Ooh boy, the Chronicle is shutting down operations for the holiday week so that we can all get away from here and enjoy some guilt-free, quality vacation time. So, what am I planning on doing while on liberty? I'll be sticking around town to indulge in my own version of the busman's holiday. Temporarily cut loose from those pesky desk demands, I can watch movies all day to my heart's content. Traditionally, this is the week I devote to catching up on the year's movies. Come New Year's Day it's time to move forward with 1998. Until then, it's 1997 all the way. Here's my strategy. For movies released during the first six months of the year, video viewing is often the best way to go. A good portion of these titles are already out on videotape. For the latter half of the year, a respectable number of titles are still playing in local theatres. This breadth of selection is one of the most obvious benefits of the past year's boom in the number of local movie screens. With the recent increase in the number of local screens it also seems that more movies are managing to stick around town for longer periods of time. Often titles are playing on only one screen -- one of the bonuses of multiplex scheduling and the rise in the number of arthouse screens and independent houses. This year we welcomed several new theatres to town. The Alamo Drafthouse introduced us to a new concept in moviegoing -- dinner, drinks, and a movie -- while complementing the emerging downtown movie scene that includes screenings at the Paramount and the Ritz Lounge. Three new multiplexes featuring stadium seating have also made big splashes in recent months: the Barton Creek Cinema, the Gateway, and the brand-spanking new Tinseltown. The Dobie, since it was upped to four screens, also seems to be capitalizing on its ability to retain more titles for greater periods of time. The Act III theatre chain has seemingly converted the Arbor into its primary arthouse venue, while leaving the Village (which has recently been installing some new seats) to figure out its new identity. Yes I'll be watching movies like crazy over this vacation and I'll no doubt be visiting each of these places... and then some. And I'll be stopping to give thanks at each stop for living in this land of movie plenty...

The holidays are considered to be a time of giving -- that's why our mailboxes are so stuffed with solicitations from various charities. I'd like to remind readers of a new fund that we first mentioned in September -- the d. Montgomery Award, which is administered by the Austin Film Society (AFS) and will be given to interdisciplinary artists and their works. The goal of the fund is to support non-project-specific experiments, explorations, and endeavors that befit the spirit of d. Montgomery, who died in September. d. was so instrumental to the early years of the Austin film scene and the birth of the AFS; you've also seen her dealing those Oblique Strategy cards in Slacker; I still keep thinking that our paths will inevitably cross, just like they always did -- not by plan, but not by accident either. Tax-deductible donations can be made payable to the d. Montgomery Award, c/o Austin Film Society, 3109 N. I-35, Austin, TX, 78722. Call 322-0145 for more info.

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