At last night's raucous midnight world premiere of Dance of the Dead, director Gregg Bishop said in his introduction that he was thrilled to have the film debut at the Alamo Drafthouse. He said it with a certain reverence, like he couldn't believe his luck. Several other filmmakers have echoed those sentiments at past screenings, i.e., that getting your film into the festival is pleasure enough, but having it play at the Alamo is nirvana. And I realized that the Alamo truly sets SXSW apart from most other festivals.
Think about Sundance. They use a dozen or so venues around Park City, Utah. Many of them are perfectly lovely and functional, and one or two even have some local historical or cultural significance. But I can't imagine any filmmaker ever saying, "I'm so glad my movie is having its world premiere at the Eccles Theatre!" None of the venues have any cachet. My impression is that this is the case with most venues at most festivals. Some of them are cool enough, but do you dream of one day premiering your film at that particular place?
But people who make movies -- especially horror flicks and rowdy comedies and other types particularly suited to the Alamo's irreverent attitude -- actually do dream of that. The Alamo really has (and richly deserves) that kind of "cool" status.
So, I'd have to guess it was a pretty amazing night all around for Gregg Bishop. His film had its world premiere 1) at SXSW, 2) at the Alamo Drafthouse, and 3) to a capacity crowd where every person who wanted one got a free beer courtesy of the filmmakers. And the icing on the cake for Bishop? The audience loved the movie.
Yeah, the free beer probably didn't hurt, but it's a manically energetic and creative movie anyway, the epitome of a midnight-madness cult-favorite Alamo Drafthouse special. I was sitting next to Scott Weinberg, who has forgotten more about zombie movies than I'll ever know, and a few times I asked, "Have you ever seen that before?" His answer was always no -- and when you make a zombie movie with special effects, inventive kills, and plot devices that Scott Weinberg has never seen, then you have truly done something original.
So congratulations to Gregg Bishop and company! And congrats also to the Alamo and SXSW for their perfectly matched symbiotic relationship. The festival complements the theater, the theater adds immeasurably to the festival, and we love you both.