The Age of Fandoms

Image by Heather Leah Kennedy

Image by Heather Leah Kennedy

Like most people, I am a fan of a plethora of things. I drop comedy bits into conversations, can recite way too much random movie trivia, and know what Hogwarts House I would be sorted into (it’s Hufflepuff if you’re wondering). The beautiful thing about this century is that its hip to be into these things. We’ve explored how Nerd Culture is taking over the world, but fandoms are more than that. Being a part of a fandom means that you are accepted and appreciated for your undying passion about something, whether it be the zombie show on TV or your fantasy football league. 

In Austin, where all of those thrive together, there is one local corporation that puts the fans first, Alamo Drafthouse. There is always something for everyone on the calendar at the Drafthouse (opening midnight screenings, music sing-alongs, quote-alongs, etc), and we’ve all been to at least one of their signature events. The audience never feels embarrassed to have intellectual discussions of whether the book (or comic-book) was better than the movie, it’s a safe place where nerd flags fly free.

The best thing about all of this is, Alamo has always been like this. Chatting with Henri Mazza, Vice President of Special Events at the Drafthouse, you quickly realize that this theater was founded on the love of movies and all that it entails. Even for Mazza, his rise through the ranks was fan based. His career with Alamo began in 2001, as a server and quickly evolved into cultivation of movie themed events. He started making in house trailers at the original Colorado location, but now he produces big national events outside the theater with the “Alamo Rolling Roadshow.”

“With the roadshow, it was really about how we can make this experience even more immersive and a larger event for everyone to enjoy,” Mazza says.

If you’re lacking in a Rolling Roadshow experience, you are most definitely missing out. Not onlyis there a film screening of a film that you love with other adoring fans (which is a typical theater experience) but you get a chance to fully dive into the world of your chosen fandoms. Where dressing up in character is not balked at, but encouraged. 

“When we go out to a special location, ‘Jaws’ on the lake or ‘Serenity’ in an old west town, there is something so special about the movie being on screen.” Mazza adds. “Then you look around that environment, it’s the best of being in that part of that world.”

The “Serenity” event was the last one I attended, and even though it was months ago, I still look back on that night with a cheesy grin. It was the 10 year anniversary of the original screening of “Serenity,” and being a huge Whedon-verse fan himself, it made sense to have another roadshow this year. There’s always a reason behind a chosen film and location, they just vary.

“It can be we found this cool venue, or going back and rewatching an old favorite and going, ‘man this movie is amazing, but how cool would it be to find a place that really brought it to life even more,’” Mazza adds. “It can happen either way, but we’ll have brainstorming meetings where we sit around with all the programmers.” 

Image by Heather Leah Kennedy

Image by Heather Leah Kennedy

When asked what was the one he had always wanted to do, he was very excited to talk the sleep-away camp over Halloween weekend. The films screened that weekend ranged from ridiculous comedy (“Wet Hot American Summer”) and classic horror (“Friday the 13th). The genre wasn’t important, even with Halloween as the backdrop, it was the inclusion of fans that made it all worthwhile.

“When we do an event, like the serenity one, we get all these fans together for a couple of hours and its great and fun seeing fans from other events start making friends, but having a 2 day destination type event, and spending that much time with other fans, that’s the one I’m really looking forward to,” Mazza says.

His favorite experience, however, was more about the fan within. “‘Jaws’ on the lake. The first night we set up a tech check, had no idea if we were going to be able to pull it off, and I went out into the water myself, to make sure it looked good from the water,” Mazza adds. “I sat out there for about 15 minutes watching the movie. It was pretty magical.”

To be fair, there are a lot more events then just the Roadshow that occur at the Drafthouse, several were mentioned above. Each one has its own degree of intensity, and it’s hard not to find something you like at the events. You’d be surprised how satisfying it is to watch action movies with a toy cap-gun, participating in the gun-fight in front of you. (“Commando” was my favorite experience with this prop, hands down.)

It’s never about being the stereotypical nerd who can recite Pi by heart, but instead it’s about the person who loves something bigger than themselves, and likes to be around others with similar interests. This isn’t to say that in two weeks the Drafthouse won’t be full of classic “Star Wars” nerds from the 80s sharing a lasting film memory with their children, because it most definitely will be. 

In an age where its hip to be into things and nerd culture is pop culture, Drafthouse has always been a place where people can just be. Everyone likes to watch movies, but when you take that step further and become part of a fandom, your world opens up beyond your wildest dreams. The magic of film is an undeniable feeling when you let yourself fully engage in the experience. This isn’t to say that you can dress up for every theater experience, but if you wanted to, I know a theater that will welcome you with open arms.

For more information on all of the upcoming Alamo Drafthouse events, please head to their website and indulge.

Written by Lisa Mejia
Images by Heather Leah Kennedy