Here at Film School Rejects, we love the Alamo Drafthouse. We’re not sorry about it, either. When it comes to reviewing movies, we generally don’t play favorites. Objectivity usually wins the day and movies are judged on their own merits. When it comes to where we see those movies, all bets are off and the nearest Alamo Drafthouse location is at the top of our list. What’s not to love? They will serve us food and drink during the movie, they have a strict no talking policy that is actually enforced and they provide signature programming like Quote-a-longs and sometimes forgotten classics projected in glorious 35mm. Ask anyone who has been to an Alamo Drafthouse theater and they’ll tell you: it’s just right.
By now, many areas of the country are starting to see their own Alamo Drafthouses pop up, with plenty more on the way. They’ve even announced a location in Los Angeles just this week after years of speculation and hope from the denizens of Southern California. The Drafthouse experience is spreading, which can only be a good thing in our book.
Yet for the past 18 months, while Alamos have sprung up across America from New York to San Francisco, a hole has existed in the Alamo line-up: the Flagship location on South Lamar Blvd. in Austin, TX has been closed. We said goodbye to the brightest star in the Alamo universe in January 2013 and for the last year and a half, everyone has waited for it to be torn apart, rebuilt and modernized. And like all great movie heroes, it has returned to save us all.
This Saturday, the Alamo Drafthouse’s Flagship location reopens alongside the new edition of The Highball, Alamo’s nightclub/karaoke bar/place of gathering. And we’d like to take you on a little photo tour of the new digs.
The exterior features the original Alamo Drafthouse sign from the Colorado Street location, the first Alamo Drafthouse built by Tim and Karrie League. This new building, plaza and development may have plenty of flashy newness, but that sign carries on the legacy of Alamo’s roots. Walking inside the lobby also has some familiar sights as well as a few upgrades.
The new lobby features an impressive photo opp. of the hallway scene from The Shining, complete with a big wheel and that iconic carpet pattern from the Mondo 237 collection. It also includes a plane and spaceship battle suspended from the ceiling, anchored by a 30-foot metal zeppelin, all designed by Evan Voyles of The Neon Jungle. Fun fact: the zeppelin is actually an old movie prop, a giant milk bottle used during the filming of the John Travolta movie Michael.
The lobby also includes a 40-foot mural designed by Heyd Fontenot, the artist who produced the original mural at the old South Lamar location. It portrays an alien invasion theme that depicts the destruction of the old South Lamar plaza. Amongst the faces in the mural are folks you are likely to see hanging around the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, but more on that later.
The hallways to the theaters are broken into two sections. The first includes the three new houses, all state-of-the-art theaters with Sony Digital 4k projectors and Dolby digital surround sound. As we pass through the carnival monster doorway, inspired by The Cafe of Hell in Paris, we enter familiar territory. From here, it’s all the original theaters of the South Lamar location, still in their original places, complete with the Bone Shack sign from Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror.
Inside, the theaters have a very familiar style. Unlike many of the new Alamo locations, the bench-style seating remains a staple of the flagship location.
Alongside (and attached to) the Drafthouse sits The Highball, the Alamo version of a nightclub. Complete with seven gloriously designed karaoke rooms, a large dance floor/gathering space (made from the wood of the old Highball’s bowling lanes, which sadly wouldn’t fit in the new layout) and a fully stocked, micro-brew and signature cocktail-stuffed bar.
Here’s a look at what The Highball has to offer:
And of course, here are those lovely karaoke rooms, designed by Zack Carlson and Laura Fleischauer (pictured below) of Space Warp Design. From a room with a two-headed goat to a black metal room with a pentagram torched into the floor, there’s something for everyone. Yes, there’s even a Twin Peaks inspired Black Lodge room.
The Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and The Highball open officially on Saturday, August 16. If you’re in or around Austin or planning a visit anytime soon, you’d be silly not to check it out.