I was planning on starting this article with my earliest memories of the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar location. But for the life of me, I can’t remember what movie I saw there first (though it could’ve been Star Wars: Episode III).
However, I can remember the last few movies I saw on South Lamar’s closing night. I capped it off with John Dies at the End and a Texas Chainsaw Massacre double feature with Austin born director Tobe Hooper in attendance. Sadly, the new Texas Chainsaw 3D ended up being the last movie I saw at South Lamar.
Then it closed for 20 months.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
This newly remodeled location features three additional theaters attached to the original auditorium. All theaters are equipped with state of the art Sony 4K Digital projectors with Dolby Digital surround sound. Two theaters have 35mm projectors, as well as Real D 3D. Two of the new theaters are micro theaters, seating 44 people. This is ideal for a private screening, corporate event, or even an independent film presentation.
When you walk in, the first thing you’ll notice is a backdrop of the Overlook Hotel’s hallway from The Shining, complete with an adult sized tricycle and the Overlook’s carpet to take a picture with. The management of Alamo Drafthouse joke that they expect to see many Facebook profile pictures in the next coming weeks of people with The Shining backdrop.
Opposite the box office is a mural, in the same design style as the original South Lamar location. As a native Austinite, what I appreciate about this mural is how they pay homage to the original Lamar Plaza by peppering old Lamar Plaza locations into the mural like Easter Eggs.
Above the mural, they have their old plane and UFO models hanging from the ceiling, as well as a new zeppelin model. When you walk into the auditorium, you are greeted with over sized, old horror movie posters before walking through a circus like archway. After you pass this, the blue walls will start to look familiar, and you’ll realize, you’re back in the original Alamo hallway.
Everything’s the same here, including the Bone Shack neon sign from Grindhouse. After that, same old theater. If you went to the old South Lamar regularly, it’s very disorienting to walk out of a movie, see the blue walls and suddenly see a different lobby.
Then There’s…The Highball!
In addition to the flagship Alamo Drafthouse opening up, The Highball is also back. It also opens this Saturday at 1 PM.
The new Highball features 22 craft beers on tap and an additional two speciality taps for already mixed cocktails. I have to admit, the new venue is smaller. It still has the stage, bar and the karaoke rooms (more on that later), but it doesn’t have the bowling and skeeball.
These changes aren’t lost on the owners and managers of The Highball. In remembrance, the ballroom floor and bar counter top are made of the bowling lane’s floor.
The Highball also doesn’t have the same kitchen, so the food selection has been reduced to bar snacks. If you’re starting to think The Highball is not as cool as it used to be, you’d be incorrect. Because karaoke.
As I’m writing this, the club hasn’t even opened yet, and these karaoke rooms are already legendary. They were designed by Zack Carlson and Laura Fleischauer of Space Warp Design. And they look amazing.
Somehow, even though they’re just rooms, they feel like amusement park attractions. Each of the seven rooms features a different theme: haunted house, sideshow circus, twilight zone (incredibly disorienting), a Jem theme for the gals, videogames with Pac-Man and Mario art (and a Pac-Man playable table), twin speaks and a death metal room. I didn’t have the right wide angle lens to do these rooms justice and I can’t put into words how truly amazing they are.
The new Drafthouse feels like a new Austin and sets the tone for the future of partying in our city. It’s very likely the karaoke rooms will become attractions in themselves.
Overall, I admire how Drafthouse South Lamar feels like a new venue, while in many ways it feels like nothing ever changed.
When will you make it to the new Drafthouse? Come back and leave your feedback in a comment once you see it!