Fantastic Fest 2013: The Scoop on Alamo Lakeline
By Jette Kernion
"I would just like to apologize in advance to all visiting @fantasticarcade guests for North Austin. Yeeech."
I may or may not have retweeted the above sentiment, but I want to start by saying It's Not That Bad. Really. Read Debbie's excellent guide to North Austin dining options and you'll see a lot of diverse local choices -- it's not all Applebee's and Panera. Besides, there's something to be said for having 24-hour Denny's and IHOP near a film-festival venue, am I right?
Let me back up here for those new to Fantastic Fest or even to North Austin. Since it started in 2005, Fantastic Fest has been primarily a one-location film festival, and that location has been Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, a fine theater that is close to downtown and in a funky South Austin neighborhood itself.
Unfortunately, Alamo South Lamar is currently gutted and standing in a huge mud pit -- and while that does sound like a super cool Fantastic Fest venue when I describe it that way (they could show Mad Max! with costumes!), the fest organizers decided to move this year to the brand-new Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline. Fantastic Arcade will be there too, if you hadn't guessed that from the Wiggins quote above.
The Lakeline theater is technically in Austin -- I haven't done any minute map perusal -- but close enough to the suburb of Cedar Park that few people would argue if you described it as being there. Cedar Park is one of those interchangeable suburbs with the strip malls and the houses all made out of ticky-tacky that could be outside Seattle or Boston or anywhere. In no traffic whatsoever, it would take you no less than 20 minutes to get downtown (22 to get to Alamo Ritz per Google Maps) ... and in Austin, there's always traffic. During rush hour (7-9:30 am, 4:30-7 pm), it could easily take an hour. If you're visiting, you'll likely want to go downtown, so just don't do it during rush hour.
Also, bear in mind that there's a home University of Texas football game on Saturday night (9/21) at 7 pm -- and UT is adjacent to downtown Austin. Now if you are visiting Austin, you might enjoy venturing down there to see the massive lavish tailgate parties beforehand, and the crazy fans, and even some football itself. You might like walking among drunken crowds on Sixth Street afterwards (wear closed-toe shoes you don't love). Parking will be scarce and overpriced, and you'll face extra traffic before and after the game (and more drunk drivers late that night). Factor this all in when making your Saturday plans.
"So you're saying it's like Alamo Slaughter, but with Dr. Zaius and better parking."
-- Jette, inquiring about Alamo Lakeline on social media
Alamo Lakeline itself is new and gorgeous and has 10 screens, a huge lobby and an adjoining bar with a big patio. Fantastic Fest will set up a covered outdoor area where attendees can congregate and chat, just like in previous years. I'm going to miss the picnic-table porch off to the side of Alamo South, but the same people will all be at Lakeline, and isn't that the important thing? You can walk over to the nearby HEB for emergency supplies (snacks, beer, maybe even a phone battery) and you're not far from a large shopping mall.
Click the link below for our venue listing for Alamo Lakeline, which has details on the theater itself. And if you know something that's not in that listing, drop me a line. Special thanks to Noah and Jenni Lee, who provided me with details that you'd only get from longtime Alamo Drafthouse veterans, and to Dacyl Armendariz of Fons PR, who got me the screen/capacity info on Lakeline in speeding-bullet time.
[Photo credit: "Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline Ribbon-Cutting" by Jack Plunkett, used with permission from Alamo Drafthouse.]