SXSW Film Review: All Things Must Pass

Colin Hanks documents the demise of Tower Records

All Things Must Pass opens with a powerful statement: In 1999, Tower Records made almost $1 billion. Five years later, the company filed for bankruptcy.

Making its world premiere at SXSW, the documentary traces the rise and swift fall of one of the most influential record-store chains in the world. The accomplishment of first-time director Colin Hanks, best known for his television acting in Fargo and The Good Guys, lies in his ability to distill the personal from the tale of Tower Records, especially in capturing the charisma and vision of founder Russ Solomon.


The forlorn shots of empty-husked, once-iconic stores set the contemporary scene, but the growth of the business and culture from its start in 1960 rolls with kinetic energy. Interviews with Solomon, employees, and stars like Elton John and Bruce Springsteen outline the stores’ cultural importance while sparking throughout with genuine humor and pathos.


When the fall comes, it’s more at the hands of bankers and overexpansion than the wholly unanticipated digital revolution, yet the documentary largely leaves off as celebratory for the moment and movement in music now passed, and the unlikely hodgepodge of characters and outsiders who created an empire.

All Things Must Pass

24 Beats Per Second
Thursday, March 19, 7:15pm, Alamo Slaughter
Friday, March 20, 8:45pm, Stateside

Keep up with all our SXSW Film coverage at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Q&A With Comedian Tig Notaro
Q&A With Tig Notaro
Showtime documentary airs Friday

Andy Campbell, April 15, 2015

SXSW Film 2015 Rundown
SXSW Film Coverage
Reviews, interviews, photo galleries, and more

March 22, 2015

More by Doug Freeman
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
An Antone's anniversary, Lonestar Unleashed, Country Willie Edwards, Rakim, and more recommended shows

June 24, 2022

Listen to This: Western Youth Celebrates a “Wild Heart”
Listen to This: Western Youth Celebrates a “Wild Heart”
New single from roots rockers honors late songwriter Chris Porter

June 21, 2022


SXSW Film, SXSW Film 2015, All Things Must Pass, Colin Hanks, Russ Solomon

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle