Alamo Drafthouse

Sad News: Lars Nilsen Leaving Drafthouse Programming Post

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Fantastic Fest 2011, Day Eight

News that Lars Nilsen (pictured at top on left) is leaving his programmer position at Alamo Drafthouse was released today by Alamo Drafthouse. The news comes as no surprise to those closely familiar with the Drafthouse programming team, but it is still unwelcome news. Few businesses have a relationship so strong between their employees and customers as Alamo Drafthouse can boast, one that can truly be called a family. And in the case of Lars Nilsen, that relationship goes back to the earliest days at 4th and Colorado.

Coming on top of last week's departure of programmer Zack Carlson, this represents a major transition in the Drafthouse family with as-yet unknown effects. Zack and Lars were not just silent, behind-the-scenes programmers. Together, they have been the most public-facing representatives of the Drafthouse on a daily basis, and creators of feature programs like Weird Wednesday and Terror Tuesdays.

With any family, the kids eventually grow up and head to college and start their own careers and families. As these gentlemen move on to bigger and better things in their careers, the effect of their time here will continue to be felt even as new faces appear to make their own marks.

Mike's Alamo Memories: 'Lamar est mort. Vive Lamar!'

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Alamo Drafthouse on South LamarThis month, our community collectively said goodbye for a while to the flagship Alamo Drafthouse location and home of press screenings, special events, festivals like SXSW and aGLIFF Polari, and the two most dear in my heart: Butt-Numb-a-Thon and Fantastic Fest.

I have countless memories of this place, beginning with my first screening there eight years ago: Robin Williams in The Big White, the first screening of the first Fantastic Fest in 2005. I've likely seen more movies in this cinemaplex than in all the other theaters I've visited in my life combined. Certainly more than I dare attempt to count, though an average of 30 films each year for Fantastic Fest plus the five 24-hour Butt-Numb-a-Thons would equal roughly 600 hours, or 25 solid days of films watched there before we even started on SXSW, aGLIFF or any of the other shows.

No single word or phrase is sufficient to capture the significance of this place. It's not a mere theater, just a home away from home, or a paltry legend. It's all of the above, and a bag of chips. Tim League turned this former grocery-store location into a dream world, a pocket universe that brought a piece of Hollywood to us in the heart of Texas, sometimes with glitz and glamour and sometimes the Hollywood that sits behind the camera.

This is the place where I've been inches from (and in some cases chatted with, in no particular order) Rick Baker, Phil Tippett, Peter Jackson, Darren Aronofsky, Tim Burton, Roger Corman, Frank Darabont, The Wachowski Starship, McG, Uwe Boll, Don Coscarelli, Scott Derrickson, Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Lucky McKee, Ethan Hawke, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Mel Gibson, Doug Benson, Susan Tyrell, Bill Murray, Paul Rudd, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Zack Ward, Richard Kelly, Dominic Monaghan, Kevin McKidd, Josh Hartnett, Jason Momoa, John Gulager, Clu Gulager, Barbara Crampton, Danny McBride, Justin Theroux, Noah Segan, Rian Johnson, Jess Franco, Angela Bettis, Anton Yelchin, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jeff Fahey, Jeffrey Combs, Dolph Lundgren, Karl Urban, Darren Bousman, Bill Pullman and Craig Brewer ... among many many others.

It is the place where we've partied until dawn and then come back for another day of movies and partied til dawn again... for a week... every year... for almost a decade. It is the place where, at one of those parties, the legend of Nacho Vigalondo was born with the introduction of the "swastika dance." It is the place where, at the same party the following year, sometime around 4 am, I saw 15 men pile atop each other beneath a shower of beer foam to the song "It's Raining Men." It is the place where I saw Elijah Wood, aka Frodo Baggins, on hands and knees in the middle of an impromptu live-action Human Centipede re-enactment, making him truly "one who has seen the eye."

Alamo South Lamar Memories: Not Quite Pineapple Express

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One of my biggest regrets in life is not having the foresight to sear into my memory bank, the first ever Alamo Drafthouse experience I had. I cannot for the life of me remember what it is. I remember at one point recommending people come to this theater because they had some of the best pizza I've eaten in my life (they still do, and I still do), but I just can't remember what movie I saw at an Alamo the first time I ever went.

I don't remember the first movie I saw at South Lamar either, but I do remember the first movie I almost saw there. There was a promotional screening for Pineapple Express, and Seth Rogen was going to be there. At the time, I was still enamored with the idea of seeing a famous actor in person, and so I went to stand in line for hours.

Alamo South Lamar Memories: Closing with 'Chainsaw'

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Alamo Drafthouse on South LamarTwo things for which the Austin, Texas film community is well known are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas. The first is a legendary horror movie from 1974, made by a very independent Austin film community. The second is the theater chain that represents all that is exciting about film exhibition. Owned and operated by true film geeks, Alamo Drafthouse is a home away from home for movie lovers worldwide.

On January 3, these two worlds combined to celebrate the temporary closing of a cathedral of film worship: Alamo Drafthouse Galactic Headquarters, located on Austin's South Lamar Boulevard. 

Last month, the news spread that the Lamar theater would be closing for nine months (or thereabouts) for a massive remodel. Accompanying this closure would be an evening of kick-ass Drafthouse events on January 3, including special screenings of films like John Dies at the End, Pieta, Pretty in Pink, The Big Lebowski and ... drumroll please ... a double feature of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre from 1974 and its most recent sequel, to be released in theaters the next day: Texas Chainsaw 3D. Not only would we be seeing these two movies, but TOBE FREAKING HOOPER (who co-wrote and directed the original film) would be in attendance.

I had to be there! A few days later, tickets went on sale and I managed to score seats for this epic event.

I arrived at the theater an hour early to hang out with friends and see what the Drafthouse had cooked up. True to form, the Drafthouse crew had set up a photobooth with props and costumes. We had a little fun with this:

Alamo South Lamar Memories: Fantastic Fest 2008

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Fantastic Fest 2008I moved to Austin from Seattle a little over four years ago. Before I moved to Austin I made sure of one thing: Did Austin have any decent film festivals? Seattle has one of the best  festivals in the country and I didn’t want to go without that annual experience. After some quick research I found SXSW and the Austin Film Festival. Check and check! My high (in my mind) standard was met. 

Along with some great film festivals, Austin houses one of the best theatre chains in the US of A: Alamo Drafthouse! As an avid moviegoer it took me all of five seconds to recognize the greatness of this theatrical experience. I think I watched five or six movies at the Drafthouse before actually moving here. 

On one my many visits to the South Lamar theater in 2008, I noticed a blurb in the monthly guide advertising something called Fantastic Fest. I did a little digging and came up with one reaction: HELL YA! This is THE type of festival I wanted to attend. So I ponied up for a badge and a few short weeks later I experiences filmic bliss.

I was exposed to some of the coolest films in all of mankind! I watched Let the Right One In, Repo: The Genetic Opera, Donkey Punch, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Treevenge, Tokyo Gore Police, The Wreck, Not Quite Hollywood and many many others. I was also introduced to the mania that is Nacho Vigalondo (come to Fantastic Fest to see him in person). The festival was insane and I felt right at home. And over the years Fantastic Fest has become a real home with real family to me.

Prep for 'Holy Motors' with a Leos Carax Retrospective

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The Lovers on The BridgeAfter almost 13 years, French film writer/director Leos Carax brings his unique visual imagery and surreal minimalistic storytelling to the screen with the critically acclaimed film Holy Motors, which opens in Austin on Friday, December 7. Denis Levant stars as Monsieur Oscar, a mysterious character who travels throughout Paris and takes on different roles -- beggar, monster, father, captain of industry -- accompanied only by his driver Celine, exquisitely portrayed by Edith Scob.

To celebrate Carax's return, Austin Film Society and Alamo Drafthouse present a retrospective "Essential Cinema Plus: The Films of Leos Carax" from December 2 -10, at Alamo on South Lamar. Tickets are $8 for AFS members and $10 for general admission. All films are in French with English subtitles.

Here's the lineup:

The Lovers On The Bridge (1991)
Sunday, December 2, 7 pm (screening info)
Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant (pictured at top) star in this dark romance set on Paris' oldest bridge, the Pont Neuf, as a homeless painter and circus performer.

Fantastic Fest 2012: Mid-Fest Buzz

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Fantastic Fest 2012 tickets

We're halfway through Fantastic Fest 2012, and that means we still have four more days of amazing movies, friends and partying. Many filmmakers and industry types have left or will be leaving, to be replaced with second-half badgeholders. For those of you just arriving, we've got some tips and updates.

First, you must navigate the ticketing system. At 9:30 am you have two choices. You can stand in line at the South Lamar box office, or you can go online at http://tix.fantasticfest.com and click the Reserve Boarding Passes button, which puts you in the ticket queue. When your turn comes up in the queue, you enter your badge number and then select from the available films in each timeslot for the day. When you're finished, click the button at the bottom of the page to return to the Fantastic Fest homepage. There will be no other confirmation that you are done. Also, you must still go to the box office to have your tickets printed and number assigned. (Don't be scared by the high numbers. You can get a pretty good seat even with a number above 200.)

Hot Tickets at Fantastic Fest 2012

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Fantastic Fest

Today is the beginning of another (8th, in fact) Fantastic Fest, the homegrown brainchild of Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League, Ain't It Cool head geek Harry Knowles, Paul Alvarado-Dykstra  and Tim McCanlies, which has grown into an international powerhouse of the genre film world. The fest runs through Thursday, September 27, and genre film lovers are arriving in Austin from around the country ... around the world, even, as the emphasis on international films brings filmmakers from countries including Chile, Denmark, Spain and Japan.

The films have been chosen, attendees are arriving, and the schedule has been set (though some surprises may yet lie in store).  As you look at the schedule planning which films to see this week, consider these hot-ticket shows:

  • Sinister -- No one can fail to mention this homecoming film to be released on October 12, scripted by Austin writer C. Robert Cargill. J.C. reviewed the movie after its secret SXSW screening. Sinister will only screen once, on Friday at 8:30 pm. This is perhaps the hottest ticket of the fest not only because of local roots, but because of the overwhelming positive reception it has received from critics and audiences alike.
  • Dredd 3D -- Karl Urban returns as a Fantastic Fest guest (he appeared previously for a Q&A with RED in 2010). Early reports say Dredd is a winner. Debbie has seen it and says she "didn't want to like it due to the ultra-violence and mounting indiscriminate body count, but a well-developed character arc and the pacing engaged me more than I initially intended." It screens tonight at 9:05 pm -- if you don't have tickets already, you'll want to get in the standby line.

Alamo South Lamar Plans an Intermission, and Other Theater Development News

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Alamo S Lamar Redevelopment Plan by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

The land sale has been in the works for a while, and yesterday it became official: Lamar Plaza, which houses Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar and The Highball, has been purchased by Greystar developers. This likely multi-million dollar deal (the final sale price hasn't been released) means the current surface lot and one-story shops setup are going bye-bye.  Of more interest to filmgoers such as you and I are the implications of this sale as far as the Alamo theatre and The Highball are concerned.

The news is mixed. The Alamo South Lamar and Highball will be sticking around, although not in their current formations. The Highball, where my friends and I sing karaoke during happy hour every now and then, will close November 17 to be re-worked. When the new Highball opens in mid-to-late 2013, gone will be the vintage bowling lanes. There will still be a bar, stage and private karaoke rooms -- along with the addition of open-air seating. The new Highball will sit adjacent to the theater.

The South Lamar theater will close in January 2013 for about nine months, and this will likely throw some event planners and moviegoers for a loop. Regular series (such as Austin Film Society screenings) that usually show at the Lamar location will probably relocate to either the Ritz or Village locations. If you prefer watching summer blockbusters at the Alamo, you'll have to head to the Slaughter, Village, or Lake Creek locations ... or learn to love other Austin movie theaters.

Reel One: Sprocket Society Flickers to Life at the Ritz

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By Stefan Gill

On a toasty August Sunday, a group of film fans filled the small second theater at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz to experience the premiere of what is sure to be another great Alamo tradition: the Sprocket Society. The concept is as old as the movies (or at least, as old as the movies shown in the theater that day): projecting rare films in their intended format.

Tommy Swenson, the mastermind of the wonderful Drafthouse pre-shows -- which both make fun of and glorify the film the audience paid to see -- brought this idea from his backyard, where with the help of a 16mm projector he collected and showed actual film prints to friends, both to display the beauty of original formats and to empower film lovers to pay it forward and discover buried film treasures on their own.

The goal of the Sprocket Society is as raw as the prints on display: For the first screening, several short programs of varying types and decades were projected, including a Flash Gordon serial, an 8mm documentary on an African tribe dangerously building a bridge (the first film Werner Herzog ever saw), a rare Western filmed in San Antonio and directed by Georges Melies' brother Gaston Melies, and the trippiest (and most mysterious) student film ever made, Omega.

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