Batten down the hatches, y’all! SXSW is nigh! SXSW Film runs from March 13 to 22, 2020. This exciting film festival is in its 27th year. The film screenings, world premieres, and special events take place across 10 Austin film venues. Here’s a rundown of what to expect from each.
1/ The Paramount Theatre
The oldest and most grandiose theater in the mix is The Paramount Theatre. It’s also the largest, with 1,100 seats.
The Paramount has been a fixture in downtown Austin since 1915, built with dramatic architectural and artistic details like a sexy marquee, cavernous lobby, slinky winding staircases, and painted/carved walls. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.
Like many older venues, it was built without accessibility in mind. But accommodations have been made, including accessible seating for wheelchairs, those unable to climb the stairs (there are no elevators), and those with low vision or hearing concerns. Be sure to arrange for special seating when ordering your tickets.
Also note that, while The Paramount Theatre is grand, the seats are small by today’s standards. If you are tall or need extra seat space, I don’t recommend the first row in the balcony.
The overall energy at The Paramount is good because it’s so pretty inside and out. Being there feels like a true night out. Expect a full bar and snacks for sale.
713 Congress Ave. — SXSW Film Schedule
2/ ZACH Theatre
ZACH Theatre has a modern style, seats 420 people, and is home to many plays throughout the year. For SXSW Film 2020, ZACH Theatre will host multiple screenings and special events.
ZACH is a comfortable, fully-accessible theater minutes away from Auditorium Shores, Butler Park, and The Long Center. It’s also catty corner to the Lamar Street Pedestrian Bridge, which is a great place to chill and see some fantastic train bridge graffiti (Ninja Style, in fact).
While ZACH Theatre has a decent parking lot, my best advice is to take the Festival Shuttle during SXSW (which drops you off right at ZACH), public transportation, taxis, or rideshares. There is a bar and snacks are available for sale.
202 S. Lamar Blvd. — SXSW Film Schedule
3/ Violet Crown Cinema
Violet Crown Cinema is a lovely theater with some of the coziest seating in town. The front rows fully recline! This Austin-based theater has a full bar, decent selection of food, and good-sized parking lot.
SXSW rates this theater with medium capacity, seating between 250-599 people at a time between the three theaters. Violet Crown has wheelchair and companion seating.
434 W. 2nd St.— SXSW Film Schedule
4/ Austin Convention Center: SXSW Film Theater
The SXSW Film Theater at Austin Convention Center appears spacious and comfortable, with a seating capacity of 600+. This theater hosts several films and special events.
Austin Convention Center is the beating heart of all things SXSW, so it’s a great place to be. It’s within walking distance of most of the other theaters, Rainey Street, 4th Street District, and good ol’ Dirty Sixth.
500 Cesar Chavez — SXSW Film Schedule
5/ Stateside Theatre
Another grand theater, Stateside Theatre, is Paramount’s little sister and part of the Paramount complex. Built in 1935 and a fourth the size of the Paramount, it has raised seating for 298 patrons Guests can enjoy food and a full drink menu, too.
Starting with the old-school neon outside, beckoning filmgoers to the red velvet seats, this one takes viewers back in time. While Stateside Theatre offers accessible seating, make sure to arrange for your needs as you check in for your screening.
Note: Rows are long, so you will need to do a bit of squeezing by your neighbors, and they will need to scramble by you. Be patient with each other.
719 Congress Ave. — SXSW Film Schedule
6/ Rollins Theatre at The Long Center
You can’t miss The Long Center for the Performing Arts with its dramatic columns and inviting, rolling hills on the lawn. This venue, which seats up to 210 people, is on the Festival Shuttle route and close to ZACH Theatre. While Rollins Theatre itself is on the first floor, it also has balcony seating. Reviews say it’s comfortable and intimate, with good views of the screen/stage from anywhere in the theater.
Rollins Theatre is screening several films during SXSW Film Festival. It will also be showing “Becoming Leslie,” a documentary about Austin’s well-known and greatly loved character, Leslie Cochran, who walked and lived on our streets with a flair for thongs, tutus, and sundresses. He always had a lot to say to those who’d stop to chat.
The documentary “Community First, A Home for the Homeless,” about Austin’s community intended to get and keep people off of the streets, is also playing at Rollins Theatre. The rest of the lineup varies from animated or documentary shorts to full-length features.
701 W. Riverside Dr. — SXSW Film Schedule
7/ Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar
This is my favorite movie theater in the city. Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar is opening five theaters for SXSW Film screenings this year. Expect this location to be popular with festival attendees. Not only does it have a full menu and full bar, but servers come right to your theater seat. Such luxury.
With five theaters, this location is screening tons of films. This is where you can catch nearly all of the film types, including documentaries, animated and narrative shorts, music videos, and several Midnight Premiers. Located at the Lamar Union compound, you can also walk to a number of restaurants, The Highball lounge, and Lick Honest Ice Creams.
- Theater A: 126 seats
- Theater B: 126 seats
- Theater C: 86 seats
- Theater D: 198 seats
- Theater E: 198 seats
1120 S. Lamar Blvd. — SXSW Film Schedule
8/ Alamo Drafthouse Ritz
Alamo Drafthouse Ritz has two small theaters, full menu, and full bar. Like the South Lamar location, many Austinites are familiar with the Ritz as home to numerous special screenings, like Quote-alongs, Sing-alongs, and Master Pancake Theater.
During SXSW Film Festival, the Ritz will screen several documentaries, shorts, and Midnight Premiers. These theaters are small, and the food and vibe are great, so expect this theater to fill up quickly during SXSW.
- Theater 1: 172
- Theater 2: 69
320 E. 6th St. — SXSW Film Schedule
9/ JW Marriott – Griffin Hall
Griffin Hall at JW Marriott Hotel looks like HQ for virtual reality screenings. The virtual cinema competition contenders are being shown in Griffin Hall. So if you love VR, then this is your venue. All badgeholders are welcome.
Perhaps because the VR experiences are different from traditional movie viewing, I can’t find the seating capacity. The JW Marriott website lists Griffin Hall as a 23,000-square-foot venue, though, so there is plenty of space!
110 E. 2nd Street — SXSW Film Schedule
10/ Satellite Venue: AFS Cinema
This north Austin venue seats 270 and is perfect for film lovers who would rather not be in the thick of the festival every day. Austin Film Society’s art house theater has a cute little bar and café, as well as a large parking lot. AFS Cinema is also screening a lot of local and specialty films.
Expect to see local documentaries and several SXSW Community Screenings, with showcases of short films made by AFS members and film students from Austin Community College, The University of Texas, and Austin School of Film, among other Austin-local screenings.
6406 N. Interstate 35 Frontage Road — SXSW Film Schedule
@theAustinot wants to know:
What SXSW Film Festival movie premiere are you most excited about?
This article was originally published March 5, 2019.