Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Alamo Drafthouse!!!

Alright, down to brass tacks.  tax?  Anyway.  Time to tell you about one of the best things in Austin.  Something that sets a precedent for all.  I'm talking about the Alamo Drafthouse.

What is the Alamo Drafthouse?  Well, put simply, it's a movie theater where you can order beer and food.  Yep, the legends are true!  And they are alive in Austin.  As a matter of fact, I just watched Serenity last week at the Alamo drafthouse -whaaaat?!  You read me right.  They also play retro and cult classics.  I'm hoping to catch a showing of Ridley Scott's Alien, for Sci Fi/Horror October!

My first experience at the Alamo Drafthouse was in, maybe 2005, when I visited Austin for the first time.  A friend and I watched Black Snake Moan, a forgettable movie starring Sam Jackson and Christina Ricci and Justin Timberlake.  It was about a girl who had a compulsive sex addiction, and a reclusive former blues musician who helps her break it by putting a big chain around her waist.  And also her sort of unstable fiancee home from the war.  I'll let you guess who played what roles. It was okay, I guess.  But what made the biggest impression on me was what they showed leading up to the movie.

We were seated your standard 15 minutes early; as soon as they let us in.  And as we waited for the movie to start, they played different old clips of blues musicians performing.  Some in color others in black and white.  I distinctly remember John Lee Hooker, who had passed away a few years earlier and was a favorite of my Dads.  So cool!  No shit-tastic movie-tunes that rule the horrible candy-box theaters of today, but a customized set of clips designed to set the stage for the movie.

Similarly, when I saw Serenity last week, there were clips from sci fi movies and from westerns.  Also occasional Joss Whedon clips.  There was Brisco County Jr.  There was Star Trek, there was Barbarella, Dr. Horrible (freeze ray),  and this hilarious clip of Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris in a doctor's office.  And then there was an actual preview, but it was for the Sci Fi retro-specials that month at the draft house.  

Another custom feature of the Alamo Drafthouse is to include is Public Service Announcements to keep your phones silent and not to talk in the movie.  They have all sorts of great PSAs to warn you.  One from Michael Madsen.  One form Homestarr Runner.  Joss Whedon, etc, etc, etc.  I'm telling you, this is quality stuff.  They have a one-warning system.  You get your warning and if you keep jabbering, you get thrown out.  Ruthless.  Perfect.  

I have always hated that about movies, people talking.  My most distinct memory of this frustration is when Jaconian and I went to see the Blair Witch Project.  Now, granted, that movie has become a bit of a joke now, but at the time, we were both really excited.  It was a new and creative horror movie!  Kind of out of nowhere, and I think we were the right people to appreciate what they had to offer.  Unfortunately, I will never know if that movie is any good, because these fucking people, RIGHT BEHIND US, talked through the whole. damn. thing.  This completely ruined the immersion and any sense of suspense, which I felt was a necessary part of the film.  I tried to watch and enjoy it anyway, and or the record: I still liked it.  But I just know that this movie could have been so much more in silence.  ugh.  Well.  The good news is:  that will never happen at the Drafthouse. 

Oh --- one more thing - if you actually *like* talking in movies, they've also got the opposite:  Quote-along movies! Usually comedies, they'll show Monty Python, or Mel Brooks or some Will Ferrel movie, and the idea is to quote all the time.  It's sort of a Rocky Horror style production, with noises and all that sort of bullshit.   I haven't been to one, but I think it sounds almost as awesome as their normal programming.  

Wow, I haven't even talked about the food yet.  Because, really, it's not that big a deal.  But they have a good system.  In front of every row of chairs is a bar, maybe a foot wide, with a lip.  You write down your order, clip it to the front, and a wait staff will come by intermittently and snatch it up, then bring you your food back.  The first Drafthouse I went to had perfected this system.  They used stadium seating, so the wait staff was a full food and a half to two feet lower than the viewer.  I usually didn't notice them.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for every Drafthouse.  The place I saw Serenity, I was in the front row, and it was not stadium seating.  The wait staff had to hunch and run by quickly.  It's unfortunate, and I hope they try to avoid this whenever possible.  Oh well.  It is nice to drink a beer at a movie, I'll tell you that much.

In conclusion, if you love movies: so do the people at the Alamo Drafthouse.  If you really love movies, then I think it is worth making Austin a destination in your travels.


P.S.  I almost forgot:  I'm going to make an appeal to the friends of the State Theater to use an Alamo Drafthouse style business model.  It's worth a shot!  They just need a way to get the college kids out there.

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