Austin film fans have a host of options. From dine-in multiplexes like Alamo Drafthouse and Moviehouse, to small format screens like Galaxy and Violet Crown, there’s no lack of options. A stalwart supporter of local cinema, Austin Film Society’s new theater is carving its own niche by delivering the charm of a traditional art house theater, with a distinctly Austin vibe.
My recent film screening and cocktail were provided courtesy of AFS Cinema. All opinions are my own.
New Home For Local Film
You can’t talk about the cinema without mentioning the organization behind it. From artist development programs to production facilities, Austin Film Society is an advocate for local cinema and the artists who make it happen. Founded by legendary director Richard Linklater (“Boyhood,” “Dazed and Confused”) in 1985, the nonprofit continues to pour both dollars and energy into Austin’s creative community.
After years of supporting the scene through scattered screenings and partnerships with larger theater houses, the team decided a permanent home was needed. For years, Austin Film Society used an old theater for screenings, in what would become The LINC complex in north Austin. When the building came up for lease in 2015, the organization saw an opportunity.
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The cinema is a natural extension of Austin Film Society’s underlying mission. Programming is carefully curated and focuses on everything from Oscar-nominated indie dramas, to foreign films, to off-the-wall screenings. At the time of this writing, the cinema is showing Oscar-nominated “If Beale Street Could Talk,” the 1989 Japanese cyberpunk horror/thriller “Tetsuo: The Iron Man,” and the Paul Newman classic, “The Sting.” Ensuring the schedule represents a diverse array of styles, nationalities, and themes is of paramount importance to the programming team.
True to its mission, AFS Cinema is also dedicated to local artists. During my visit, I sat in on a screening of “Beeswax” by esteemed local director Andrew Bujalski. Shot in Austin with mostly local actors, seeing the 2009 mumblecore film was a great way to experience the theater for the first time.
The movie concluded with a Q&A, featuring Bujalski and his cast. Such experiences, and partnerships with both SXSW and Austin Film Festival, happen frequently and prove AFS Cinema’s dedication to keeping the film slate lovingly local.
Draped in Local Flair, Beauty, and Flavor
But what good is an avant-garde movie if it’s not presented properly? Upon entering the AFS Cinema lobby, you’re immediately greeted with a wide and inviting gathering space. Tables and couches dot the main floor, while an impressive array of hanging lights dangle overhead. To the rear, an opulent red curtain delivers a touch of elegance, as well as a prime selfie spot.
Along the walls are movie posters from Richard Linklater’s private collection. From obscure foreign films to a series of Polish posters drawn by artists who never saw the movies they were painting (resulting in either on-point or beautifully off-base creations), the collection screams Austin weird and film fan cred. To add to the fun, the walls of the theater room entryway are plastered with a mosaic of movie soundtrack covers. Geeking out over LP’s of “Shaft” and “Blade Runner” music was a ton of fun.
AFS Cinema houses two main theaters, one for first run independent films, and the second for special releases and screenings. The building also features a 5,000-square-foot event hall capable of seating over 200 people. While the room isn’t set up for cinema-quality screenings, events like the upcoming Texas Film Awards utilize the space beautifully.
On the culinary side of movie-going, AFS Cinema offers the standard assortment of popcorn, candy, and baked goods, but they’re locally-sourced when possible. The real treat is the full bar. A wide variety of local craft beers are on offer, as well as a delicious cocktail list. The off-menu Serrano Sling delivers tropical notes of dried grapefruit with a lingering, peppery heat, while the Bickle steps up a classic old fashioned with tart apple and zesty lemon.
Haven for Austin Film Fans
Like I said at the outset, when searching for a place to catch a film, there are dozens of options in Austin. By creating a carefully designed schedule of films sourced locally and abroad, from old school to fresh on the scene, AFS Cinema is a love letter to the spirit of independent film.
When you get the itch for a night on the town, skip the Hollywood blockbusters and take a cinematic trip that runs a little left of center. At AFS Cinema, a world of new discoveries awaits.
AFS Cinema is located at The LINC (6406 N Interstate 35 Frontage Rd #3100). For more information on memberships, film schedule, and other information, visit austinfilm.org/afs-cinema.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
What’s your favorite Austin-based film?