Talk about a "bad news / good news" situation! I'll just give you a little recap and then turn you over to Tim League, the mega-movie-nerd who, along with his lovely wife Karrie, created what became known as "the best movie theater in the country." (I said it first, Entertainment Weekly agreed with me a few years later.) Anyway, the Original Alamo Drafthouse, that blissful oasis of movie geekery that's been wedged in downtown Austin for almost precisely a decade, is closing its doors later this year. Yep, the one that started it all (there are now numerous locations, my favorite being the Drafthouse South Lamar, because they offer the Alamo Magic combined with first-run movies) is about to close its doors forever.

But before you start weeping uncontrollably (as I did before reading the whole letter), you should know that the downtown location will soon be located only a few blocks away ... in an old movie palace ... and they'll be adding a second screen! Awesome! So while it's obviously very sad that the original Drafthouse (which I fell in love with five years ago while covering my first SXSW) will be disappearing, this new venue represents a very big and very exciting step forward for the Alamo posse. They'll be moving into a theater known as The Ritz, and I'm told it's a very classy building that could really use a fresh coat of paint and a whole lot of movie-love.

Frankly I think this is seriously awesome news. The Alamo Downtown is (of course) a phenomenal venue, but it's wedged right between a few rather bombastic night clubs, plus I think it's probably a little too small these days. 80% of the time I've spent at the Alamo Downtown has been in mega-packed houses, and I know from personal experience that Mr. League really hates turning patrons away because of capacity restraints. Even when they're showing free midnight movies, this guy HATES turning people away.

Bittersweet news, of course, but onwards and upwards, right? Everyone here at Cinematical wishes the Leagues nothing but great success as they switch over from "Downtown" to "Ritz" -- and if you plan to be in Austin any time over the next few months, I heartily recommend you head to 4th and Colorado and enjoy the original Drafthouse before it's (sniff) gone forever. If you see me there and you're a female, I'll probably buy you a beer. (Tim's press release / goodbye letter is included after the jump.)


Alamo Drafthouse Downtown moves to the Ritz!

ALAMO DOWNTOWN CELEBRATES TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY...

Ten years ago, my wife Karrie and I opened the doors to the original Colorado Street Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. We had just finished the most grueling six months of our lives, working on the construction every day, 7 days a week about 15 hours a day. We worked at a feverish pace and did damn near everything ourselves, mainly because we had no money. With a paltry sum raised by hitting up our parents and friends and an assortment of credit card loans, we installed new plumbing, air conditioning, electrical, and fabricated the screening room that we've been enjoying for the last decade. On opening day, we had $20,000 left in the bank, and with our freshly-hired staff, our first ever employees, that was enough to last us for about a month if no-one came to the theater. It was a miserably naive business plan.

Thankfully, Austin responded to us quickly and we stand looking back ten years later to happily see the concept of our original cinema still intact. In the next three months, we will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary by bringing back many of our classic events and guests. We hope you will join us many times in April through June as we celebrate and share some of our favorite movies of the past decade. Look for the red "10" logo in our printed guide for all anniversary screenings. - Tim League: founder, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

AND MOVES OPERATIONS TO THE HISTORIC RITZ THEATER!

For the last 10 years, we have also seen the warehouse district grow up around us. As the neighborhood has become more and more upscale, we've seen many long-time businesses fall away: The Bitter End, Gilligans, Waterloo Brewing Co, and Ruta Maya to name just a few. At the end of June, 2007, our lease will expire and due to the high costs of rent, insurance and taxes, we have been not been confident that we would be able to continue occupying our current space. With the end of our lease looming, the Downtown Austin Alliance stepped in quickly and brought us together with the owners of the Ritz Theater on 6th Street. In a matter of weeks, we shook hands on a deal and are now moving full-steam ahead with planning for the next decade of Alamo Drafthouse Downtown programming: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema at the Ritz.

Renovation begins in April and we hope to be open as soon as possible, maybe as early as summer's end. This theater will prove to be the best Alamo Drafthouse yet. While retaining the intimacy and programming of the original location, the Ritz will have two screens, plush VIP seating, state-of-the-art projection and sound and the new experience of a remodeled and renovated landmark Austin movie palace. Please stay tuned to the Alamo website and blog for progress on the construction as well as updates on opening week programming and events.

We would like to thank Larry and Mary Craddock, owners of the Ritz property who reached out to us and did everything they could to make this happen -- we look forward to collectively reviving a lost Austin movie palace; the Downtown Austin Alliance for bringing the Craddocks and us together; Bob Woody, current operator of the Ritz for working with us to make the change; Danny Roth of Southwest Strategies for believing in a couple of kids with no money or experience 10 years ago -- we are happy to still be working with you today; Karen Bartoletti and the gang at Graves Dougherty for making the process of jumping through legal hoops relatively quick and painless. We also thank our loyal and extremely hard-working staff, in particular man-in-charge Mike Sherrill for furthering and refining our original vision. Most of all, though, we'd like to thank the "Heroes of the Alamo" members and the entire city of Austin for continuing to support us and watch movies with us over the years. We love this city and we look forward to 10 more years of obsessive cinematic exploits.

For more information about the 10 Year Anniversary screenings at the original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, check out our website. There are only a few months left to enjoy the original location, we hope to see you there soon and often! Every dollar you spend will be going towards the massive renovation overhaul of the Ritz. Also, stay tuned for information on the "last night at the Alamo" final screening and party!