Monday, June 6, 2011

and then there was the time Austin made a theater for people who are deadly @#$%ing serious about movies (and some people got upset)

Anyone who reads this blog knows I love The Alamo Drafthouse chain of theaters.  I pay a LOT of money to see movies there, I scour their calendar for events and films to look forward to, and I treat going to The Alamo like a privilege.

Yes, I love being able to go see Big Trouble in Little China on the big screen with a newly struck 35mm print. That's going to mean something to some of you as something to cherish and value, and to some of you, I'm sure you were cool with VHS tapes and pan & scan.  Fine.  Whatever, I'm a snob about things that you don't care about.  I'm not judging, except that you're enjoying an inferior experience and missing the original vision of the filmmakers, but, you know...  that's cool.

Austin isn't the only city with a population of like-minded folk large enough to support a 9 hour Planet of the Apes marathon, but we are the city that got it.  We got the ARCHIVAL prints, straight from the studio (Fox, right?).  We're lucky enough to be one of the few cities where projectionists actually do reset digital projectors to the correct settings, to the point where I didn't even know this was an issue until I read Roger Ebert's column on the topic and Tim League's discussion of how The Alamo does it.  Because somehow this is a town that takes this shit seriously.

We take our movies seriously, even when we go to see silly stuff.  And that falls into how we expect the audiences to behave.

My own dad isn't comfortable with the Alamo's 2-3 messages prior to any movie starting, insisting that you shut up.  They do a funny one to get your attention, but then double back with a black and white serious message informing the audience "okay, we're serious.  You're going to get kicked out without a refund."

And having had sat through hundreds of movies at The Alamo at this point, I can tell you - the people who @#$% this up are the ones who were too busy talking or texting their way through the warnings that they missed the very clear message on the screen.

This process works.

I know, I know.  It doesn't bother you when others do it.  You don't think its a big deal.  Yadda.  Whatever.  Go somewhere else.  You are bothering the rest of us.

At some point, theater owner Tim League (and his wife) simply thought about what makes for a good movie going experience versus what makes a bad experience.  They knew they were starting a theater where alcohol was part of the equation, where movies were goofy and seemingly almost welcomed the jeers of the audience.  But what sort of theater was that going to be?

To get an idea of how fast this could go sour if the audience didn't play ball, I invite you to imagine a worst case scenario with any of the events they list (cap guns at the movie?  Jalapeno eating contests?).  And something really crazy?  If you politely talk to kids about not acting like goons during a movie prior to the movie, they actually do really, really well.

I don't think its just in Austin that this could happen or prosper, but at some point, The Alamo made their trademark that it WAS going to be a privilege to attend their theater.  From having to buy tickets ahead and online, to standing in line for half an hour before they let you into the theater, to learning how to read  menu in the dark...  This was the movie theater that followed the rules the countless RTF majors in this town always dreamed of when sitting through movies at Riverside 8 and wishing that @#$%ing idiot would quit telling his girlfriend how much smarter he is than the protagonist during every decision-point in the script.

So, yeah, its the place for snotty guys like me who don't want to deal with your texting (yes, your screen IS that @#$%ing bright), or your constant whispering (if you can't follow the movie by shutting up and watching, you lose.  I am sorry.), or your phone conversations (SRSLY?), or whatever the hell you have going on.*  It is a business that totally would rather go under than change to suit the low, low standards movie-goers have drifted towards and which big chain theater owners have been unwilling to combat, winning the weekend battle but losing their audiences to HDTV and home surround sound.

They aren't unkind or unhelpful, but if you cannot be bothered to notice The Alamo's very, very clear pre-movie warnings, well... may God have mercy upon your soul.

I saw this off a tweet from Patton Oswalt, who doesn't live here, but he seemed to appreciate The Alamo's newest pre-movie video.  You can read what The Alamo has to say about it here.

This audio is not safe for work.  Or your mom's ears.  But this is running before Rated-R movies this weekend, and its the F.U. that the Alamo gives the bad apples by letting the patron maybe realize she is exactly what the Alamo actually DOESN'T want.  Call it elitism.  Call it movie-going fascism.  I call it the place that gets all my money when I go to the movies (and I go pretty often).

Now if the Paramount will follow a similar tack...

*If you thought any of that was okay, your parents raised you poorly.


Gerry said...

I visited Austin a few years ago. The Drafthouse was enough to make me consider moving there. Love that place.

bringmetheheadofalfredogarcia said...

lordy. when the biznatches be buggin' 'bout textin', it makes for some good copy.

Here's hoping this drunken diatribe gets played before the next feature @ the ADrftHaus!