Location, Location, Location: Question Mark Over Fantastic Fest
Leading genre festival challenged over South Lamar construction
By Richard Whittaker,
3:14PM, Mon. Mar. 18, 2013
Ever since the Alamo South Lamar closed for renovations on Jan. 3, there's been one big question on the lips of Austin's film community: Will it be open in time for Fantastic Fest 2013? Now fans are getting worried over a Tweet by festival founder Tim League.
It was a teary night when the Alamo closed, but it was with the promise that it was a short-term deal. It would be back, same as ever, maybe a bit bigger and better: There would be two additional micro-screens, a new-look (sadly, bowling-free) Highball, and even the You're Next mural was being preserved. On Friday, March 15, League was asked about rumors around the seeming slow roll at South Lamar's construction. The cinema is the only tenant staying put during the massive reconstruction of South Lamar Plaza. Part of the deal was that the site would be ready a couple of weeks before the 2013 festival, scheduled for Sept. 19-26. That way, the staff would have time to iron out all the kinks, get the kitchens working, etc., etc. Was that time table in trouble? League replied, "Alas I fear so. Expect definative news soon."
League et al have been receiving regular updates from the construction team and the site developers, and are still working on the principle that they'll be back at the flagship site in time for their big annual gathering. However, it's not like they're without options. There's Slaughter Lane, Village, and the new Lakeline site will be open in time. In previous years, Fantastic Fest has even branched out beyond the Alamo, with screenings in 2009 and 2010 at the Paramount. Those off-campus excursions included a beyond-memorable double bill with martial arts movie master Yuen Woo-Ping and the RZA, and a night with the mighty Roger Corman.
But finding a fill-in for the regular home will be a tough challenge, and it's not just about screen size. South Lamar is a unique venue: Six big screens, lost of easy access by road and public transport, several bars and restaurants near by, and - vitally for out-of-town guests, film makers and attendees - good access to nearby hotels. Any replacement will need to find a way to fill all those logistical holes, without losing any of the geeky camaraderie that defines the fest.
One proposal seems to be off the table: Nobody is talking about taking a one year hiatus. Badges have already been sold, and the booking team is already taking submissions. So the question now is, where will we be watching those movies? The Fantastic Fest folks are promising solid word within the next couple of weeks: As soon as we know, we'll tell you.