When the invite came in the mail, it was vintage Mondo: an envelope sealed with wax, imprinted with the trademark curly M. Inside, a card with an engraving of a Ceti eel, the kind they stuck in Chekov's ear in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The only information was a date and some map coordinates. It was all in the trademark cooler-than-cool Mondo style, but it marked a new era for the local movie poster and print firm: the announcement of the opening of its new brick-and-mortar gallery.
The site at 4115 Guadalupe finally allows Mondo to expand beyond limited-edition movie prints into original art. For the opening show, Creative Director Justin Ishmael explains, "We're going to have pretty much every artist we've ever worked with." The new space is not just about having more storefront. "When people came into town for meetings, it was always in the lobby or in the restaurant," says Ishmael. "Now we can actually bring them into the gallery and show them on the walls, 'This is what we do.'"
Mondo has had storefronts before at multiple Alamo Drafthouse locations, but this is the first time the shop will strike out from the mother ship. "A lot of people said we were crazy to move out," says Ishmael, but the choice may have been easier than it sounds. Currently, the office for its Internet store is located under screen two at the Alamo South Lamar. Ishmael says: "We called it the Hobbit Hole because the door was four feet tall. You had to scrunch down and a do a sort of crabwalk." The storefront in the lobby was not much bigger: Being in a cinema meant lots of foot traffic, but it was far from ideal for special events, such as last year's out-the-door line when Olly Moss signed his An American Werewolf in London print. "It was kind of a mess," says Ishmael, "so we just started looking for a space."
This comes during a major expansion phase for the Alamo empire: The new cinema at Slaughter Lane opens this month, as does its adjacent bar, 400 Rabbits, while the reimagining of a former "massage parlor" (ahem) on Sixth Street as the Midnight Cowboy Cocktail Lounge opens March 9. Ishmael describes Mondo's relationship with the Alamo as akin to Pixar's with Disney. "They're our parent company," he says, "we're friends, we like them, but we kind of do our own thing." While the two are entwined locally, Mondo has its own national reputation. Last summer, it announced a partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Margaret Herrick Library; its poster launches have netted coverage on Wired's website; the daily print drops at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con are front-page news; and its licenses range from Star Wars to Cartoon Network's surrealist smash Adventure Time. Even Mondo's nascent record label is expanding: This June, Mondo will release a 2-disc vinyl edition of the Drive soundtrack, complete with cover art by poster regular Tyler Stout. Yet Ishmael wants Mondo to stay rooted in Austin, likening the boutique's relationship to Austin with how Eugene, Ore.,-based Nike stays loyal to the Oregon Ducks college team. "They're doing the crazy, revolutionary things with their helmets and their uniforms and their shoes and giving them exclusive stuff. That's how I look at it, that we're always going to take care of the Austin people."
Mondo Gallery celebrates its grand opening, free and open to the public, this Saturday, March 10, 6-10pm.
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