The Austin Chronicle

Top 10 Most Read Screens Stories of 2020

By Richard Whittaker, December 20, 2020, 7:00am, Picture in Picture

In the year of the pandemic, cinemas have shuttered and films have been delayed. But that doesn't mean that there have been no stories to tell about life behind the camera and in front of the screen. This year, tragic closures and the exit of major figures in the local scene were matched by tales of resilience and innovation.

1: "Burnie Burns Leaves Rooster Teeth," June 11.

It's no surprise when a story about Austin's streaming content pioneers is the biggest single story in the ATX creative community. But this one was tectonic. Burns wasn't just a founder of RT, he was the face of the company for a decade. Over 2019 he'd started moving into the background more, taking less of a managerial role and more of a creative one, but that was a quiet early indicator of his exit for new horizons.

Read the full story here.

2: "Abbott Says Cinemas Can Reopen. Cinemas Say 'No, Thanks,'" April 27

Gov. Greg Abbott's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic has often been about pandering to businesses. It was remarkable, then, when he gave cinemas the opportunity to reopen at reduced capacity, and they still turned him down. Months later, some screens are bright again, but others have stayed dark, instead adapting to the virtual cinema model. But it's undoubted that those whose doors are still closed, like AFS Cinema and Violet Crown, took a principled stand.

Read the full story here.

3: "Tim League Stepping Down as Drafthouse CEO," April 30

Another huge exit in Austin's creative scene. Tim League redefined the cinematic experience through the Drafthouse's blend of grindhouse thrills and in-seat dining. The company's expansion, messy as it has often been, was because of League. His departure as CEO in favor of former Disney and Starbucks exec Shelli Taylor, and shift to the new position of executive chairman, marks the end of an era - both for him, and for the chain that changed the American theatrical landscape.

Read the full story here.

4:" Now Streaming in Austin: A Night For Austin," June 10

With little to no respite coming from federal, state, or local government for the creative community, artists have been struggling. Yet a festival's worth of musicians and actors came together for this special streaming fundraiser to help six local charities, and raised over $600,000 for people in need.

Read the full story here.

5: "Killing Demons and Blasting Sabbath: 15 Years of Supernatural," April 3

It was a sad, extended farewell this year to the Winchester boys. Back in March, shooting of the landmark 15th season of the CW's beloved monster-slaying series went on hiatus, but that was the perfect time for our own James Scott to talk to Austinies Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki about the show that made the '67 Chevy Impala cool AF.

Read the full story here.

6: "Vulcan Video Closes," April 7

We've lost so many business in Austin this year, but the loss of Vulcan Video in April, barely a month into the pandemic's first wave in America, was both a sign of pain to come and a devastating loss to Austin's film scene. The last Vulcan was less a company and more a cultural resource, a home for movie lovers to find obscure gems. Fortunately, the archive has found a new home at the Alamo South Lamar (when that can finally reopen) but, until then, at least we'll have memories of free beers and waived late fees.

Read the full story here.

7: "There Is a Light That Will Never Go Out at Austin's Drive-In Theatres," May 1

When brick-and-mortar theaters closed, a great American tradition saw a surprise resurgence. The drive-in is back, baby. Well, it was already, but this year has seen the Austin embrace the in-vehicle experience. Between the extra locations for Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In and their emphasis on new indies and family classics, the expanded programming at Doc's, the old-school pleasures of blockbusters at Stars and Stripes in New Braunfels, and the counter-programming pleasures of the experimental Globe, it's a new golden age for movies in the comfort of your car.

Read the full story here.

8: "Robert Rodriguez Filming Hypnotic in July in Austin," June 25

Cinemas may be closed, but films are still being made, and if anyone could find a way to get a movie shoot up and running it was going to be Austin's own megabudget multihyphenate filmmaker, Robert Rodriguez. That July date may have slipped, but people still know: if you want to make movies safely, think about the ATX.

Read the full story here

9: "Showtime's Outcry Unravels the Greg Kelley Case," June 16

Nothing can give former Leander high school football star Greg Kelley back the years he lost after he was falsely accused and unjustly convicted of a sexual assault that never happened. At least Austin-based documentarian Pat Kondelis' five-part series for Showtime could set the record straight as it followed him through appeals. The wheels of justice turned painfully slow, but at least they ended up in the right direction.

Read the full story here.

10: "Exploring the Life and Death of Jennifer Cave in True Crime Podcast The Orange Tree," Aug. 28

True crime dominates the end of this list, this time with a terrible sin even closer to home. Jennifer Cave's murder by Colton Pitonyak, and his flight to Mexico with co-conspirator Laura Hall, sent ripples through the UT Austin community that last to this day. That's how Haley Butler and former Chronicle intern Tinu Thomas approached this story in their award-winning podcast: not as a ghoulish tale to be exploited, but a deeply compassionate and personal retelling of a horrible day that has shattered so many lives.

Read the full story here.

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