The Austin Chronicle

Fifty Years of Movie Magic at the Alamo Village

By Richard Whittaker, May 16, 2024, 10:40am, Picture in Picture

Happy birthday, Village cinema! The oldest continuously operating movie house in Austin celebrated its 50th year as the secret heart of the city's film scene last night with a special screening of another quinquagenarian Austin original, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

The Anderson Lane theatre opened as the Village 4 under the Presidio Theatres chain, but when they decided to close in 2001 it changed hands and became the first multiscreen, first-run Alamo Drafthouse. This meant when the original Alamo on Colorado closed in 2007, the Village became the oldest-running Drafthouse. And while it may have been overshadowed by its cooler younger sibling on South Lamar, it's always been the locally-based chain's best kept secret. Now, it's received an anniversary makeover that befits its status.

The refreshed lobby (sadly now lacking the iconic Kitten With a Whip banner that has hung there for the last two decades) has a newly refreshed bar area with new tables complimenting the existing outdoor patio seating, making the Village more of a neighborhood hangout than ever. Posters from the biggest releases of 1974, including little notes about when they screened in Austin, now decorate the walls.

But the biggest addition is that Village will be the latest home to rentable physical media with the opening of Video Vortex: Powered by Vulcan Video. While the enormous collection from I Luv Video has gone in to the new nonprofit We Luv Video, the Drafthouse has quietly been storing the collection from the city's other late, lamented video store, Vulcan Video, and now will be making all its titles available for free rental (and don't worry if you don't have a Blu-ray player, they've got those too).

Alamo Founder Tim League (who spent the evening in a suitably bloody apron for the Chain Saw screening), expained, “When we first opened the Alamo back in 1997, Karrie and I used to walk to the Elizabeth Street location on our days off. Their depth and breadth was astonishing. Vulcan was a community hub that every movie lover in the neighborhood cherished. We are honored to be the next stewards of Dian Donnell’s incredible archive.”

The refresh doesn't stop there. All the theaters have had the old seating removed and replaced with recliners, and all of them have been upgraded to 4K projection, just in time for a busy summer season with Furiosa, Deadpool vs. Wolverine, and more.

Over the last few months, Village has also quietly become the Drafthouse's repertory cinema. There have been the Time Capsules, highlighting the best of major years in the history of the Drafthouse, as well as incredible opportunities to see the best of Disney animation, from Snow White to Wall-E, on the big screen. This Summer, the classic continue with screenings of all 11 live-action Star Wars theatrical movies, including special Trilogy screenings for the prequels, originals, and sequels.

Copyright © 2024 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.