Alamo Drafthouse

Quick Snaps: Alamo Ritz Flashback

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Opening night at Alamo Ritz

It's my birthday today, and this reminds me of the way we celebrated my birthday three years ago. The day before, my husband took me to Alamo Ritz and we had an impromptu picnic in the smaller Ritz theater, right before the grand opening of Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz in the larger theater. Read my Ritziest Birthday Ever post for the full account. I've got a couple more photos after the jump -- my favorite, however, is from SXSW 2008.

Since 2007, I've been to a number of events and screenings at Alamo Ritz, from Butt-Numb-a-Thon to Bruce Campbell, and have enjoyed the theater very much. I hope it'll be around for a long time.

Of course, the Ritz has been around for much longer than the three years it's been an Alamo Drafthouse theater. Alamo is celebrating the theater's 81st birthday tomorrow with a special screening of The Jazz Singer. This being the Alamo, they're not just showing the movie -- it will be preceded by a performance from jazz musician Erik Hokkanen and his band, and admission includes a three-course meal and champagne toast. Now, I'd be happy with 81 more years of the Ritz, please.

Fantastic Fest 2010 Guide: How to Drink Like an Austinite

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Draft beers at The High Ball

Being a native Texan and a craft beer enthusiast, I feel the need to dispel a misconception about Texas beer -- Lone Star is NOT the national beer of Texas. Former Governor Ann Richards unofficially declared Shiner Bock the "national" beer of Texas during her term, as it was her personal favorite hailing from the Spoetzl brewery in Shiner, Texas. Sure, Lone Star beer will quench your thirst when you're floating down the Guadalupe River on an inner tube, but if you have a palate for real hop flavor or a good malt backbone, Texas offers many more and much better beers.

With an increase in the number of microbreweries in Texas, The Texas Craft Brewers Guild has finally come to realization. Central Texas has three microbreweries that have been producing and distributing for several years -- Live Oak, Real Ale, and Independence Brewing. (512) Brewing just celebrated their second anniversary and Thirsty Planet began hitting local taps in July. As if five microbreweries around Austin isn't enough, another eight new craft breweries are slated for Central Texas within the next two years.

What does beer have to do with the Austin film scene and Fantastic Fest? Plenty, if you want to enjoy the "draft" in Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

Alamo Drafthouse's Latest Endeavor: Film Distribution

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Drafthouse FilmsThe news from Alamo Drafthouse just gets bigger and bigger. Earlier this year, you may recall that Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League was named CEO of all the Alamo Drafthouse locations -- the ones he owns and the corporate/franchise business, which are all essentially one company now. And as of Thursday morning, Alamo Drafthouse has gone into the movie distribution business, announcing that the new distribution company called Drafthouse Films will release the comedy Four Lions this fall -- you may remember it was the closing-night film at SXSW this year.

In addition, Peter Hall of Cinematical interviewed Tim League right after the news about his new distribution company and found out some more news about Alamo Drafthouse: League is working to open two new locations of the theater chain in New York and Los Angeles next year. These are in addition to franchise Alamo theaters that may open around the country.

Fortunately for me, Cinematical asked Tim League all the questions I planned to ask him, therefore saving me a phone call. (Thank you, Mr. Hall.) League has not set a definite number of movies that Drafthouse Films will distribute in a year. Drafthouse Films is not going to get into a massive bidding war with big-name studios at Sundance for new indie films. League intends to proceed with this slowly and at a pace in proportion with the Drafthouse chain.

Fantastic Fest Flashbacks: 2008

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Fantastic Fest 2008: 'Road Warrior' screening

By 2008, after three fantastic years (2005, 2006, 2007), Fantastic Fest was no longer a fledging fest. There were definitely growing pains as the fests popularity grows. And why wouldn't it? The fest was based at the best theater in the world with world-class cinema that was well, fantastic on so many levels.

My favorite part about 2008 was the special online screenings, with a mix of shorts and features available for online viewing through B-Side. It made it possible to see more films that I would have otherwise. I got to see the disturbingly entertaining documentary; I Think We're Alone Now, profiling two Tiffany stalkers. Yes, that Tiffany, and yes, it was a recent documentary.

I love the docs at Fantastic Fest, they're very interesting, and I hope to see more. That's not to slight the Austin-based documentary about our youngest auteur, Emily Hagins, Zombie Girl: The Movie. Emily is currently working on her third feature film, My Sucky Teen Romance (which deserves kudos for the best title this year). And then there was Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! a doc about Australian filmmaking in the late 70s through the 80s, which played along with the Ozploitation film program featuring some of the same, from Mad Max to Turkey Shoot.

Quick Snaps: Joe Bob Briggs at Alamo Ritz

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Joe Bob Briggs

Last Sunday night, I went to Alamo Ritz for this month's Cinema Club screening, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Cinema Club is a monthly(ish) series that focuses on older films, with a discussion of those films afterward. A special guest is invited who has expert knowledge of the film being shown, and the discussions are often lively and interesting.

This month's Cinema Club special guest was Joe Bob Briggs, as you can see in the center of the above photo. You might not associate the drive-in movie critic of Grapevine, Texas with Preston Sturges movies, but he knew all about Sturges' work for Paramount and the ways in which Sturges managed to push this surprisingly racy-for-its-time movie -- about a young woman who finds herself pregnant after a night with a lot of soldiers -- past the Production Code office. I love Preston Sturges films and 1930s screwball comedies in general, but I definitely felt the limitations of my own film knowledge during the post-movie discussion. I didn't mind; it's a pleasure to learn new things about movies from someone like Joe Bob Briggs.

Up All Night at Cinemapocalypse with 'The Expendables'

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When the second annual Cinemapocalypse -- entitled Expendables Cinemapocalypse -- was announced a few weeks ago, the anticipation was extreme. People set alarms to make sure they didn't miss out on getting tickets, and the event sold out in mere minutes, even with a technical problem. The rush wasn't just for a sneak preview of The Expendables, but for the whole event, especially after the success of the 2009 Cinemapocalypse events in Austin and other cities.

The original Cinemapocalypse event was a West Coast variation of the Rolling Roadshow in early 2009, with an eight-night, four-city series of exploitation films from the Alamo vault, along with special guests. Last July, Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz rocked the socks off a theater full of film geeks with an all-night grindhouse event, also called Cinemapocalypse. The event was bookended with the local premiere of Inglourious Basterds complete with Quentin Tarantino himself, and ending with the historical drama Ip Man, based on the life story of Bruce Lee's Kung Fu master.

The highly anticipated event exceeded expectations with over 12 hours of films, trailers and special guests that left everyone as satisfied as they were exhausted. It was such a big deal that people were begging for our two-part report before the event because they couldn't get in. Unfurling Nazi banners during Inglourious Basterds and a surprise appearance from Robert Forster raised the bar again for Alamo Drafthouse events. Unfortunately, the bar was now impossible to reach.

Review: Cropsey

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One of the most iconic devices in horror films is a maniac terrorizing a local town, the worst of which is one who preys on children. But what if the urban legend turns out to be real? 

Filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio explore a real-life horror story of a boogeyman legend come to life in Cropsey, a movie about a series of murders centering on an abandoned state institution on Staten Island, New York, the suspect, the victims, and perceived versus actual guilt.

The "Cropsey" urban legend is so pervasive in the Hudson River valley region of New York, even people in outlying areas are familiar with it. Details change, but the core is the same: there's a maniac, he's armed, and he hunts kids. From a time when it was still common for kids to spend hours on their own without adult supervision, such cautionary tales kept some of us who were old enough to leave our own yards to be just a little more careful. On July 9, 1987, Jennifer Schweiger disappeared, and suddenly the boogeyman was real.

Quick Snaps: My Most Popular Flickr Photo

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Duff Beer at the Simpsons Feast, by J. Kernion

That's right. The most popular photo I have ever posted to Flickr is a bottle of beer -- Duff Beer, to be precise. Admittedly you can't pick up a frosty Duff Beer at any convenience store, unless you are a character on The Simpsons.

The photo is from the Alamo Drafthouse feast-and-screening of The Simpsons Movie, nearly three years ago. I still remember that feast with fondness, even though the combination of heavy food and beer pairings made me late to work the next day, and not that productive when I got there. (I don't work there anymore so I can confess that now.) Check out the above-linked entry for more photos, most of which I find more entertaining than the beer bottle, myself.

My husband picked up a Blu-ray of The Simpsons Movie and we watched it again a month or so ago. Yes, we did miss some amusing little visual details because we were trying to dine on Blinky and Moe's birthday fries. However, the movie is not nearly as good as, say, Season Four of The Simpsons, and I think we did the right thing by watching it during the feast. Besides, how often do you get to enjoy a feast with Duff beer pairings? I admit I'd probably go to more Alamo feasts if they offered beer pairings instead of wine. Yep, that's a hint.

Tim League Named Alamo CEO: What Does This Mean?

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Fantastic Fest: Day 7

As I reported on Cinematical earlier this morning, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema announced today that Tim League is now the company's CEO. What exactly does this mean, and how does it affect moviegoers in Austin? Now that more detailed news than the press release I received is starting to appear, let's sort  this out. Bear with me while I time-travel a bit to provide background, and then we can discuss the effects. (My sources are all listed at the end of the article.)

In 2004, Tim and Karrie League sold the company Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to a group of investors who planned to expand and franchise the Alamo brand name. The Leagues retained some financial interest in the company, as well as the right to use the Alamo Drafthouse name on the three theaters they owned in Austin: South Lamar, Village, and Downtown (then the one on Colorado). Alamo Lake Creek isn't owned by the Leagues; it's part of the company they sold. If you've noticed that the menu at Lake Creek is different and the programming is not quite the same, this is why.

Since 2004, the company opened more new Alamo Drafthouses around Texas. By 2010, nine company-owned or franchised Alamo Drafthouses were open in Austin, San Antonio, Houston/Katy, and even one in Virginia.

Marko Zaror Rocks Chilean Action Double Feature in Austin

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Marko Zaror, Isaac Florentine with Tim League

Local action film fans enjoyed an extra special double-fisted dose of bone-jarring action at a free screening of Mandrill and Undisputed III: Redemption at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar on Friday night. The audience was also treated to a Q&A with Mandrill producer and star Marko Zaror and Isaac Florentine, director of the second and third films in the Undisputed series -- seen above with Fantastic Fest and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League.

I enjoyed Mandrill at Fantastic Fest, and it was interesting to see it again with an audience full of action fans. I was disappointed to hear that plans for an American version of Zaror's 2007 action film Mirageman have been scrapped. Zaror alluded to the release of Kick-Ass having an impact on the loss of interest in Hollywood for a film about a hero from the streets that fights only with his fists. Check out a nice photo of Zaror (wearing a Mirageman shirt!) after the jump.

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