AFS Cinema to World: We’ll be Back

Memories of good times in a great theater as a fundraiser begins

Last week, the Austin Film Society announced its intention to reopen the AFS Cinema this summer, an exceedingly welcome piece of news after 15 very hard months in the world of movie watching. As a part of this enterprise, they’ve launched a fundraising campaign called “The Next Picture Show” to help open the doors. has all of the details, including the standard perks for different levels of giving. (Take a close look at the $100+ level that includes an AFS membership.) The full press release is printed below.

In celebration of this news, I’m sharing some favorite memories from the last few years at the AFS Cinema. Can’t wait for many more.



Mainly, this selection is to show off the best photos I ever took at the cinema. Getting to do it at what was essentially a cast reunion of an Austin Gem made it even better. I remember seeing Beeswax at SXSW all those years ago, but since then, I’ve met several members of the cast, and even found out that local legend Andrew Bujalski wouldn’t even be a local if he hadn’t shot this film here and subsequently met his wife. It’s a good story about a good story, and seeing these old friends get back together was truly a gift.


Local director Bob Byington is a trip, but his buddy Kevin Corrigan makes him look like an apathetic librarian. These two riffing on Buffalo 66 and Corrigan’s part in it was wild, at least as wild as the film itself. Audience members weren’t allowed to share any stories that were told, so you’ll just have to speculate. (Hint: Vincent Gallo is a nut.)

On a side note, who needs matching socks?


This was a screening that landing squarely in my wheelhouse. I love art photography, and while living in Seattle several years ago, I was fortunate to attend a talk and a gallery exhibit by Mary Ellen Mark. One of her most famous images is of Tiny, a “street youth” from the 1980’s in Seattle. Mark and her husband Martin Bell also made a documentary about this scene called Streetwise. I had to order a VHS of this, so getting to see it on the big screen was amazing. The follow up doc Tiny shows how the passage of time impacted her situation. AFS’s Lars Nilsen talked to me about these two films here.



I don’t know what you think about Renée Zellweger, but if she’s anything like the woman who came to the AFS screening of Judy, she’s an absolute delight. Seeing an actress in her prime, talk about her process, and then later earn the Oscar was very Wow! She’s no stranger to Austin, but getting her in front of film fans was a public service.


Films like Wendy are why I’m addicted to seeing movies in the theater. I left this screening with director Benh Zeitlin convinced it would be on everyone’s lips soon enough. While that didn’t happen, the experience of sitting there in the dark for the better part of two hours and being allowed to focus on this story and those child actors was a revelation. Maybe it doesn’t play as well on Amazon Prime (and might not even with me and my addled brain) but that night, in that room, it was magical.


The one represent two things that are great about AFS Cinema and the Austin Film Society. First of all, just seeing a beautiful film on a big screen is a joy. Something like The River and the Wall, with its epic vistas of Big Bend and the Rio Grande is worth getting out of the house for. Second, this particular documentary benefited from the AFS Doc Intensive which “supports documentary filmmakers in production, post-production and development.” Helping make films and then screening them is a full circle we can all enjoy. Read an interview with director Ben Master here.



When you have Richard Linklater in the office, you might as well get him to program in a way only he can. With Jewels in the Wasteland, he mines that most infamous of cinematic decades, the 80s, and finds some real treasures. After each screening, Linklater talks about the film, like the audience is sitting in his living room just gabbing. It’s great. One I remember fondly was Local Hero. Check out a recording of that conversation below.


It might be the Austin Film Society, but that doesn’t mean the small screen is off limits. With such titles as “Dallas: Anatomy of an Episode,” “International Day of Rockford,” and “Leaves from Satan’s Book: The Best of the Horror Anthology Shows,” History of Television runs the gamut of interesting programming from TV’s past.

A personal favorite edition was “Punk TV Mayhem” featuring episodes of Quincy, M.E. and CHiPs. My fondest memory was getting clowned by Zack Carlson for a Q in the Q&A.

An honor.


Unfortunately, this one is stuck in the past, and will have to live on in the memories of those who were able to participate. Officially described as “a carefully curated showcase of the obscure and unusual presented by Austin Film Society programmer Lars Nilsen and his fellow video collector Maximillian Meehan.”

The words “obscure” and “unusual” are doing a lot of work here. This is two film nerds going deep, DEEP into their personal vaults to shock and amaze an audience of fellow film nerds that are hard to shock and amaze. Always an adventure. Enough said. While Savage Gold is retired, I feel pretty confident Lars and crew will come up with equally amazing offerings in the future, and I plan to be there for it.

Austin Film Society Announces Reopening Campaign — AFS Cinema’s Next Picture Show

AFS Raising Funds to Reopen the AFS Cinema in Summer 2021

(Austin, TX) — Austin Film Society announces a new crowdfunding campaign to reopen the AFS Cinema — AFS Cinema’s Next Picture Show (URL: The campaign will launch today, May 6, on the GiveLively platform and run through June 17. AFS is asking for the community’s support to help us reopen our doors and begin the AFS Cinema’s new chapter. Plans are currently underway for the AFS Cinema to open summer 2021with more details to be announced in the coming weeks.

Since first turning on our projectors, the AFS Cinema has become a cornerstone of Austin’s vibrant film community. As the city’s only repertory arthouse theater, it is home for all who love the very best in classic, foreign, and new independent film, and seek out diverse and global perspectives every day of the week. For film lovers and filmmakers alike, it is a place to discover and experience great cinema and to celebrate the work of our regional storytellers.

AFS is seeking support from the community to help us reach our $150,000 crowdfunding goal to bring the best of local and global cinema to our big screen. The Still Water Foundation, a champion of the AFS Cinema since we opened in 2017, is matching the first $50,000 donated to the Next Picture Show reopening campaign. This is an opportunity to be a part of bringing back the AFS Cinema as Austin’s essential, central home for film — and donations at every level count!

“When we were able to start the AFS Cinema in 2017 after 30 years of showing films around town, it was a dream come true. Our audiences were growing and our cinema had become a very special place in Austin, where people could come together and experience everything great about independent and arthouse film. We are ready to welcome back the entire community to take part in the rich and ever-expanding film culture that Austin is known for,” said Rebecca Campbell, CEO of AFS.

The goal of the campaign is to revive the AFS Cinema and its unique arthouse cinema experience. Funds raised will cover costs to hire and train staff, maintain and upgrade projection equipment, put COVID-safety measures in place including HEPA air filters, and ensure community inclusion and accessibility through outreach and partnerships.

The AFS Cinema boasts two screens — one repertory, featuring special series covering the gamut of film culture and history, and one for new releases — curated programming year-round, a full bar, and concessions.

For those who donate, the campaign comes with special perks and thank-you gifts to celebrate the reopening of our city’s hub for cinematic culture, the AFS Cinema. Perks include:

· All giving $100+ includes an AFS membership to help you maximize your time at the AFS Cinema! In addition to annual benefits, all AFS members will be invited to an exclusive AFS Cinema soft-opening weekend.

· All giving $50+ includes a special edition Next Picture Show t-shirt, with choice of gold, red, or black.

· All donors $25+ will receive an AFS Cinema bumper sticker, a popcorn pass, and recognitiononline and in our pre-show for three months.

· And, for a limited time, the first 50 donors at $299 will also receive their choice of Criterion Blu-Ray. (Choices can be found here.)

For giving opportunities larger than $1500, to see a list of all donors, or for more information on the campaign to reopen the AFS Cinema, please visit our Next Picture Show website or contact AFS’s Development Manager Taylor Whritner at [email protected].

About Austin Film Society
Founded in 1985 by filmmaker Richard Linklater, AFS creates life-changing opportunities for filmmakers, catalyzes Austin and Texas as a creative hub, and brings the community together around great film. AFS is committed to racial equity and inclusion, with an objective to deliver programs that actively dismantle the structural racism, sexism and other bias in the screen industries. AFS supports filmmakers from all backgrounds towards career leaps, encouraging exceptional artistic projects with grants and support services. AFS operates Austin Studios, a 20-acre production facility, to attract and grow the creative media ecosystem. Austin Public, a space for our city’s diverse mediamakers to train and collaborate, provides many points of access to filmmaking and film careers. The AFS Cinema is an ambitiously programmed repertory and first run arthouse with broad community engagement. By hosting premieres, local and international industry events, and the Texas Film Awards, AFS shines the national spotlight on Texas filmmakers while connecting Austin and Texas to the wider film community. AFS is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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