Not surprisingly, you can see more foreign films in Austin than anywhere else in the state. In the university area, the largest concentration of art films can be found at the Texas Union Film Series, UT campus, Texas Union Building and Hogg Auditorium (tel. 512/475-6656). Alamo Drafthouse, 1120 S. Lamar Blvd. (tel. 512/707-8262; www.originalalamo.com), is an Austin original that combines "dinner and a movie" into a one-stop affair. The owners have taken over old movie theaters and refitted the seating in order to add counter space for patrons. They provide a menu of basic food and drinks, including beer and wine, ordered and delivered straight to your seat. The staff make custom film shorts before the feature presentation. Other locations include Alamo Village, 2700 W. Anderson Lane (north central), and Alamo Lake Creek, 13729 Research Blvd. (far north). There is a downtown location, in the old Ritz Theater at 320 E. Sixth St.
Austin has long had an undercover Hollywood presence. During the past 3 decades, more than 90 films were shot in the city and its vicinity. But you'd be hard-pressed to identify Texas's capital in any of them. Because it has such a wide range of landscapes, Austin has filled in for locations as far-flung as Canada and Vietnam.
The city has less of an identity crisis behind the camera. It first earned its credentials as an indie director-friendly place in 1982, when the Coen brothers shot Blood Simple here. And when University of Texas graduate Richard Linklater captured some of the loopier members of Austin's denizens in Slackers -- adding a word to the national vocabulary in the process -- Austin arrived on the cinéaste scene. Linklater is often spotted around town with Robert Rodriguez, who shot all or part of several of his films (Alienated, The Faculty, and the Spy Kids series) in Austin, and with Quentin Tarantino, who owns property in town. Mike Judge, of Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill fame, lives in Austin, too.
Of the many cinematic events held in town, October's Austin Film Festival is among the more interesting. Held in tandem with the Heart of Films Screenwriters Conference, it focuses on movies with great scripts. For current information, contact the Austin Film Festival, 1604 Nueces, Austin, TX 78701 (tel. 800/310-FEST [310-3378] or 512/478-4795; fax 512/478-6205; www.austinfilmfestival.com). And the come-lately film component of SXSW gets larger every year. Panelists have included Linklater and John Sayles, whose film Lone Star had its world première here.
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