Alamo Drafthouse

Quick Snaps: The Bone Shack in Austin


The Bone Shack­

My husband and I were at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar on Sunday to see Sicko, and on our way into the theater we noticed all kinds of changes, mostly imports from Alamo Downtown. The first one was Karen, the longtime manager of the downtown location ... you know everything's going to be all right when you see Karen on the case. Mondo Tees has taken over the old box-office space. The tall tables and chairs from the sides of the downtown theater (I spent 24 hours in one of those seats once) are now in the South Lamar lobby, providing a nice place to hang out before/after movies. Some of the couches from the last row downtown lined the hallway between the theaters.

But the most charming addition to South Lamar wasn't from Alamo Downtown, it was from Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez's segment of Grindhouse. Here's the sign from the barbecue joint, The Bone Shack, right behind a row of video games. (Amusingly, one of the video games is Rolling Thunder, which is also the name of one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite films ... he founded a short-lived distribution company with that name in the 1990s.) I know Planet Terror was shot in Austin, but I don't know which location was used for The Bone Shack. Anyone?

And when we left the theater after Sicko, we saw the biggest import of all from the Downtown locale ... the sign.

Mysteries Revealed -- The Fate of the Alamo Downtown Sign


­Alamo Downtown sign ... at South Lamar

One question I heard several times as I worked on the Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon project was, "Do you know what Alamo is going to do with the old sign?" People sure did love that Alamo Downtown sign -- I know I've taken dozens of photos of it myself over the years. One of the saddest sights from the Last Night at Alamo was the image of the sign being taken down and hauled away. I found out what happened to the sign on Sunday, and it was entirely coincidental that I was there when it was happening.

We saw Sicko with a group of friends at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar on Sunday. As we were walking out of the theater, trying to decide where we wanted to go next to discuss the movie (aside: someone really ought to put a coffee shop or ice-cream parlor right next to that Alamo, preferably with free wireless), we looked up and ... wow. There was the old Alamo Downtown sign, being mounted on the side of the South Lamar theater (more after the jump).

Movie-related Events This Week

I've been hearing about a lot of interesting screenings and events around town this week, so I thought I'd share a list of the highlights. If I'm missing anything, feel free to promote your own movie-related event in the comments section.

  • Tuesday night, Austin Film Festival kicks off their new seminar series, Conversations in Film, with a panel called "Script to Screen: Making the Short Film." Panelists include Steve Collins (who expanded his short Gretchen and the Night Danger into the LAFF-winning Gretchen), Jenn Garrison (Prizewhores), and Scott Rice (Perils in Nude Modeling and the very funny Script Cops shorts that preceded films at AFF last year). The seminar takes place at Coldtowne Theater at 6 pm, and you can buy tickets from the AFF site, or call the AFF office if you're eligible for the member discount. I'm amused that two of these three panelists have directed shorts that feature the acting talents of AFF Membership Director John Merriman. That's coincidence ... or is it?
  • Also on Tuesday, if you are a Filmmaker-level or higher member of Austin Film Society, you can attend the Docs-in-Progress screening of Best Kept Secret, directed by PJ Raval and Jay Hodges. Reserve seats through AFS. Best Kept Secret is about the transformation of Trinidad, Colorado, into the "sex change capital of the world." You might know Raval primarily as a cinematographer, who's photographed a number of local films such as Room, The Cassidy Kids, and the aforementioned Gretchen. Hodges is a book editor who has also worked with the Cinematexas film festival. (I really wish these AFS and AFF events weren't competing with one another -- it would be fabulous to attend both.)

Nick's Last Night at the Alamo

­ Alamo sign comes down

If I don't write about it, it didn't happen, right?

If I don't make a big deal about it, next week, I'll stroll up those steps and see all the regulars and we'll all go back into our little attic theatre and watch some messed-up exploitation film and have a blast, right? Then we'll come back the next night for Terror Thursday, right?

Ever since a Weird Wednesday midnight showing of Drum with Warren Oates, the Original Alamo Drafthouse has been a big part of my life. Most Wednesdays you could find me catching the free show having a blast, hanging out with the regulars and having all sorts of fun. Weird Wednesday will continue on at Alamo South Lamar, but most of the regular programs are on hiatus until we get the Ritz going, along with the specialty programming. No Terror Thursdays, Music Mondays, sing-alongs, Foleyvision, etc. Too many shows to list.

It still doesn't feel real. I was at the last show, I watched the sign come down (Pics here), but it still doesn't feel like it was something that happened. I haven't been back to 409 Colorado and seen the empty building yet, so that helps.

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.)

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.

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