Alamo Drafthouse Sells Birth.Movies.Death.
Magazine and website becomes part of Cinestate
By Richard Whittaker,
7:00PM, Fri. May 1, 2020
When Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League announced yesterday that he was stepping down as CEO to become executive chair, he stressed he would remain involved in operations at the Drafthouse, print wing Mondo, and Fantastic Fest. Yet one sub-brand – Birth.Movies.Death. – was missing, and now we know why.
Today, editor-in-chief Evan Saathoff announced that the magazine and website has been sold to film producer and publisher Dallas Sonnier, and will now become part of his Cinestate media enterprise.
It's a big brand acquisition for Dallas-based Cinestate, which has made its reputation through mixing innovation and provocation. Alongside well-reviewed releases like Bone Tomahawk and The Standoff at Sparrow Creek, it's also overseen the relaunch of beloved horror movie magazine Fangoria under former BMD writers Phil Nobile Jr. and Meredith Borders. However, it’s also sparked consternation among audiences for promoting what are seen as conservative viewpoints, and most especially the launch of its Rebeller brand, which has been seen as taking needlessly confrontational positions (and launching straw-man arguments) against political correctness. Most recently, Rebeller published They Called Me Wyatt after its previous publisher dumped the book when author Natasha Tynes became the subject of social media backlash.
Birth.Movies.Death. (or BMD, as it is commonly known) has been in stasis since late March, when Saathoff published a blog post that the future of the magazine and the site was in flux. Saathoff was the only person writing stories for the site for the entire month of April, a mix of news announcements and promotion for Drafthouse events and products. The most recent print issue was the James Bond commemorative volume (originally intended to release in conjunction with the next 007 films, No Time to Die, which has now been pushed back to November).
With today’s announcement, Saathoff confirmed that he will become editor-in-chief, while Scott Wampler will return as managing editor. Wampler added that moving from the Drafthouse was clearly a huge change, with both positives and negatives. He wrote, “Working for the Drafthouse was never quite restrictive to our overall mission, but there were times when it would’ve been nice not to be working for a company that was, at the end of the day, understandably beholden to the unpredictable moods of the Hollywood studio system.”
The roots of Birth.Movies.Death. are deep in Drafthouse history, the title being a playful motto. In 2010, the Drafthouse launched the precursor to the print product, the film news and lifestyle website Badass Digest, spearheaded by former CHUD blogger Devin Faraci, who would later become editor-in-chief of BMD before resigning under a cloud of allegations in 2016. The magazine began printing in 2013, and became both a physical expression of Badass Digest, and a replacement for the Drafthouse’s old print monthly programming guide.
The connections have run deep: BMD has historically only been available through Drafthouse locations or via mail order, and one of its biggest selling points has been the use of exclusive cover art from artists on the regular roster at Mondo, the Alamo’s print wing. The question now is how exactly they move forward without the Alamo infrastructure or resources behind them. Saathoff emphasized that the door is not closed on the relationship, adding that “we’re looking forward to partnering with Alamo Drafthouse on various projects in the future” and that BMD-sponsored screenings are “likely.”
For the meantime, Saathoff said that the site will mainly just be him and Wampler working with "a very tight roster of freelancers to help when needed." It's expected that there will be input from the Fangoria team, while longtime contributor Brian Collins confirmed via Twitter that his "Collins' Crypt" column, exploring old and forgotten cult films, will return.