Fantastic Fest 2011

Fantastic Fest 2011 Venue Guide

Fantastic Fest 2010

After several years of expanding its programming to The Paramount, Fantastic Fest is returning to its roots and limiting its film-fest screenings to Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, as it was in the fest's early years. Some special events and parties may occur at The Highball and the Fantastic Debates are scheduled for South Austin Gym, but these are all in the same strip mall at Alamo South, making transportation much easier for festgoers. Parking, on the other hand ... well, at least the out-of-towners tend not to need to park cars.

Therefore, this year's Fantastic Fest Venue Guide is going to be fairly short. I debated whether we even need one, but if you haven't been to Alamo South before, it's pretty handy. Even if you have, we might have a few tidbits of info about the venue that you hadn't caught before. If you haven't been to Alamo South in awhile, I suggest checking the menu online ... some selections (and prices) have changed. We hear rumors that a party tent of some kind will be constructed outside the venue, but I have no info on that yet.

Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments for places to eat or visit near the venue, or other helpful hints. And keep an eye out later this week for this month's "Insider's Guide" column, which will offer plenty of tips for the fest from various fest veterans and other people you might recognize. I also suggest taking a peek at last year's Survival Guide, since most of the info is still quite useful. Finally, if you're visiting for the fest, don't forget Debbie's advice on How To Drink Like an Austinite.

Alamo Drafthouse -- South Lamar

Address: 
1120 South Lamar Blvd., Austin TX 78701
Phone: 
512-476-1320

IMG_6751

Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar reopened in August 2014 after a major remodeling of the strip mall in which it was located -- which is currently a giant mass of construction surrounding the theater. However, the Drafthouse and its adjoining parking garage are completely done and available. Alamo South Lamar is a popular location for many local film festivals.

Right now, the rest of the development is still under construction. The theater and bar look great but they're surrounded by a lot of chain-link fence and during the day, large machinery.

Pros: It's an Alamo Drafthouse, so the audience is generally well behaved (put up a flag if it's not). And of course you can enjoy food and a variety of beverages with your movie. Seating is reserved.

Cons: It's popular, so order your tickets online if you can. The garage can get really warm -- Don jokes that it's the oven for the theater's kitchen. The outdoor patio is gone, and there's really nowhere comfortable to sit outside the theater.

Screens and Capacity: Nine theaters with stadium seating, varying in size from 46 seats to 198, all with Sony 4K digital but still capable of showing 35mm films (#1 and #2 seat 46, #3: 63, #4 and 5: 198, #6 and #9: 126, #7 and #8: 86).

Parking: Park in the adjacent garage, which you can (and should) access from Treadwell. If it's full, be careful about parking in the neighborhood -- most of the streets are now permit-parking only.

Distance: You can't walk to downtown movie theaters (or bars) unless you're into serious hiking, but you can take a bus or find a friendly Austinite with a car. A cab from the theater to downtown isn't expensive, but taxis are unlikely to hang around, so be prepared to phone. Make sure the cab service has your name so they won't drive off with some other film geek.

On-site dining options: South Lamar has a full bar and dinner menu, with a brunch option early on weekends and special occasions. You can view the regular menu and current specials on the South Lamar menu. Whether you're vegan or need more meat on your fries, you can always try hacking the menu.

Nearby dining options: The Highball is immediately adjacent to the theater -- in fact, there's a door connecting them now. You can get small plates and a few entrees. Other nearby options:

  • Walking distance: Luke's Inside Out trailer right across the street for griddled sandwiches; Verts for cheap and filling kepabs (German sandwiches with kebab fillings); Odd Duck for fancy-ish small plates; Uchi for trendy spendy sushi.
  • A short drive: Kerbey Lane is open 24 hours and has great pancakes and burgers; Barton Springs has a whole row of restaurants including Green Mesquite (bbq), Chuy's (Tex-Mex) and Shady Grove (chili cheese fries!); the flagship Whole Foods at Lamar and 6th has a lot of prepared foods available, including made-to-order sandwiches, and is a great stop for vegetarians and vegans. And if all fails, there's always Taco Cabana.

Coffee (and wireless) break: About two blocks further south down Lamar (away from downtown), you'll find a Starbucks in a strip mall across the street from Saxon Pub. Further than a walk, drive north to Barton Springs Road, then turn right to Austin Java.

[Photo credit: Alamo South Lamar by Mike Saulters, all rights reserved.]

The Highball

Address: 
1120 South Lamar Blvd., Austin TX 78701
Phone: 
(512) 383-8309

TheHighball

The Highball is owned by Alamo Drafthouse founders Tim and Karrie League, and features a very Alamo/Austin slate of entertainment options, including karaoke. It also includes a snack and dinner menu and a full bar. The bar is adjacent to Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, and was recently moved/rebuilt. (The old bowling alley materials serve as the flooring for the new bar, as you can see above.)

Strictly speaking, The Highball rarely shows movies, but is frequently used for afterparties for films shown at Alamo South Lamar, film fundraisers, movie trivia events and other movie-themed parties. It also hosts many Fantastic Fest events.

Pros: It's connected to Alamo South Lamar, and a nice place to get a pre-movie or post-movie drink, snack or full meal. You can even bring your drink into the theater. The themed karaoke rooms look amazing.

Cons: The Highball can get very crowded during dinnertime and late at night, and it's very difficult to hear people sitting next to you.

Parking: Park in the adjacent garage, which you can (and should) access from Treadwell. It's fairly spacious. If you absolutely must park on the street near the theater, be respectful of the neighborhood.

Distance: You can't walk to downtown movie theaters from here unless you're into serious hiking, but you can take a bus or find a friendly Austinite with a car. A cab from the theater to downtown isn't expensive, but they're unlikely to hang around the parking lot, so be prepared to phone.

On-side food and beverages: The Highball has a snazzy cocktail menu as well as a number of beers on tap, some small plates and appetizers and a few entrees. The small plates and entrees are often a little lighter and healthier than the Alamo Drafthouse selections.

Nearby dining options: See the Alamo South Lamar listing for a list of places to eat both in walking distance and a short drive away.

Coffee (and wireless) break: About two blocks further south down Lamar (away from downtown), you'll find a Starbucks in a strip mall across the street from Saxon Pub, next to A-OK Chinese. Further than a walk, drive north to Barton Springs Road, then turn right to Austin Java.

[Photo credit: "The Highball" by Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Used under blanket permission agreement.]

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