Smokers' Delight: Breathless at Alamo

"Thank You for Smoking" at Alamo

[Scott Henderson ­reports on one of the last unique film events at the now-closed Alamo Drafthouse Downtown on Colorado.]

There was something particularly apt that screening a film which heralded a new beginning in cinema might also hark the beginning of the end for the original downtown Drafthouse. And so it was that, despite the health warnings, Jean-Luc Godard’s timeless À Bout de Souffle (Breathless, 1960) played to a full house of nicotine-addicted patrons gleefully breaking the law for the special "Thank You for Smoking" event.

More than simply apt though, there was also something romantic about the penultimate night at the Alamo Drafthouse -- a dirty kind of romance for sure, but romance nonetheless. Wisps of cigarette smoke illuminated the projector beam overhead and the flicker of lighters sparked delight amongst the audience as old anti-smoking public service announcements preceded the main attraction. Who says Americans don't do irony?

Photo Gallery: Robosaurus & Transformers at Alamo South Lamar


Smouldering ruins in his wake.

It was exactly as awesome as you think it would be. See the whole slideshow here.

Quick Snaps: Last night at Alamo Downtown


Last Night at Alamo­

Updated (8 pm): Matt Dentler has photos and commentary from the Last Night festivities. Wiley Wiggins posted a Flickr set of the last night at Alamo, including pictures of the sign being taken down. Austinist has a couple of excellent photos. Freddie Avalos has even more photos, including some of the sign being carted away. Warning: This will make you feel very very sad. 

I didn't go to the Last Night event at Alamo Downtown -- I ended up seeing Brewster McCloud at Paramount instead. But afterwards, I drove up to the theater, put on my hazards, and managed to snap a couple of (not so great) photos. I wasn't even there long enough to get nostalgic, but I am feeling a little down this morning.

Thanks to all of you who are participating in and reading the Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon -- it's been a wonderful experience. I figured about a half-dozen, maybe a dozen people, all of whom I knew, would post entries. But at last count, there were 30 links on the page -- some to photos, some to blog entries, some to mini-sites dedicated to remembering Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. The stories in the comments section are also fun to read. I don't know everyone who sent me a link, and not all of them are "fanboyish" entries, either.

It's not too late if you still want to write something, since Blake and I see no reason to shut down a project that everyone's enjoying. I'm keeping a link to the blog-a-thon in the right sidebar; I know I'll want to go back and read some of these entries more than once. This one is my especial favorite, but that's because I am totally biased.

Special thanks to Tim League for promoting the blog-a-thon actively on the Alamo Drafthouse blog as well as in person during some of the last week of Alamo events. (Not to mention that he and Karrie opened the theater in the first place and have made all three original Alamo theaters such delightful homes for film geeks.)

The Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon


­­­Alamo Drafthouse Downtown

Last updated at 8:00 am CST, July 2, with still more links about the Last Night at Alamo events (after the jump).


Jette Kernion of Slackerwood and Blake Ethridge of Cinema is Dope are hosting the Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon

Alamo Drafthouse Downtown on Colorado St. will be closing closed its doors after a final triple-feature on June 27. The movie theater will be moving to Sixth Street in the newly renovated Ritz Theater. While we're looking forward to the new digs, we want to remember and celebrate the old Alamo Drafthouse that we've been visiting for the past 10 years.

We're posting your favorite stories, memories, or links to ph­otos from Alamo Downtown. If you have a blog, post an entry about Alamo Downtown to your website today. Send the link to jette [at] celluloideyes [dot] com, or post the link in the comments­ section of this blog entry. (Please make sure the entry isn't password-protected or friends-only, so everyone who visits can read it.) The list of links to participating websites is at the end of this entry, and will be updated periodically today.

If you don't have a blog or website, post your favorite Alamo memory or story in the comments section of this entry. Comments are moderated but I will be reading and approving them all day long. If you have a Flickr account and pictures of Alamo you want to share, you can tag them "alamoblogathon".

News 8 Austin's report on the last night at Alamo included Tim League's reaction to our blog-a-thon.


Note: If you have any photos or video from Alamo Drafthouse or Rolling Roadshow that you'd like to share, drop a line to lastnight [at] originalalamo [dot] com. ­Alamo is putting together a time capsule/documentary and is looking for more material to include.

Here are the Alamo stories we've received so far:

Alamo Blog-a-Thon: The little church on Colorado



One of the best things about Alamo Drafthouse Downtown has been the audience's general respect and appreciation for the movies they are watching, whether it's a beloved classic or an obscure exploitation flick. People may laugh or applaud or even cheer, but they're rarely derisive. The respect has been built over time, with help from Alamo regulars and some gentle reminders from Alamo owner Tim League, programmer Lars Nilsen, and others. There are times when it's impossible not to laugh a little at a bad movie, and of course you have to deal with the occasional obnoxious audience member -- although Alamo really will take their asses out, I saw this happen to a drinky bunch during Forgotten Silver years ago -- but overall you will never find a better audience experience.

The ultimate audience experience at Alamo occurs during Butt-Numb-a-Thon. When I finally got into a BNAT on standby last year, I learned for myself what everyone had told me: A theater packed with 200 people all there to watch movies, eager to love the movies they were watching, with no cell phones or babies or people who wanted to be elsewhere -- is the best part of the event. If someone doesn't like a specific movie, they go out into the lobby, take a quick break outside, or even put their head on the table near them and take a nap. (There was a lot of napping around 4 am.) I probably would not have seen Rocky Balboa on my own since the trailers were so off-putting, and I am sure that if I had, I would not have enjoyed it nearly as much as I did with the enthusiastic audience at BNAT. Even the movies I didn't like so much were a pleasure to watch in that environment.

Alamo Blog-a-Thon: An Alamo story 40 years in the making


[Nick Robinson's Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon entry follows.]

I began collecting 16mm because of the absolutely fantastic experiences I've had at the Alamo Drafthouse. Mostly because of Weird Wednesday and QT-Fest. So many twisted, bizarre, wrong and wonderful movies that nobody's ever heard of - I had to start getting my own.­

Once I bought my 16mm projector (an Eiki self threader), I had to go home and visit my parents for a while. I told them about what I was up to, and after my dad got finished telling how stupid I was for starting this, he mentioned that he had a 35mm trailer in the attic that I could have if I wanted. Naturally, I did.

He explained that when he was in college at North Texas (then called ... something else, I can't remember) he knew this guy, Bob, who was a total scam artist (he's since run for mayor of Denton a couple of times, so some things never change). The kind of guy who knew when they'd visit their parents and have money and ask them for cash as soon as they got back home again. Bob always had a get-quick-rich scheme and could hustle pretty well. He told me about watching the guy talk to somebody, work his magic and get them involved in the scheme, while my dad was watching he couldn't believe that somebody would fall for such lines. As soon as he was finished, Bob turned to my dad, started working it and my dad paid up. His schemes would soon lead to my parents financing one of the earliest gay bars in Austin - the Griffin (maybe spelled Gryphon) on Guadalupe where the ATT parking structure is now, across from Clay Pit. Like all the other ventures they put their money into, it seemed like a good idea at the time and even met some initial success, but quickly failed.

Start blogging now for Monday's Alamo Blog-a-Thon


I've already received a couple of links and an entry to post here for Monday's Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon. You don't actually have t­o write or even post your entry on Monday; you've got all weekend to think of your best stories about Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. I've got nearly 10 years worth of stories, from the first time I went to Alamo to that weird night with Russ Meyer to my first date with my husband ... and tons of p­hotos, which I could post here all summer long. (I may do that. Hmmm.)

You can post an entry for the blog-a-thon to your own blog and email me with the link (jette [at] celluloideyes [dot] com), or post the link in the comments section of the Alamo Blog-a-Thon entry when I open it for comments on Monday. Or if you have no blog, send me an email message with your story (and your name) and I'll post it here on Monday. If you've got photos, you can post them to Flickr and tag them with "alamoblogathon" and I'll link to that too.

I'm looking forward to reading and sharing lots of Alamo Downtown stories on Monday. If you can't wait until then, our local papers have some articles you can enjoy. Austin360 (the Statesman's website) has an article by John DeFore about the history of Alamo and plans for the new location at the Ritz; check out the sidebar for links to some other cool material, including a bunch of old in-house trailers that Matthew Odam has found (including the Ann Richards one, which I adore). Over at the Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov shares some great Alamo anecdotes. (Thanks to Matt Dentler for the links.)

One more link for today: If you're looking for a really big chunk of memorabilia from Alamo that's also useful, check out the Alamo Downtown Kitchen Garage Sale. Now's the chance to get that kegerator you've always wanted.

Silent Silver Screen series at HRC, with music from Graham Reynolds


­The Harry Ransom Center on the UT campus is hosting a "Silent Silver Screen" series this summer, featuring three classic silent movies with live music accompaniments. Best of all, composer/musician Graham Reynolds and some of his­ friends (to be named later) will be providing the music. If you have never heard Reynolds performing behind a silent film, either by himself or as part of the Golden Arm Trio, you are missing one of the big advantages to living in Austin. You might also have heard his scores for A Scanner Darkly or for Gretchen  (which needs to be screened again in Austin someday please).

The series kicks off Thursday night (June 7) with Orphans of the Storm, a 1921 silent starring Lillian and Dorothy Gish. I am wondering if I did something wrong in a past life, because I can't go -- I have to watch and review Surf's Up instead. Life can be so cruel. However, I'm hoping I can make one or both of the other screenings: Buster Keaton's amazing film The General on June 28 and The Big Parade, a King Vidor film from 1921, on July 19.

Admission to these films is free, amazingly enough, but seating is limited so get to HRC early. On Thursdays, the museum is open late, so you could check out HRC's "The American Twenties" exhibition beforehand. All films start at 7 pm.

Alamo Downtown's last-month schedule is live


Alamo Drafthouse Downtown is closing its Colorado location on June 27, and the theater has just posted its schedule for June. Hopefully the break until the new Alamo/Ritz theater opens won't be too long, although it's definitely going to have a negative effect on my summer moviegoing. (You can view photos of the Ritz renovation on Alamo's blog -- they've been updating weekly with progress reports.)

I am already making a list of events I want to attend at Alamo Downtown next month:­

  • Joe Bob Briggs on June 16. First, he and Texas historian Don Graham will be presenting clips on Texas history as viewed through film. Then Briggs is going to show and discuss the one film he couldn't procure the last time I saw him at Alamo, when he was presenting clips from movies highlighted in his Profoundly Disturbing book: the 1945 film Mom and Dad. I need tickets for both of these, right now. Or at least by Monday.
  • The Princess Bride is playing several times in June. There are no gimmicks attached -- Alamo just likes to show The Princess Bride, and draws exactly the right crowd to appreciate the film. We own the DVD but I might like to go anyway.
  • Last Night at the Alamo on June 27. I know people who are planning to get in line early on Sunday, May 27 at Alamo Downtown to buy tickets when the box office opens at noon that day. The first available tickets will be for the triple-feature of film events: Big Night with accompanying feast at 7, Earthquake with Tim League trying to blow out the Alamo sound system at 9:45, and Night Warning with Susan Tyrrell in person at midnight. You also get a wrench, which you can use to take a block of Alamo Downtown seats home with you. I'll be honest: I'd prefer to see just one or two of these, but I suspect the triple-feature tickets will sell out before single-feature tickets can be offered. It's going to be a very special night, so I'll just have to enjoy all three movies. I'm not sure how my husband would react if I came home with theater seats in the back of my car, though.

See 'Chalk' at Alamo South Lamar this week


I'm always so happy when a movie I liked at a film festival finds distribution and plays in Austin, so I can nudge ­all my friends and acquaintances to go see it. And if the film was shot in Austin, that's even better. Last year at Austin Film Festival, I saw the locally produced film ­Chalk, a mockumentary that focused on a school year from the point of view of teachers and administration. I reviewed the film for Cinematical.­ Chalk won AFF's narrative jury prize as well as the audience award. The film landed a distribution deal this year through Morgan Spurlock's ne­w distribution label. And now you can see it here during a weeklong run at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, starting tomorrow, May 18.

For the next week, Chalk has a screen all to itself, with multiple showings per day. Director Mike Akel and co-writer/actor Chris Mass will attend the evening shows on Friday and Saturday along with other cast members and will hold Q&As afterwards. However, the Friday night showings have already sold out (!), as well as the early evening show on Saturday, so you might want to get your ticket now for the late Saturday screening if you want to catch the filmmakers in person.

If you're a teacher, you can show your school ID and get the student discount when you buy a ticket for Chalk at Alamo. If you're not a teacher, I strongly recommend you find one and bring him/her with you to see Chalk. I watched the movie with an audience of Austin teachers who laughed until they cried at school-related in-jokes. So find as many teachers as you can. If you attend an evening show on Thursday, May 24, the filmmakers will be giving away shirts and other stuff to honor Teacher Appreciation Day. Alamo often offers themed menu items to go along with special screenings, but I'm glad that's not happening for Chalk -- would anyone really want to order school cafeteria food? Be glad you can drink a beer and eat pizza while watching these teachers.

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