The arid landscape of the West Texas plains are fit for oil rigs and football stadiums. It’s in West Texas that we find country music festivals and wide open spaces where - if you squint just right - you can see miles of dusty road in the distance. West Texans know this region has its charms; but if your love of film goes beyond the typical big budget spectacle or latest Marvel or DC adventure, you’re probably better off not calling West Texas your home. As a film writer based in the Texas flatland, I have driven too many miles attempting to catch the latest arthouse masterpiece somewhere else. And then, finally, the Alamo Drafthouse came to my part of the state. Since the theater’s arrival in 2014, I have discovered that not only does Lubbock boast a huge football fandom, but there is also a growing film community whose main purpose is to create and inspire one another.
I attended Drafthouse’s Dismember the Alamo marathon in Lubbock on Saturday, October 14, where I witnessed the community firsthand. Coordinated by Robert Saucedo, Drafthouse’s Programing Director for the Houston, Lubbock and El Paso theaters alongside the evening’s co-host, Lubbock resident Chad Abushanab, Dismember the Alamo is a Drafthouse event spanning across many of the theater’s locations. This event invites its audience to revel in zany, out of the box horror features. Most of the sixty person theater were filled with over eager horror fans like myself, who were clamoring to watch something curated by the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA).
Plenty of folks were dressed up to fit the evening’s mood. I sat beside Leatherface, a zombie Tina Belcher and a bloodied Shaun from Edgar Wright’s classic zombie flick. In this darkened theater as we all experienced together a rarely discussed Tobe Hooper gem (Eaten Alive) and laughed throughout the absurd Grizzly, I felt a part of Lubbock’s film family. Although the city of Austin birthed the Drafthouse, forging a new path for how we discuss and love movies, it is the Lubbock location that has implemented itself within the city’s film scene, celebrating the local filmmakers and providing a hub for conversation.
“[Alamo] gave us a gathering,” Paul Hunton, the Associate Managing Director and General Manager for Texas Tech Public Media said. “There is no other place to experience a movie the way Alamo does. Alamo is like a town square for movies and film fans.”
He’s right. Because the Lubbock Drafthouse, West Texas moviegoers now have the opportunity to enter into the film conversation. Only at a Drafthouse would you even get to witness the over the top programming of films you’ve never heard of before. The evening’s queue began with 1987’s Slaughterhouse, Hooper’s Eaten Alive, then 1976’s Grizzly (practically Jaws on land) and a finally, a dark Spanish comedy called El Dia De La Bestia (The Day of the Beast), a film directed by Alex de la Iglesia, which host Robert explained was an incredibly hard to find motion picture.
Since its establishment in 2014, the Lubbock location works closely with budding filmmakers out of Texas Tech University’s media program, often inviting professors and film students to their events to speak and discuss various features. Weston Davis, Creative Manager for the Lubbock Theater and recent Tech graduate and filmmaker, admits that he took the close ties between the University and the Drafthouse for granted in his college years. Now as an Alamo employee, he sees how the two work in tandem for Lubbock’s moviegoers.
“One thing that might be my favorite thing about this Alamo, as it was something I did not know about and took for granted, is that close relations with the Texas Tech Community," Davis said. “We do all sorts of series like ‘Lights Camera Law’ with the Tech Law School, ‘Sexism in Cinema’ and we hosted ‘Continuing Education’ where we teamed up with film professors at Tech.”
As the film community begins to grow and take shape in the Texas flat land, filmmakers are encouraged to stay and create in the city before venturing on.
“We have a number of filmmakers who hone their craft at South Plains College and Texas Tech University, developing all kinds of different work while they’re here, and then often move on to places like Austin, Dallas or L.A.,” said Dr. Robert Peaslee who serves as Associate Professor & Department Chair of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University.
During the upcoming weekend of October 19-21, the Lubbock Drafthouse will host the 14th annual Flatland Film Festival. The festival will play feature films, documentaries and short films this year including a midnight screening of the upcoming teenage slasher flick, Tragedy Girls. Local artists like Davis and Hunton will also have their work shown as well. Paul Hunton and Jonathan Seaborn’s documentary Between Earth and Sky and Davis’ short film The Film Graduate will both show in at the Alamo. Although the programming usually aims to focus on local filmmakers, this year director Jay Roach will be joining the festival attendees through a Skype Q&A in honor of Austin Powers turning 20.
But Lubbock is more than just a place for filmmakers. The theater takes great pride in their service to their patrons, promoting one of the friendliest staffs I’ve ever encountered at an Alamo. Ellie Hynum, who has worked for the Lubbock Alamo since 2014 considers her coworkers to be a second family and enjoys working behind the scenes.
“The one thing I want people to know about this location is the amount of passion and effort each employee puts into serving our guests,” Hynum said. "Every single person from the managers to the kitchen to the servers play a role in the [Lubbock] guest experience…We may not always be fast and efficient, but we are very committed to ensuring each and every guest has an awesome experience and is excited to come back. You won’t see this many hard and devoted workers anywhere else in Lubbock.”
To step into the doors of the Lubbock theater is to step into one of the friendliest film communities in the state. It’s the reason we still go to the movies. It’s the reason we choose to go to Alamo.
“The fact that I can get together with movie makers and film fans to have a meaningful discussion about the power and influence that cinema has in our lives just would not happen without the Alamo Drafthouse,” Hunton said.