The Alamo Drafthouse: Savoring the Memories

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Anne del Castillo, POV’s director of development and special projects, is in Austin for SXSW. The former Austin resident reminisces about her favorite movie theater and looks forward to checking it out while she’s in town for the festival.

Alamo Drafthouse I’m really excited to go back to Austin for SXSW. Though I’m a native New Yorker (and proud of it), Austin is truly my second home. It’s changed since I left in 2002 — revitalization has rendered downtown Austin almost unrecognizable to me, so that each year when I return for SXSW, I wonder if I’ll find my old haunts. Fortunately, one place I can count on is the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema — the best place to see a film, hands down. Apart from the fact that you can order burgers and a pitcher of beer while watching a movie, the Alamo is a standout for its innovative programming and ongoing support of the local film scene.

Full disclosure: I got to work with the Alamo when I was at the Austin Film Society, and the owners Tim and Karrie League are good friends. But that aside, the Alamo really is an Austin institution; in 2005, Entertainment Weekly ranked it #1 among movie theaters around the country “doing it right.”
And with good reason.

Anne del Castillo with Doris Wishman at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema The Alamo reminds us that going to the movies should be fun. Some of my most memorable moments at the Alamo, outside of the programs we did for the Austin Film Society (such as the Quentin Tarantino film festivals), include seeing a double feature of Bad Girls Go to Hell and Double Agent 73 and hanging out with the “Queen of Sexploitation” herself, Doris Wishman; enjoying a feast of Mexican quesadillas and Chinese dumplings to accompany a double feature of Robert Rodriguez‘s El Mariachi and its Chinese counterpart Run; watching my first Buster Keaton film with live musical accompaniment by Tosca (who performed the music on Rick Linklater‘s mesmerizing Waking Life).

The Alamo is also one of the few places where you actually don’t want to miss the movie trailers. Tim is a skilled archaeologist, unearthing trailers from old grindhouse films, B-movie theaters, 70s television commercials, and who knows where. But some of the best trailers are the ones he edits himself, like the one he did with Gov. Ann Richards enforcing the Alamo’s house rules.

After 10 years, the Alamo has turned into an indie franchise, with nine locations in Austin and across Texas. In 2005, they hit the road with the Rolling Road Show, a summer-long film tour offering free screenings, like Jaws on Martha’s Vineyard or The Warriors in Coney Island, New York. Sadly, the original Alamo location is no longer, but last year they set up their main headquarters in the old Ritz Theater on Sixth Street in Austin, and I’m looking forward to seeing the new digs when I’m in town for SXSW. It’s sure to be a good time.

Anne del Castillo
Anne del Castillo
Anne is POV's director of development and special projects; she has been active in the independent media arts and public television as a producer, programmer and fundraiser for over 12 years. She currently manages American Documentary's fundraising activities, content research and program licensing. Prior to joining the AmDoc staff in 2002, she was a production associate at American Masters in New York and then series coordinator for Frontline in Boston. In 1997, she moved to Austin, Texas, where she served as associate director of the Austin Film Society, and worked on numerous documentary and narrative film projects. She served as vice president of the board of Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers and has been a panelist for numerous arts and media organizations.