these old houses

a few nights ago i went to the austin history center for their new exhibit, taking a walk down austin's cinematic memory lane.

to kick off their exhibit, the first picture shows: historic austin movie houses, they held an opening reception featuring a panel discussion with jay podolnick, jim maloy and john stewart. between the three of them, there is over a century of experience running family theaters and combined lifetimes spent in projection booths. we were treated to reminiscences of drive-in playgrounds, fireproof projection booths from the days before safety film, the desegregation of austin theaters and the ins and outs of keeping our town's moviegoers happy and entertained for the last few decades.

the exhibit itself is packed with hundreds of photographs, documents and blueprints from long-gone venues like the hancock opera house, the yale, the crescent, the varsity, the majestic (which later became my beloved paramount), the queen and the chief drive-in, tracing austin's moviegoing history from 1896 to the present day. combined with the personal, occasionally rambling panel discussion, the exhibit underlined for me a vital component that is too frequently missing from the moviegoing experience these days - community. a lot of these places were mom and pop joints and the excitement you can see in the faces of the people in the auditoriums, box offices and ticket lines goes beyond just having something to do to get out of the house. saturday nights were an event for these folks, and not because an unceasing media machine told them so. these theaters were hubs of activity with real ties to the community, gathering places. they weren't anonymous googleplexes with interiors designed like miniature casinos. they had true personalities.

we are fortunate in this town to still have theaters like the paramount, the violet crown and the alamo drafthouse - locally owned and operated, unique houses that are dedicated to bringing special, interesting cinema to austin's moviegoers. they still attempt to foster that sense of cinematic community, providing events you can be excited about, opportunities to get together with like-minded cinephiles and cinematic fare that goes beyond the everyday. if you'd like to celebrate that feeling and see how we got here you should drop by the austin history center and see this fine exhibit. it is free, open to the public and runs through 8.19.12. highly recommended.

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