Michael Bergeron
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Fantastic Fest Think Piece

Fantastic Fest Think Piece
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The Fantastic Fest is one of the most efficient film festivals if not the most efficient organized event I’ve ever attended. And I attend festivals on a regular basis including SXSW, Austin Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and festivals in my hometown including Worldfest and Houston Cinema Arts Festival.

Alamo-Lobby3Perhaps the main reason for said orderliness lies in the fact that most everything occurs at a single venue – the Austin Alamo Drafthouse Lamar. There are outside venues such as Bar-B-Qs, wrap parties and such, which are handled with buses and that too is coherent.

Then there is the movie theater itself. When you walk into the Lamar Drafthouse the lobby has a length of carpet from The Shining. How cool is that? Also in the lobby is a vending machine selling Drafthouse branded DVDs. The parking garage was free and I was always able to find a space whether I was arriving in the morning or more crowded afternoon.

Adjacent to the theater is a bar, The Highball, with a huge dance floor and stage. There is also a back room set up with computer monitors complete with joysticks and headphones and arcade games. I am not a gamer but I sat down and starting playing some lame game called Psychic Cat.100_7417

The Fantastic Fest wants people to have a good time. Apparently. When I walked out of a Sunday night screening, in addition to a lunar eclipse going on in the night sky, the Highball was hosting a karaoke event for festival attendees. The following afternoon there were complimentary mixed drinks as part of a bartender contest where the drinkologists were being rated on their ability to concoct Star Wars themed drinks.

Please note that on the second floor of the Highball are intimate pressrooms. The one I sat in to interview Nicolas Refn had mock windows that were boarded over like a scene from Night of the Living Dead. Another room was painted like the Red Room in Twin Peaks.100_7413

The theaters themselves are spacious and of course designed for serving food, which is an Alamo Drafthouse staple. Tim League the founder of the Drafthouse chain of theaters is a mover and shaker in the film world. Most recently League has formed a distribution company with former RADiUS execs Tom Quinn and Jason Janego to handle Michael Moore’s new film Where to Invade Next.

In a follow up article Free Press Houston will cover some of the films seen during our recent sojourn to Fantastic Fest.

— Michael Bergeron