Dec 12

twilight of the Alamo

Twilight of the Alamo on South Lamar

Today’s photo is not holiday-related but it looks festive. Again, however, this is one of those festive photos that makes me sad.

What you are looking at is the porch of Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. I took this during Fantastic Fest this year, a genre (horror, sff, martial arts, etc.) film festival in Austin. The festival has been going on annually since 2005, takes place almost entirely at this theater, and I have been to it every year. It is the first festival I ever attended as credentialed press. It has a special place in my heart, which is a phrase I don’t use too often because it’s terribly sappy, but it’s the right thing to say here.

Between movies, a lot of us gather on this porch, which has lots of benches and convenient power outlets if you’re trying to write a review (which you can’t, because people keep coming up and being charmingly social). I do a lot of socializing on this porch, not just at Fantastic Fest but year-round. I’m watching a lot of movies right now for end-of-year awards consideration, several are at this theater, and afterwards we all go out there and argue about whether Zero Dark Thirty is better than Moonlight Kingdom. (Which is a completely stupid type of comparison unless you’re having to vote on awards, but I digress.)

And next year, when Fantastic Fest takes place, this porch will be gone. In fact, the porch will be gone in January. This Alamo Drafthouse and the surrounding strip mall are being torn down. The Alamo will be rebuilt (possibly using some of the existing building, but almost certainly not this porch) and will reopen around September, probably just in time for the film festival. But it will be an entirely new type of complex with sleek trendy condos (or apartments, I can’t remember) and a parking garage instead of the endearingly shabby thrift stores and shops and boxing gym around it. I’m not opposed to the new development but I’ll miss the old one nonetheless.

I was there yesterday for a movie and already, all the shops are closed and fenced off so they can be torn down. The Casa Garcia is halfway demolished. I didn’t take pictures … it was too sad. (Not to mention many familiar Alamo and Highball staffers losing their jobs because of the closure, which just breaks my heart, another phrase I don’t use lightly.)

I’m sure there will be a new porch or hangout; Alamo is very good about that sort of thing. It might even be better than picnic benches and concrete and at night, lights that would look at home on a Christmas tree. But of course I’m going to miss this porch.