The Alamo Drafthouse’s self-slogan of “Bad-Ass Cinema” is a severe understatement.

The mecca for filmmakers, movie critics, and film fanatics from around the country is now one of the most popular places in town. In 2005, Entertainment Weekly called in the No. 1 theater in America and since then, Steve Rose with The Gaurdian has deemed it “Possibly the best cinemas in the world.” But how did this locally grown business transform into the multi-million dollar franchise that is currently changing the face of modern day cinema? The answer: one brilliant idea.

In 1994 recent graduates of Houston’s Rice University, Tim and Karrie League were young, in love, and unhappy with their careers. Tim, an engineer at Shell Oil, and Karrie, a microbiology researcher “got into the movie exhibition business accidentally.” League told MTV that neither he, nor his wife, liked where they were and “at the age of 24, decided to open up a movie theater.” The Leagues made their first attempt at their now iconic cinematic vision somewhere one might not expect for the conceptual birthplace of the Alamo Drafthouse: Bakersfield, California. And so the young couple started their path at the historic Tejon Theater, located on the east side of the city on Baker Street. The two worked hard to renovate and reopen the Tejon in hopes of finding a specific audience. They simultaneously realized that there had been a giant gaping hole in the industry for the movie-house patron who desired something more than first-run, mainstream movies paired with stale buttered popcorn and cherry flavored Icees. Following the design model of other independent theaters such as the Landmark chain, The Tejon specialized in screening various independent, classic, and cult films. This instantly set them apart and paved the way for their now famed, alternative programming. However, success did not find the Leagues in California. The combination of bad luck and poor geographical placement of the Tejon, both played in the downfall of their first theater. League told MTV, “That theater ended up being a huge mistake. It failed, really. It just didn’t work out.” The inability to obtain a liquor license by the local Alcohol Beverage Control ultimately lead to Leagues resulted in selling the theater in 1996. Since then, it has since been converted into an evangelical church. However, hope was not lost and the Leagues knew they could continue their dream elsewhere: back in Texas.

On June 1st 1996, the couple made the move from Bakersfield to Austin, where the Alamo Drafthouse would find its new embracing home. “We chose Austin for a number of reasons,” stated League to MTV. “It was a cool town, it had a big university, real estate at the time was relatively affordable and there wasn’t anything like it, but there was still a really receptive film audience. I had some family…in Austin, so it was easier to start there [than in] someplace like New York or LA, but it was still a pretty cool scene.” On December 1st, the Leagues signed a lease for a building downtown and construction finally began. While still under construction that following spring the Alamo, which did not have its permit at the time,  illegally opened its doors to the public for the 1997 South by Southwest Film Festival. It was Austin’s first taste of the theater and on May 24th 1997, the Alamo Drafthouse legally opened its doors to the world.

Since then, Tim and Karrie eventually evolved their original idea of a “different” movie theater into something completely unparalleled. “[We were] always trying to find an advantage that we could offer that other types of movie theaters couldn’t,” stated League. It is the combination of their novelty event-driven screenings and audience participation, which provides for the one-of-a-kind cinematic experience that the Alamo Drafthouse delivers.

People love food, and people love movies. The ability to capitalize on this is the first factor in the theater’s recipe for success. The Alamo has an efficient seating arrangement with rows of tables for every row of seats, which is also complimented with an open isle, used for quick and non-distracting transportation by both servers and audience members. The Alamo Drafthouse has a full menu with specialty dishes that correlate with current new-events and seasons. On top of that, the Alamo now has its liquor license and serves a wide array of wine, beer, and at the downtown location, liquor. Additionally, the Alamo also has specialty drink selections such as the serving of Butterbeer with the release of the Harry Potter films, and other favorites such as the “Grown-Up” milkshakes made with Makers Mark Whiskey and vanilla ice cream. The combination of dinner and a movie, actually AT the movies, has not only revolutionized the stereotypical date while making the Alamo extremely profitable, but has also expanded its audience demographics to nearly any movie goer who cannot say no to the comfort of being served quality food while relaxing during a film.

Aside from the element of food, there is also the element of fun in their programming. What makes the Alamo such a safe haven for film fans is the evidence that they love movies just as much as their audience. Through this, they utilize an audience’s involvement in a film and have specific events that have now become Alamo staples.

The Action Pack produces theatrical and interactive events which include: The monthly Alamo Drafthouse Sing-Along’s feature various hit songs from a specific artist to genre such as Michael Jackson or the upcoming, “Xmas Pops Sing-Along.” During this event, audience members are encouraged to participate as much as wanted by singing and dancing in their seats or in the isles. The Alamo’s Quote-Along’s are in the same nature by encouraging viewers to yell out the quotes to their favorite movies that rotate weekly. The latest and upcoming Quote-Along’s that are scheduled include movies such as “The Labyrinth”, “ELF”, “Zoolander”, and “Super Troopers.”

The Alamo’s various Feasts and Films offer multi-course meals paired with a specific movie. Upcoming events include a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Pizza Party” with all-you-can-eat pizza, and the “O Brother, Where Art Thou Feast”: with an appetizer of Beef and gravy on toast points (prison food), pulled porkraised brisket (greasy horse) and gopher grits (gopher). A soup of Frog “you though it was a toad” Jambalaya. The entrée consisting of chicken fricassee with greens, spicy corn on the cob, and mashed potatoes and of course, a giant peach pie for dessert (served on newspaper).

The Big Screen Classics are sometimes rare movies that the Alamo has been able to get 35mm prints of to re-show on the big screen. December’s screenings include “The Holy Mountain”, “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas”, and for Christmas, “Dark Side Of The Rainbow.”

Weekly, the Alamo hosts specialty genre nights which are respectively called Music Mondays, Terror Tuesdays, and Weird Wednesdays. With Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays only costing one dollar (Music Mondays cost two dollars), these late night screenings bring in fans of music documentaries, campy horror movies that are rarely shown on 35mm, and a wide array of cheesy 70’s exploitation films of all kind.

Aside from its usual programming, the Alamo Drafthouse also hosts many different events that are unique to it such as big movie screenings with directors and cast members in attendance. These screenings are followed by an audience Q &A session where any question may be asked. Musical events can also be found with certain film screenings and are paired with live musical acts or symphony members. Another main attraction over the years is their Master Pancake Theater, which is a comedy act in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The Alamo Drafthouse also hosts film fests such as Harry Knowles’ annual Butt-Numb-A-Thon and Fantastic Fest, which Tim League co-created with Knowles. Fantastic Fest is now one of the fastest growing film festivals in the country that still specializes in the genres that the Alamo usually represents such as sci-fi, action, fantasy, Asian, horror, and cult films.

The success of their identity has allowed the Alamo Drafthouse to branch out and expand outside of Austin. In the summer of 2004, Tim and Karrie sold their brand to build up a franchise model, but remained in control of the three main theaters in Austin, Texas. The expansion has gone so far as Winchester, Virginia and has currently totaled 10 different locations in Texas alone. In June 2010, Tim League was officially brought back as the CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse franchise.

Since then, League has even larger endeavors for his company.“Myself, I want to move into New York and LA and hopefully in relatively short order have Alamo Drafthouse locations open up in those major markets.” But much bigger plans are on the horizon for the patron CEO this time around. On September 9th 2010, the Alamo announced that is would be creating its own film distribution company, Drafthouse Films. An interview with MovieFone revealed that that League knew this could only happen with him at the front of his theaters, adding “All of this couldn’t come together until we merged the company and I came back on as CEO.” What this means for the company is that they do not have to wait to play a new title at their theaters, have the freedom and ability of now being able to bid for any film they wish to distribute. Drafthouse Film’s first picture under their name is Chris Morris’ “Four Lions”, a satirical comedy about Jihadist bombers-which had not been picked up by any other big distribution company due to its controversial material.

With the success of the Alamo Drafthouse and the recent start of Drafthouse Films, America will soon be infiltrated by the Drafthouse ideology. This will change the way that public consumers view film, and ultimately bring a revolution to the world of cinema, one Drafthouse at a time.

Additional information was provided by moviesblog.mtv.com

A Dipity interactive timeline of the Alamo Drafthouse:

A short video blog about the Alamo Drafthouse:

Advertisements

Plan-It-X Fest 2011

November 25, 2010

What do you get when you pack 508 punk kids into one venue that have hitchhiked, train hopped, and road tripped (most of whom have not showered in over a week) in the dead heat of the summer to Bloomington, Indiana? Sheer energy, but also, unfortunately, the pungent smell of garlic and onions. But this summer’s Plan-it-x Fest will be much more than a hedonistic punk free-for-all with stinky kids drinking beer and yelling at police. The festival is the quintessential event for every self-proclaimed ‘folk punk’.

Folk-punk as a genre deviates largely from the nihilistic stigma created by the punk movement in the early 1980s and 1990s, its lyrics usually involve sensitive materials such as maintaining a positive outlook on life in the midst of fear and depression, riding bikes, traveling, suicide and death, and perhaps most importantly, love.  There is no doubt that this year’s festival will follow the ethos of Chris Clavin, founder of Plan-it-x records and organizer of the gathering. His own band, Ghost Mice, critically analyzes the punk movement in the song “Up The Punks” singing:

“What have we done? What have we done?

Are we making any changes or just having fun?

What have we done?

Is this more than just music?

Is it more than just a club?

Are we making any difference?

What have we done?

Well just take a look around and I’m sure that you’ll agree,

That we’ve done a lot of things to improve communities,

Like organizing protests and serving Food Not Bombs,

Sending books to all the prisoners that’ve been locked up for so long…”

 

It is because of this that Plan-it-x Fest will be unlike most stereotypical punk rock events. To begin, all bands will only be covered for traveling expenses; the thousands of other dollars will be given away to various charities. If that was not enough, various workshops will be available most likely ranging from anything between community outreach to combating racism.

It is no wonder that all the tickets for this event were sold out in less than 3 hours; folk-punk is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Guided by solo acoustic acts to bands equipped with banjos, upright basses, and cellos, this will unquestionably be a unique event in punk rock history. For every “folk punk” long gone are the days of Black Flag and other punk rockers cynical visions to destroy, but rather now, a new tale is being sung, a tale about hope, caring, and rebuilding a world that has been lost. Even if the music may sound too raw and crude, no one in their right mind would disagree that folk-punk is taking punk to a new level.

Recommended bands to see: Defiance Ohio, Ghost Mice, Nana Grizol, Kimya Dawson, The Max Levine Ensemble, and The Mountain Goats, among many, many more.

Plan-it-x Fest 2011: June 24th, 2011 to June 26th 2011.

A Vegan Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

Vegan Thanksgiving.

The whole family is gathered around the table.  As your eyes reminiscently gaze over all the familiar faces from far and near you notice that everything seems so natural: uncle Bill is talking politics, your brother, ravenous from his first semester at college, is stuffing his face with food, family members are bickering, others are smiling, and your mom, oh who could forget mom, fretting all by herself in the kitchen over every single detail to make this day “just perfect”. Wonder slowly fades into reality when your stomach grumbles for the first time, the same neural impulse that your stomach is sending to your brain is telling you an all-to-familiar tale, that vegans aren’t really “Thanksgiving material”.  Before you know it, hunger turns into pain, pain becomes despair, and despair mixes with…. BING! The timer from the oven breaks the hopelessness, it’s ready!

The vegan dinner will soon be served.

What does someone who refrains from eating any animal product whatsoever (yes, that includes milk, eggs, and cheese) cook on a day best known for indulging on turkey, ham, and pie? The answer is easier than most people think.

Many vegan recipe websites are advertising special recipes for the holiday season, everything ranging from the intricate Tofu Turkey to a simple Pumpkin Pie Brownie. There is such a myriad of recipes that even the stingy vegan eater will have trouble choosing one of them. Websites such as: www.theppk.com, www.vegweb.com, and www.gentlethanksgiving.org provide ample recipes to choose from, the options are daunting to say the least. Here are some easy-to-make vegan recipes; but a word to the wise: you may want to make more than one serving because even the staunchest carnivore will be slobbering over these dishes.

Fluffy mashed potatoes

Doublebatch Chickpea Cutlets

And a Pumpkin Pie Brownie

Though I myself am not a vegan, these recipes will offer a delicious alternative for friends or family members who are often put in the delicate situation of communal eating on Thanksgiving. While the recipe choices are incalculable, not everyone is in the position to cook a vegan friendly dinner this Thanksgiving, the well-versed vegan often finds themselves as the guests of an un-vegan friendly dinner.However, here are tips (from a friend’s vegan perspective) on how to handle the big dinner:

Eat something before you attend the dinner

Be prepared to defend your veganism against questions and accusations (this ALWAYS comes up)

Bring a vegan dish to show off how tasty veganism can be

Finally, have fun, the holiday season is a time of coming together, don’t be offset by the choices others make

 

See? A vegan-friendly Thanksgiving dinner was much easier than you thought!

 

Graphic Cigarette Warnings

November 19, 2010


This past week, the FDA revealed a few design ideas they had been coming up with for the new, required cigarette label warnings. The mandatory warning labels are to cover 1/2 of the packs surface area and by Oct. 22, 2012 manufactures will not be able to sell their products without these graphic labels. Out of the 36 proposed designs, here are a few of the images that came out last Wednesday:

But out of all the warnings- some graphic and gruesome, others just troublesome, are they going to work? Is showing gruesome imagery really going to shock the addicted OUT of smoking? Or do these labels just stigmatize existing smokers while not achiving their

Last night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, guest Bruce Springsteen made a memorable appearance. The two paid their hommage to both Willow Smith and Neil Young by performing their own version of Smith’s “Whip My Hair”.


 
A hilarious satire of Neil Young, proves that Fallon’s talents surpass comedic one-liners, and leaves you surprised at how good he actually is at playing a folk song. Or does it leave you wondering how easy it is to make a folk song? The two ultimately make a great duo with Fallon portraying Young, and Springsteen portraying a younger, 70’s version of himself- fake beard included.

Palin’s Facebook Smackdown

November 18, 2010

We all have our views on celebrities and the use of social media. However a recent Facebook tiff with the two Palin daughters, Willow and Bristol Palin, bring up questions about how much people in the media (even minor celebrities) should censor themselves in what they display.
The Huffington Post reported on Willow Palin’s use of homophobic language towards personal acquaintances on a Facebook argument that started over an negative comment made about their mom’s new TV show, Alaska.

Various Facebook posts include rebuttals such as:



These are just excerpts from the extremely long and circular argument- but something tells me that the Palin daughters don’t understand that calling people stupid, fat, or ugly will not get them anywhere in life. Something also tells me that they don’t understand that everything they publish on the Internet is essentially being watched and potentially used against their political family.

So should celebrities monitor how they use their social media? At the end of the day, its a personal decision- however, I don’t think Sarah Palin herself would be too pleased with this publicity.

Homemade Four Loko

November 18, 2010

Weather you love this, or you might cry and curl into a ball: the FDA is going to ban all caffeinated malt liquor drinks.

Though there is nothing the public can do to stop this “21st century prohibition” the folks at Buzzfeed have tested and put together a simple tutorial of how to make your own Four Loko concoction at home.

Now, I have not personally tried this yet BUT I do believe that the tastes in a Four Loko seem accurate to what is in this video- and this is probably the closest you will ever get to your own energy-alcoholisms again.

Maher Vs. Stewart

November 10, 2010

Last week, Bill Maher added his own comments towards John Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity. Maher, argued against the comedian’s attended purpose for the rally by stating that it was unfair to compare outlandish claims of modern liberals with the claims of the republican party.

Huffington Post provided a transcript: “The message of the rally, as I heard it, was that if the media stopped giving voice to the crazies on both sides, then maybe we could restore sanity. It was all nonpartisan and urged cooperation with the moderates on the other side forgetting that Obama tried that and found out…there are no moderates on the other side. When Jon announced his rally, he said the national conversation was dominated by people on the Right who believe Obama’s a Socialist and people on the Left who believe 9/11’s an inside job, but I can’t name any Democratic leaders who think 9/11’s an inside job. But Republican leaders who think Obama’s a Socialist? All of them.”

Maher went further by disproving arguments and points provided by Jon Stewart:

“Martin Luther King spoke on that Mall in the capital and he didn’t say, ‘Remember folks, those southern sheriffs with the fire hoses and the German shepherds, they have a point too.’ No, he said I have a dream, they have a nightmare…Liberals, like the ones on that field, must stand up and be counted and not pretend that we’re as mean, or greedy, or short-sighted or just plain bat-shit as they are. And if that’s too polarizing for you, and you still wanna reach across the aisle … try church”

Watch the short video segment here:

By any standard, I am not calling a Tea Partier a liberal. With the recent loss for Democrats in the recent midterm elections, the party is not only grieving, but is furious about this right-winged group. However, mostly going unnoticed, the Tea Party has some uncanny resemblance to another radical political party of the past: the New Left.

The 1960’s represent a time of rebellion and change. Through this, the New Left represented a social movement that was  anti-government and anti-establishment. Today, the Tea partiers represent a social movement that are also anti-government and anti-establishment. David Brooks explores the issues in his article, “The Wal-Mart Hippies

“There are many differences between the New Left and the Tea Partiers. One was on the left, the other is on the right. One was bohemian, the other is bourgeois. One was motivated by war, and the other is motivated by runaway federal spending. One went to Woodstock, the other is more likely to go to Wal-Mart.”

But Brooks also explains that the similarities between the two opposing groups are more frighteningly evident than we notice. For one, the Tea Party uses the same demonstrative tactics that the New Left utilized. Seen as militant and confrontational, you can see both groups in enormous rallies, taking the streets for public spectacle– but also for the outlandish public statements that are designed to shock American society. However, Brooks also states that these intentions are not accidental, stating:

“Dick Armey, one of the spokesmen for the Tea Party movement, recently praised the methods of Saul Alinsky, the leading tactician of the New Left.”

But the real similarity comes from the core beliefs and mentalities of the two groups. The New Left and the Tea Party both believe that man is born free and virtuous until the corruption of the elites come and poison this virtue. And it is this belief of innate innocence that Brooks believes is both group’s core motivation.

That “core commonality” provides for both parties to believe in big conspiracy theories that argue against governmental control. They both worry about being co-opted by “corrupted forces of the establishment” coming, and disrupting their ranks. And it is because of this that both parties have  a problem with authority. However also similar, neither party has a clear plan of what to do beyond destroying the establishment. They do not believe in a system, but rather “a spontaneous uprising of participatory democracy.”

And for this reason, both parties also set their selves apart from conservatives.

“The New Left and the Tea Party movement are radically anticonservative. Conservatism is built on the idea of original sin — on the assumption of human fallibility and uncertainty. To remedy our fallen condition, conservatives believe in civilization — in social structures, permanent institutions and just authorities, which embody the accumulated wisdom of the ages and structure individual longings.”

An interesting political commentary on 60’s political style- from two different extremes.

This post was a joint effort by: Gillian Shewaga, Megan Ganey, and Will Parsons.

The legend of the Vampire goes back centuries (mainly beginning in Eastern Europe) but was brought to life in Bram Stokers famous novel Dracula.  Depictions of the undead however can be found in medieval manuscripts and painting as beings awaken from death not to drink blood from young virgins, but to feast on the flesh of the living.  These stories originated in the 14th century during the height of the Black Death in Europe where bodies would pile up and for the first time many people began to witness the decomposition process up close.  Some of these bodies became bloated with gas from the decay of the organs leaving many superstitious minds to conclude that they had awakened and were feeding.  Blood oozed from the mouths of the dead which we now know to be a relatively normal part of the body breaking down, but again the people of medieval Europe became convinced that the person had reawakened and was drinking the blood of the living.

Stokers’ novel was a romantic piece of literature ripe for its time but shockingly the inspiration for Dracula himself was based on a 15th century Wallachian Prince named Vlad Dracula.  The name Dracula itself comes from his father who was inducted into the Order of the Dragon for his defense of Christian Europe against the Turks.  Vlad was one of the cruelest and most sadistic Princes in history giving rise to his nickname Vlad the Impaler.  It was said that Vlad dined with his impaled victims and drank their blood as they hung dangling and dying on steaks high above.


http://www.history.com/videos/dracula-fact-and-fiction#dracula-fact-and-fiction

Although Stoker never visited Transylvania the home of the mythical Dracula he used his imagination to create an icon symbol of darkness that would permeate the shadows of culture throughout the twentieth century and beyond.  Anne Rices’ Vampire chronicles of the 1980’s were a hit series that combined vampire culture with sexuality before anyone every heard of Twilight. Ever since, there has been a mainstream push for vampires in movies and TV shows in pop culture. The image of the vampire has changed so much, that it has penetrated its way into a vast audience. Now, everyone can choose the “type” of vampire they like: the cold-hearted killer, the over-sexualized predator, or hopeless romantic that is trapped in a cage of immortality.

The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyers, a series of books adapted to the big screen, have received the most notoriety. Anyone from girls as young as nine to their grandmothers have dove into the forbidden love story. HBO adapted the Southern Vampire Series by Charline Harris into TrueBlood, an ultra sexed up version of the vampire genre. Whether it is the sex appeal, the fantasy, or the overwhelming chivalry, vampires have found their place in the 21st Century.

Fascination of the vampire comes from people of all ages, but specifically, the obsession is most predominate amongst young adolescents and teenagers. Many have questioned why this age group idolizes these super natural creatures, but the answer really lays behind emotional constraints.

Vampires represent certain aspects that young teenagers desire to have. The element of sexuality is the most obvious factor as frustration and control come into question. As adolescents start to undergo hormonal changes, they often look for some outlet to relate to- that is ideally away from the embarrassment of parents. The vampire, on the other hand, has been sexually portrayed as a being in full control by having a odd power over their victims, or opposite sex. Through this, teens grasp the idea that sexual relationships are far more effective, and less awkward,  if the other person shared the same desire.

But this same idea of control also applies to general situations. The pre-adolescent/ early teen years can be an extremely awkward time many kids. In contrast, the vampire is always confident because it knows it has the ability to control a situation; or to transform (into a bat) and leave the situation if needed. This unsaid sense of coolness, is something that teenagers would love to have- thus, making the perfect role model for unsure teens.

Furthermore, the teenager can also relate to the vampire in terms of feeling alienated and outcasted. A vampire struggles against immortality, sunlight, and a sometimes conflicting thirst for blood. The common teenager also has developed various addictions to cope with issues, including drugs & alcohol, to video games and social media. An extreme example is with the recent phenomena of “teen wolf” packs forming in High Schools. These groups of kids dress in Gothic attire, simulating the look of both vampires and werewolves.  Once labeled as “different”, these kids are now banding together as a support network.

KENS5 interviewed one member who stated “We’re not a gang at all, gangs are posers. They just want attention … The pack, like, we’re a family and we go to each other for our problems.”

Overall, supernatural figures such as vampires and werewolves represent something that is different, but in control; something that is an outcast, but is strong and feared. For these reasons, males too fall for the lure of the vampire, not just the stereotyped female longing for a romantic happy-ending.