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Lars Nilsen Steps Back From Full-Time Alamo Duties

Longtime programmer will stay on as adviser and Weird Wednesday host

By Kimberley Jones, 10:00AM, Thu. Feb. 21, 2013

Lars Nilsen in 2011, digging through AGFA reels
Lars Nilsen in 2011, digging through AGFA reels
photo by John Anderson

Still swallowing back the tears following news of Zack Carlson’s departure from the Alamo Drafthouse? Steel yourself for another punch to the gut: Longtime programmer Lars Nilsen is stepping away from day-to-day operations.

According to a statement put out yesterday by the Alamo, “Nilsen will maintain an advisor role with the Alamo Drafthouse programming team and continue to program and host his popular weekly series, Weird Wednesday.”

The release also offered farewell words from Nilsen:

"It has been my intention for some time to move on and let some other good folks enjoy the benefits, as well as the backbreaking labor and stress of the programming role. Over the past year or so Zack Carlson and I have spent countless hours mentoring, instructing and hiring some very talented people who are now finally ready to take their turn at the wheel. The Alamo culture means a lot to us, and in the hands of Sarah, Sam, Greg, Joe, RJ and the support staff, that culture is not only alive, it's multiplying out of control. Things couldn't be in better hands and I look forward to attending the Alamo as a customer for years to come as well as working with the Alamo on specific projects and in a long term consulting role.”

Nilsen began his long relationship with the Drafthouse in 1997, as an audience member plucked to fill an ever-expanding role as programmer. When one thinks of the Alamo “brand,” Nilsen’s Weird Wednesday shows – screening every week, a dozen-some years strong – instantly come to mind, and Nilsen has also been an instrumental figure in the shaping of Alamo offshoots Fantastic Fest and the American Genre Film Archive.

On a personal note: I probably spent the first five years I knew Lars staring at my shoes, daunted by the vast genre film knowledge and enthusiasm he shared with my Chronicle colleagues Marjorie Baumgarten and Marc Savlov and knowing damn well if I opened my mouth it would only reveal how utterly savvy-starved I was about the movies that were his bread and butter. It wasn’t until I interviewed him in 2010 about the outstanding Cinema Club series he pioneered, and saw how he sparked when talking about underloved silents and the Lubitsch Touch that I finally got how expansive his movie knowledge – his movie ardor – really is. I’ve heard unconfirmed burblings about where he’ll go next – rumors that make me bop in my seat with anticipation – but until anything firm hits the news desk, let’s leave at this: A heartfelt thanks for the Alamo memories, Lars, and can’t wait to see where you land.

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