale to help offset the rental cost of the films, which run between $250 for Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and $550 for the cult favorite Rocky Horror.

“This is going to bring a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for who we are, what we are doing here and what people remember us for and make people think more about the plays,” Stein said of the city-owned theater, which recently restored its marquee to its original ‘40s glory.

Other cities also have enjoyed success in screening free movies outdoors at public parks, though many, like Doral, Cutler Bay, Pinecrest, Biscayne Park, Miami Beach, North Bay Village and Palmetto Bay tend to hold off for the summer in favor of the cooler, drier months due to the heat, threat of storms and mosquitoes.

“Movie night at the Park is a perfect opportunity for the entire family to come out and enjoy an activity at the park,” said Fanny Carmona, parks and recreational director for Palmetto Bay.

An Earth Day screening this year of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax at the centrally located Coral Reef Park drew about 500 people, said Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk. “That was the largest number of people we ever had at a movie night. We’re a family-oriented community and like to bring people together.”

South Beach’s popular movie Wallcasts at the New World Center are postponed due to equipment maintenance but are expected to return Oct. 2 with a screening of The Great Gatsby.

Here are some other ongoing offerings.

Miami Jazz Society

The Miami Jazz Society hosts The Miami Tower Film Series every Tuesday night on the 19th floor of the Miami Tower, 100 SE Second St. in downtown Miami. This free double-feature starts at 5:15 p.m. with snacks and beverages available for a small donation. The first film begins promptly at 6:15 p.m. with a second feature directly following.

Genres include art film, classic, foreign, documentary, comedy and cultural films. This series has been on-going since 2010.

The Miami Jazz Society Managing Director Keith Clarke established the series for his love of free movies, and said that every year more than 160 films are played.

“I play movies that try and get people to fall in love with everybody,” said Clarke about the diversity in his selection.

This week the series features the 1930 picture, Anna Christie, an adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s play. The first showing will be the German version and the second showing is in English.

Hollywood ArtsPark

Just after 8 p.m. each Friday night, the back wall of the amphitheater stage at Hollywood ArtsPark transforms into a movie screen.

Kids from North Miami-Dade and South Broward stretch out on blankets as their parents sit upright in lawn chairs. Before and after the show, there’s room to run through the lush grass or toss around a ball.

Some families bring picnic baskets while others pig out on pizza from one of the downtown Hollywood restaurants.

A recent showing of Grease turned into audience participation with a group of girls — and even a Mom — singing Hopelessly Devoted To You along with Sandy.

Movie night has such a devoted following that a group of people even stayed on the park lawn after a recent showing of My Big Fat Greek Wedding was canceled because of threatening weather. The group finished their meals from a nearby Greek restaurant and vowed to come back the next week for the 1985 flick, The Goonies.

Miami Herald staff writer Jeff Kleinman and Herald writer Brittny Valdes contributed to this story. Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.