For the Al: Tim and Karrie League

October 12, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So tell me if you have ever had this experience- you find some time and think about going to a see a movie. No? Well you may have noticed that we dig movies here at JPGB so play along please…

Yes-okay so you want to see a movie, you go online to see what is playing, you look at the list of films currently screening at the movie houses you frequent and you think “blech I don’t want to see any of this” or some equivalent thereof.  Just how much we are held hostage to Hollywood became even more apparent to me a few years ago when I rented a house near Zilker Park in Austin for a month. Austin at the time had five Alamo Drafthouse sites in operation, which meant that there were a consistent barrage of older, offbeat and classic films to choose between. I took the kids to see E.T. and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for instance, both of which were more fun than the How to Train Your Dragon 2 meh stuff that Hollywood happened to be shoveling out that summer.

The Drafthouse, with their combination of zany programming and out of the box thinking has brought something crucial back to film- soul. Authentic community is a treasure in life, and you simply can’t get much more of it out of a big-box theater. It is therefore with great pleasure that I nominate the founders of the Drafthouse, Tim and Karrie League, for the prestigious Al Copeland Humanitarian Award for showing us a path forward to redeeming cinema from the tedium of the factory farm film making.*

Like many great things in life, this story starts in Texas at Rice University, where Tim studied Art History and Mechanical Engineering, and Karrie majored in Biology and French literature. What do you do with that? How about “revolutionize the movie going experience” for starters. After Rice, the two opened their first theater, a prototype called the Tejon in California in 1994.  Located on the wrong side of the tracks, the couple began to develop their carnival style in an attempt to lure people to the theater. They for instance got a live band to accompany a silent film (a later Drafthouse regular.) They brought a pig to a screening of Charlotte’s Web. Unable to obtain a liquor license for the Tejon, Tim and Karrie did what a great many sensible Californians do- packed up and moved to Austin Texas in 1997.

Tim and Karrie set up shop in a former parking garage in the Warehouse district in Austin. They got the liquor license that eluded them in California. The rest is history.

Starting as a single screen, small theatre, Austin fell deeply and passionately in love with the Drafthouse. Local directors started hosting film festivals there, followed by non-locals. Some of the non-local directors bought property and became locals.

Big box theaters noticed that the Drafthouse was earning about twice as much per person and started serving food and beer. That’s all well and good, but what makes the Drafthouse the Drafthouse is culture and programming.  Examples include Master Pancake Theater (three comedians mic up on the front row and ridicule a bad movie), Hecklevision (audience text ridicule at a bad movie which appears on the screen), Midnight Blaxploitation (good grief how did this stuff get made?), Sing Alongs and Rolling Road Shows.

So sing alongs, here’s one for the ladies:

and another for Queen fans who want to put on a Freddy Mercury mustache and scream their lungs out with their favorite songs:

You of course already know about rolling road shows like Jaws on the Water:

But they’ve also gone out and about. One of my favorites was a canoe trip with a screening of Deliverance on the shore after a long day of rowing and eating pig sandwiches. They have also gone to filming locations to screen classics:

The Drafthouse is also famous for dealing with certain transgressions firmly and quickly:

Which prompted this gem (NSFW):

which was followed by a similar incident when they had to throw a Sith Lord out:

Anyhoo- thank you Tim and Karrie for making film an absolute blast. I am counting down the days until the opening of Drafthouse Phoenix.


* You may choose to infer an education analogy from this post, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Jaws on the Water Brought to You by the Alamo Drafthouse

June 16, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Yes please!

Parental Choice Reporting in Refuto-Vision! (TM)

February 18, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So a few years ago Jay was in downtown Austin with an evening to kill. He called me and asked me what he should do. I of course said “Go to the Alamo Drafthouse!!!”

So he looked up what was playing at the Alamo that night and told me “Hmmm, it says ‘Indiana Jones 4 in Heckle-vision.’ What is ‘hecklevision?’

I said “I don’t know but it doesn’t matter, just GO!”

So he went. Hecklevision turned out to be a system whereby you could text messages on the screen while you watched an awful movie (Indy 4 certainly qualifies). Jay reported that the experience was hilarious.

So in the same spirit of fun, we decided to create something called Refuto-Vision! (TM) here at the Jayblog.  A few introductory comments-one of the ongoing challenges of the school choice debate is the ongoing practice of having choice opponents simply fear things, regardless of whether those fears have any empirical basis, and have them printed as grave concerns. “School choice is going to make kids grow a radioactive third eye” doesn’t (quite) get printed (yet) but many things just below that in plausibility routinely find their way into print. Reporters work on tight deadlines and (on a good day) attempt to present a balanced story, balanced in the sense that they have spoken to both sides and have their point of view presented in the story.

Jason Bedrick and Greg Forster volunteered to serve as Refuto-Vision (TM) reviewers on just such a conventionally balanced story-the recent Politico article on ESA programs. We could have chosen any number of straight up opinion-piece screeds to try this out (stay tuned!) but a news story seemed like a better place to start. For the record we have all seen (bad day) news stories far less balanced than this.

Due to the technical limitations of this almost-free blog and the even greater limitations of its user, this Refuto-Vision comes in the form of a pdf file, downloadable in the below link. Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you Refuto-Vision (TM) 1 in magnificent 2D:

Refuto-Vision 1


My prayers have been answered…Alamo Drafthouse to Open in AZ in 2015!!!!!!!!!!!

December 24, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Oh yes!!!! Best thing to happen to the Valley since the invention of the air conditioner. Now if we could get a Chuy’s I could die happy. Plus tickets for the Interview are on sale at the Austin locations starting tomorrow.

Random Pop Culture Apocalypse: Bon Jovi Touring Comes to Film?

April 25, 2013

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Loyal Jayblog readers may recall our last episode of Random Pop Culture Apocalypse round about the turn of the decade, which dealt with popular music. In that exciting episode we touched on how iTunes had made Alice Cooper big in Europe and how Bon Freaking Jovi and AC/DC were the top grossing musical touring acts of 2009.  Musical tastes have fractured into micro-genres, making the emergence of a new Monster of Rawk type Rolling Stones/Police/U2 type position almost impossible.  Alice Cooper said he feels sorry for acts trying to come up today because they have to compete not only against each other, but also against the past and that most of them are simply not up to it. Dinosaurs in effect have come to rule the Earth in music.

Could the same thing eventually happen in film? Hmmmm…

There is no doubt that services like Netflix are doing some iTunes to television, but I was thinking about this quote from Alice when it occurred to me that the last 5 films that I paid to see up on the big screen in a row (from first to latest) were:

Hippies had no idea what a disservice they were doing for humanity in teaching Texas rednecks to smoke dope, but at least it makes for a funny movie. Next up:

Ah, the 1990s. How we miss you. Next:

Covered this one already, great to see it on the big screen again. Next:

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear= priceless. Finally:

I had to trek to Prescott to a film festival for the Matrix, but it was worth the trip to let the Ladner boys see it on the big screen. They seemed suitably impressed.

It remains to be seen whether or not there will be a 2013 release that I enjoy as much as the least of these flicks. Thus far-not so much. Let’s see how the summer goes. In the meantime we can hope that continued improvement in technology will make it more difficult for the studios to continue to push out mostly drek. It seems to have worked for television, which many claim has entered into a new Platinum Age, but then again maybe not.

I don’t know whether the great Jon Bon Jovi was describing the movie industry when he wrote “an Angel’s smile is what you sell/you promised me heaven then put me through hell” but he could have been- hairspray was known to inspire some far-out lyrics back in the 1980s. Rather than lament film drek and/or strike a poseur pose by pretending you liked Terrence Malick’s self-indulgent mess The Tree of Life (someone exclaimed Thank God it is over! at the screening I attended and the audience laughed out loud) the best way to deal with drek is to celebrate it when possible-and it is frequently possible.

So for now the past is beating 2013 5-0. Good luck 2013.

Random Pop Culture: Arena Rock Sing Along

August 25, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Enlow the Barbarian and I were in Austin Texas Thursday to testify to the Senate Education committee Friday morning. Despite being travel weary geezers, Enlow and I hit some Reb Bull and skipped over to the Alamo Drafthouse for


So here’s how it works: you buy your ticket, and they give you an inflatable guitar, a tambourine and of course a cigarette lighter. Then they proceed to blast hair band/arena rock classics so that you can scream along in tune, or your best approximation thereof.

Here is a few of the songs:



and of course…

Needless to say, no celebration of hair-band nation could possible exclude:

God Save the Queen of Arena Rock:

and everyone burnt their fingers with this classic of cheesy goodness:

Pass the Popcorn: Anvil and Zombieland

October 16, 2009



(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I’ve been knocked down by the flu this week, but last week I spent time in Austin Texas visiting my sister and attending some sort of odd male fertility ritual called a “bachelor party” or something like that. I think I may have attended a few more of those when I was younger, but I’m not entirely sure.

Anywhoo, a trip to Austin always means a trip to the Alamo Drafthouse for yours truly to see a flick. The Alamo is an Austin institution that serves a full menu of food and a full bar and goes out of their way to show off beat movies with fun themes.  Hong Kong action movies, spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation, vampire women in prison movies, whatever. Just before I moved to Phoenix they sponsored an all day canoe trip with free beer and free pig sandwiches, and an outdoor screening of Deliverance on the shore. For The Big Lebowski, they served White Russians, stopped the movie midway to have a mock joint-rolling contest, and took everyone bowling after the movie.

You get the idea.

The movies I saw last week- Anvil: The Story of Anvil and Zombieland.

Anvil is a fun little movie, basically Spinaltap meets midlife crisis. The movie is filled with Spinaltap references, even going so far as to have one of the main characters named “Rob Reiner.”

Basically, Anvil were the “demigods of Canadian speed metal” back in the 1980s. Sadly, such a status did little more than to earn them the admiration of some of the metal groups that made piles of money back in the day. Now working class joes, the movie chronicles their attempt at a comeback, which will RAWK!!! if, you know, they can get anyone to remember who they are and get the bar owner to actually pay them for playing.

Good stuff.

Very rarely however do you find a movie as well suited to the Alamo as Zombieland.

I laughed

I cried

It became a part of me.

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