First Night at the Alamo Ritz
Notes from the first night at Austin's newest oldest cinema.
By Richard Whittaker, 5:35PM, Fri. Nov. 2, 2007
Two months later than founders Tim and Karrie League had originally hoped, the new Alamo Ritz finally opened last night (see Marc Savlov's excellent article about the move here). There had been concerns that the shift from the old Alamo Downtown would lose some of the boisterous DIY charm that defined the old cinema. But when the footage was shown of Tim's valiant defeat when he tried to christen the building with a bottle of champagne (score: unbroken bottle 1, cracked wall 0), it felt like the Alamo.
The capacity crowd and the lengthy stand-by cue that spilled out into the street found a cinema that takes full advantage of the Ritz' golden age picture palace dimensions and the opportunities for a bigger screen and new sound system, without sacrificing the communal spirit the old site engendered (for anyone worried that it would be a big-box generic cineplex product, Tim did note the only way onto the newly finished stage was by clambering up a stack of milk crates). Speaking in the gap between the opening movie, 1963 Japanese killer-fungus classic Matango, and a sneak preview of the Coen Brother's nihilist masterpiece No Country For Old Men, League paid tribute to the hard work of his staff and the history of both the Alamo and the Ritz.
The "meet the new Alamo, same as the old Alamo" feeling continued when programmer Henri Mazza and a friend, dressed in matching pink and black gorilla suits, demolished a miniature foam Austin skyline. This was in honor of the least surprising surprise guest of the evening, Quentin Tarantino. The Alamo regular introduced the first Terror Thursday midnight screening since May, kaiju classic War of the Gargantua.
But possibly the most touching moment was Tim welcoming former Ritz manager Jim Franklin to the stage. The mix of movies and music that he put on from '74 to '75, Tim gushed, had been an inspiration to Tim's vision of the new Alamo. With a fitting yelled cheer of "I now declare this cinema to be awesome!" the two led the assembled crowd in toasting the new location.