After reading Anthony Kaufman’s interesting article in the new Filmmaker magazine about younger audiences and indie film, I was reminded of the Dobie Theater in Austin. As a freshman in college, this was my first true neighborhood arthouse. It’s where I spent Sunday afternoons watching films like Happiness, Fast Cheap And Out of Control, Chasing Amy, Mary Jane’s Not A Virgin Anymore, Hands On A Hardbody, and Henry Fool. When I left Austin two years ago, the Dobie had suffered a brutal decade of losing attendance, which was certainly symptomatic of being an arthouse movie theater on a college campus. Despite 50,000 students within a square mile of the theater, show after show was empty. (It’s worth mentioning that the emergence of the amazing Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas definitely took hold of whatever college kids still wanted to see movies outside Hollywood.)
In addition, when I moved to Austin there were no less than seven independent record stores near campus. Long before I left, there were zero. Now, the Landmark Theater chain (which bought the Dobie from original owner Scott Dinger) has decided not to renew its license on the venue. It may or may not fade away, much like the record store that used to sit next door within the Dobie Mall. The Dobie theater tried to compete with the major multiplexes as best as it could in recent years. The current slate of films screening at the theater in Austin include Clash of the Titans, Kick-Ass, Hot Tub Time Machine, and one indie: The Art of the Steal. In a coincidental twist of fate, former Landmark Theaters CEO Bill Banowsky (who deserves kudos for trying to revitalize the Dobie under his leadership) just announced a new downtown cinema for Austin, that will borrow some of the ideas from the Alamo Drafthouse.