Transformed landmark theater premieres as arthouse

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In May 2017, the Austin Film Society will open their own theater at Austin’s The Linc. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael Hsu Office of Architecture and DesignTrait

When Austin Film Society CEO Rebecca Campbell was a student at UT, she would journey with her friends to a small theater on Middle Fiskville road to enjoy classic, international and cult films they wouldn’t be able to see elsewhere. Even as her passion for film grew and she established her own career in film, she never forgot the Marchesa and the films that inspired her. 

“When I was in graduate school at UT, we used to go to the Lincoln Village all the time,” Campbell said. “It was always really easy to just hop in your car and get where you needed to go and just run on in.”

On May 12, the Marchesa theater will be coming back to life as the Society’s arthouse theater, called the AFS Cinema. For over 30 years, Austin Film Society has supported the Austin film community through events and screenings at partner cinemas in the area. But, this year after remaking the old Austin landmark, the organization will finally have their own theater.

“Opening a full time arthouse theater has always been part of the organization’s vision,” said Richard Linklater, Austin Film Society founder and artistic director, in an email. “[It’s]a dream come true.” 

The organization intends for it to be a nod to the history of Austin’s film scene and an emphasis on how far Austin film culture has come. They also hope it will help expose Austinites to more foreign cinema.

“We are dedicated to international film culture being accessible to all Austinites and are interested in programming films that wouldn’t be showing in Austin otherwise.”

Campbell said she hopes the theater’s proximity to the University will draw UT students and Austinites through membership opportunities and student discounts.

Local architecture firms DesignTrait and the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture will be working in partnership to redesign the Marchesa. 

The architects said they are working to create a place unlike any Austin has ever seen.

“The typical movie theater is about walking in the door, grabbing a ticket and sitting down in a dark theater, but this experience is very much different from that,” said Becky Jeanes, principal architect at DesignTrait. “We are creating something that’s inviting and makes you want to stay a while.”

Brad Phillips, Foxtrot Bravo Alpha’s co-founder and director of design, said he hopes the branding design his firm is working on for Austin Film Society will do justice to their art.

“There is such a unique viewpoint that [Richard Linklater] has on how he approaches film. There is a lot of care that goes into that and it is kind of infectious,” Phillips said. “We want to do our best work because it is so important to him, the Austin Film Society and Austin.”

Campbell hopes new features added to the theater will both maintain the aesthetic characteristics of Austin’s film culture and help it to become a destination for film aficionados worldwide. 

With two new screens, dim lighting, a broader menu and a display of Linklater’s expansive movie poster collection, Trey Toungate, principal architect for DesignTrait, said they aim to create an environment that celebrates the spirit of the movies. 

“We are interested in Austin having a national reputation as being a place with sophisticated film audiences,” Campbell said. “When people hear about Austin’s great film culture this is a place where they can come and experience it firsthand.”