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Alamo Drafthouse theaters home to massive collection of film artifacts

Alamo Drafthouse

  • 5 locations in Austin
  • ~30 minutes from Austin
  • Cost: Free admission, each game has a price
  • Ticket prices vary, food and drink are extra

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Alamo Drafthouse is an Austin original, starting with just a single-screen theater on Colorado Street in 1997 and expanding to 21 cities and regions across the US

The original location isn’t around anymore, but Austin is now home to five Alamo Drafthouse theaters. Each includes a kitchen and bar. Moviegoers order from their seat and theater staff ferry orders in, which means that the moviegoer doesn’t miss a minute.

An original Alamo Drafthouse sign, which hangs at the company’s Austin headquarters. (KXAN Photo/Cora Neas)

“I always tell people that on a Friday or Saturday night, when we’re super busy, we might have anywhere from two to five restaurants’ worth of people at the same time,” said John Smith, senior film programmer for Alamo Drafthouse.

But there’s more to the Alamo Drafthouse experience than food, drinks and a movie.

Each theater’s lobby is themed around a particular film, and includes vintage movie posters and memorabilia. The South Lamar location, for example, is based around Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film “The Shining”.

“Alamos, they don’t just come out of a box. Each one is its own unique beast. Each one is unique in all sorts of ways,” Smith said. “

While the theaters and kitchen require their own architectural considerations, Alamo’s architects have plenty of room to build large pieces and sprinkle in smaller details. At Alamo’s Mueller location, guests can walk under a replica flying saucer (a reference to Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

An easily-overlooked detail at the same location is the surplus film reels on railings — each one once held film. That film has since been digitized by the American Film Genre Archive, or AFGA, an Austin nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of film.

AFGA got its start in 2009 with a donation of old film reels from Alamo’s Village and Slaughter Lane locations.

“AFGA has become a really leading force in preserving, cleaning up and re-releasing films that many people have forgotten. Genre films are often not thought much of, but are really, really vital,” Smith said.

Used film reels adorn a railing at the Alamo Drafthouse Mueller location. (KXAN Photo/Cora Neas)

Smith said Alamo Drafthouse’s collection of movie posters, film and other artifacts began with the company’s founders, Tim and Karrie League.

“A lot of it sources back, ultimately, to the interests and nerd obsessions of the people who worked here and led the company. Those interests have extended to all of our locations, such as the posters you see on the wall, many of which are probably from Tim’s collection,” Smith said.

See some of the posters from Alamo Drafthouse’s Mueller location in Austin below:

Beyond movies and memorabilia, each location hosts unique events, such as Queer Film Theory 101 at the Mueller location. It also has special movie experiences, including unique themed menus and Movie Parties that involve interactive props.

Este story is part of a KXAN series highlighting Central Texas activities — you can see our full list on our “Central Texas Things to Do” page. Do you have an idea of ​​something we should profile? Email us at reportit@kxan.com.

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