Amazing Austin Things # 1: The Cinema

The prospect of writing a huge piece about my trip to Fantastic Fest 2008, in Austin, Texas, is rather overwhelming - mainly because there are so many amazing things to write about. So I'm just going to write about individual aspects of it, as and when I feel like it, whether they be films, events, things, activities or interstellar fuck-whiskers (blimey, wait 'til you hear about those).

Let's start with the Alamo Drafthouse itself - the cinema where Fantastic Fest was based. It is absolutely the best cinema I've ever set foot in. And it's almost amusing that it's the best by such a ridiculously huge margin.

So why does it make practically every UK cinema look like a sardine-tin shithole? Because it actually cares about the customer's movie-watching experience. As James 'Jimbos' Moran has quacked here and here, for one thing it has a zero-tolerance policy to people making unnecessary noise during films. Talk while everyone else is trying to enjoy the pretty pictures and sound, and you'll soon be warned and probably kicked out. Look how delighted Jimbos and Jay 'Slatros' Slater were by this happy state of affairs!

Admittedly, it can be hard to adhere to this policy - during a sadly disappointing film called Acolytes, Slatros and I started yapping like children, buoyed by the giddy highs of champagne (only $22 a bottle - we're not rich, I tells ya). Eventually, someone quite rightly gave us a quick, sharp "shush" and we shut up. Another time, while Uncle Jimbos and I were trying to watch a midnight showing of utterly ludicrous gorefest Feast 2, some bloke was incessantly rambling on to his girlfriend. Eventually, I went over and asked him to be quiet - safe in the knowledge that the cinema would back me up, if things turned nasty. Do that in a UK cinema and you'll probably get a knife in the spleen. Of course, thinking about it, I was risking getting my head blown off, but that's simply the kind of big, hairy tough-guy that I am.

For another thing, these cinemas are lovingly designed and constructed for maximum fun. I didn't count the seats, as I was too busy enjoying my time in them, but the huge auditoriums contain far fewer seats than a UK cinema would cram in. This is because, between each row of seats, there's a walkway, from one side of the auditorium to another. This is handy for two reasons:

  • You can go to the toilet without an entire row of people having to stand up to let you past.
  • You have loads of legroom.
  • Serving staff can bring you food and booze from this menu. Christ, it's like being in paradise, it really is. You write your order down, stick it in a little groove on the table, like a flag, and someone soon nips over to take it. Then you eat, drink and pay towards the end of the film. Unbelievably, all the ordering and munching really isn't distracting at all. God knows how.
These days, cinema-viewing has become an ordeal which doesn't justify the expense. If UK cinema chains really want to stop their attendance numbers from plummeting, then they should stop whining about piracy and DVDs, knock down some soulless multiplexes and build a few Alamo Drafthouses of their own.

Oh, and the Alamo Drafthouse also has a retro Donkey Kong arcade machine, which is permanently set to free-play. Such a childish pursuit may amuse some, but I most certainly held no truck with it. Good day to you.


Dan Turner said...

Well sir. That looks like a cinema-goers dream it does. Although I think the smell of people eating may put me off a bit. I usually want to barf if someone near me i a eating a hot-dog or nachos in the cinema.

As for attendances. I'm not sure these type of cinemas would affect ticket sales as you don't get so many bums on seats.
I think it may be a way back for the humble independent cinema chains though, as it would give them an edge over the multiplex.
Meaning you get to see films that are crowded out by 6 showings of Batman at one cinema, and get to watch them in comfort and with booze and food.
I have a cinema near to me ( which seems very similar, but these novelty cinemas in the UK are currently being hounded by the big distributors because of the higher price tag you pay for indulging in a better experience. And of curse the distributors feel they should get a piece of it.(sigh)
As for distributors bleating about piracy, I'm afraid I must bleat along with them!

Piers said...

And they have both Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada on the menu too!

When are we going, again?

Jason Arnopp said...

Piers: We're going TONIGHT! Don't tell Turner, though: he'd barf and bleat.

Small Print: Bloggery-Pokery does not advocate film piracy in any way, shape or form. It does, however, advocate booze, thrash metal and lesbianism.

Dan Turner said...

Booze, thrash metal and lesbianism are mandatory under EU Constitution 1.33.
I cannot help but imagine film piracy involving grizzled men with eye patches battling over golden cans of film with gun powder and swords.

Andy Phillips said...

If there's a better cinema, I'd like to see it.

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

that is definitely a wet dream come true for cinema lovers. I go to the cinema twice per week.

BUT I get distracted while eating food, cos I love food. I'd rather have a nice meal, finish it first and then watch the movie, undisturbed. so can't really eat food while watching a movie, but I could settle for a nice tall glass of fresh beer, but alcohol makes me pee so I'd hate to miss any moments of the movie if I have to make a bathroom break.

so, no food, no beer during the movie.