Local Theaters

Blue Starlite Offers Classic Romance for Valentine's Day

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By Charity Lee

When you think of the perfect movie-loving date night, you definitely have a Texas-sized menu of options. You could enjoy the Austin Film Society-sponsored “Goddard vs. Truffaut” series at the Marchesa, a night on the town at the Paramount on Congress, or even woo your date with a melody at one of the famous local Alamo Drafthouse sing-alongs. However, if you want to get retro, the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In is the perfect classic alternative to an in-house film this Valentine's Day.

On the most romantic night of the year, the Blue Starlite will present a classic double feature of Breakfast at Tiffany's, starring Audrey Hepburn as the sassy and wild young bachelorette, Holly Golightly; and Casablanca, starring the hunky Humphrey Bogart. I’m a big fan of the former with its hilarious featured roles and its non-conventional romantic comedy setup. I also have never been to an outdoor movie so my tickets are printed, my vintage drive-in speaker is ordered and I’m ready to snuggle right from the seat of my little Nissan Sentra. 

Vintage Austin Theater Tour: Fox Triplex

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Fox Triplex

Not many cinemas in Austin can claim to have had an opening night consisting of a true Hollywood red carpet, a gala premiere, high-profile attendees and a movie star or two on hand for its first night of business. Yet the hopes and expectations attached to Austin's then-new Mann Fox Theatre weren't the same as they were for most other movie houses of the time. While most movie theaters aimed to attract local families or groups of teenagers looking for a fun night out, the Mann Fox Theatre sought to make going out to the movies a more upscale affair.

The idea of having the Mann Fox Theatre appear as a grand moviegoing experience was in sharp contrast to Austin's then-current state. By the mid-to-late 1960s, the city had become one of the hotbeds of the counterculture with its share of social unrest, psychedelic drugs and revolutionary musicians who would go on to define the decade. However, Austin's potential as a cosmopolitan city was not lost on Ted Mann, owner of Mann theaters, who along with President Eugene V. Klein, thought Austin was ready for a theatre of Mann quality.

No expense was spared when it came to the Mann Fox's design. The famous L.A.-based Pearson and Wuesthoff architectural firm was brought in to handle the stylish look desired for the theater. There was a curved main screen with gold travelers and rows consisting of bodi-form chairs, while the theatre's projection and speakers were considered state of the art for the day.

Austin Vintage Theater Tour: The Americana

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Americana

When the Paul Scharader/Bret Easton Ellis collaboration The Canyons was released last month, many were no doubt focusing on some of the more salacious elements from the film. Yet one of the more telling aspects, which went almost unnoticed, was the opening credit sequence comprising shots of old abandoned Los Angeles movie theaters. The sequence not only shows how the art of cinemagoing is in decline, but also how these elaborately built movie houses that once offered escape and wonder to audiences are now left in ruins.

In this series, I'll focus on similar cases here in Austin -- cinemas that thrived in their heyday until, for various reasons, they were forced to switch off their projectors and close their doors before being given a second life.

The first theater in the series is The Americana Theatre, which opened in 1965 in what was then a small neighborhood located just off of Burnet Road. The theater was built by Earl Podolnick, President of Trans-Texas Theaters Inc., in an effort to raise the community's local profile.

Josh Frank and the Future of the Blue Starlite Drive-In

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Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In

Last week we heard rumors that the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In Theatre might be relocating in the next couple months, so I asked the mind behind the Blue Starlite, Josh Frank, for confirmation. Following is our email Q&A about plans for the future of the Blue Starlite, as well as the ideal next spot for this urban drive-in.

Slackerwood: Is it true that the lot where you are currently located has been sold (with a requirement that you vacate in two months)? If so, what are your thoughts on leaving that spot?

Josh Frank: Ok, so, yes it's true. ESDI at 1001 E. 6th with our Blue Starlite and the food trailer court is closing at the end of May. We are bummed as it was a perfect spot for this "version" of our drive-in. People liked it and it was a great set up for the Urban Drive-in, both visually and operationally.

We always knew it would eventually happen, but the owner is a really cool guy who loves film and believes in the Austin spirit and the fact that supporting small businesses will eventually lead to making a lot of money on condos and that neither are mutually exclusive. So we were very lucky to find this situation. We always knew that it was an in-between place for us as we looked for the perfect place to find permanence.

A Peek at Round Rock's New Flix Brewhouse

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Flix Brewhouse

Nothing pleases me more than passions for craft beer and film colliding, especially as part of an innovative project that places Austin on the map -- although technically I'm talking about a new establishment in Round Rock. Flix Brewhouse, the world's first movie theatre with a working microbrewery, opens this week in Skyridge Plaza. The facility is a joint venture between Los Angeles-based Galaxy Theatres (which also own Galaxy Highland in Austin) and a local investment group, Hospitality Investors, which also owns the neighboring Homefield Grill.

As a contributor for Beertown Austin, I was invited to a "sneak peek" at Flix Brewhouse this week along with other local craft beer writers. Although microbrewery production won't be running until mid-August, full drink service and concessions are available at the theater with over 40 draft beers and wines, and by July 15, full food service. Two of the six screens are fully functional now with a third screen becoming available this weekend.

Quick Snaps: Starlite vs. Starlite

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Former Starlite Drive-in Theatre, Brenham, Texas 0618111816BW

The remains of the drive-in Starlite Theatre, Brenham, Texas

Quick Snaps: Which Austin Theater Is This?

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Movie theater, by Bonita Sarita on Flickr

I was digging around on Flickr this evening -- I'm working to get permission for a couple of very different sets of very cool photos to hopefully publish here next week -- and came across this picture. I like the use of a fisheye lens, very striking. It also makes the theater look oddly cozy.

Now, who can tell us which Austin theater we're seeing in the photograph? Bonus points if you can tell us which movie is playing, too. Post your guesses in the comments.

[Photo credit: "Movie theater" by Sara Robertson. Found on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.]

Quick Snaps: Flashback to the Burnet Drive-In

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Marquee of the Burnet Drive-In, by paramountbooth on Flickr

Maybe you've seen the poster for Quentin Tarantino's mock-exploitation film Death Proof with the words "Burnet Road Drive-In, Austin, Texas" at the top. Well, Austin really did have a Burnet Drive-In, and today we have photographic proof. Paramount Theatre projectionist John Stewart recently posted a few pictures from 1973 to his Flickr account, and generously agreed to let me publish them here.

I can't find much info about the Burnet Drive-In. It was located in the 6400 block of Burnet Road, in the space where Burnet Road Self-Storage is now -- the one with the sign that looks like a movie-theater marquee. Now you know why. The storage facility's website says the theater was built in 1952. By the 1970s, it was featuring titles like the ones above, which look like they'd fit in perfectly at an Alamo Drafthouse Weird Wednesday. (Stewart says they're German soft-core movies.) The drive-in closed a year or two after Stewart's photos were taken. I've got a few more photos after the jump.

A Peek at the New Gold Class Cinemas in The Domain

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Gold Class Cinemas

Last week I took a tour of the new Gold Class Cinemas, a movie theater in The Domain that officially opens this weekend. In addition, Jenn Brown and I went back to the theater this week for "mock service" -- as part of the process for training the theater staff, we watched Shutter Island (it actually improves on a second viewing) and ordered some of the menu items the theater offers.

Like the Alamo Drafthouse chain, Gold Class does have a menu -- it also has a full bar. In fact, it's an especially nice bar that could have fit perfectly in The Domain as a stand-alone. But Gold Class strikes me as unlikely to compete directly with Alamo, as it is a very different experience.

First of all, the point that everyone is discussing: the tickets for Gold Class are pricey. A full-price ticket costs $29, and no, that doesn't include any food or drinks. Hearing that a ticket for a regular first-run movie costs over $20 sounds shocking at first, and it's off-putting to many people I know, no matter what they learn about the theater afterward. This is the biggest hurdle that Gold Class has to overcome in Austin.

2010 Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies in Austin

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Paramount's summer movies begin

Check out our 2011 Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies in Austin for the latest information.

Updated on July 5 with new Alamo Lake Creek series, on June 11 with details on Deep Eddy Pool Movies, and on June 9 with details on the new Cinema East series and specific films for the 101X series.

Last year's Guide to Free Summer Movies in Austin was Slackerwood's most popular article nearly every week through the fall, and one of our most viewed articles for 2009. Apparently everyone wants to know about free movies playing in town this summer -- well, why wouldn't you? So we're not going to wait for summer this year to bring you the 2010 edition, which we'll keep updating as more movies are announced.  

Austin is home to at least 16 film series this summer, 12 of which are free, so you can watch movies on a budget practically every weekday this summer, especially if you're looking for family fare. (If you liked Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, boy are you in luck ... it's playing in nearly every children's series throughout the summer.) Some of the series are outdoors -- be sure to bring lawn chairs or a blanket.

Only a few series haven't announced their schedules yet, so you can start planning now. In addition to the movies listed below, bear in mind that Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz still hosts Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday screenings each week that cost a whopping dollar to attend ($2 if you buy online). Also, keep an eye on our Event Calendar for free movies that aren't part of a regular series.

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