Monday, August 16, 2010

Credits Roll for Dobie Theatre

It's the end of the line for the Dobie Theatre. The 4-screen cinema across the street from UT will close Sunday.

The Dobie was never a particularly great place to see a movie. Parking was a hassle, the screens were small and the auditorium seating configurations were weird. Despite all that, the Dobie's adventurous programming during its 80s/90s heyday made it an integral part of Austin's film scene. In many ways, longtime Dobie owner/manager Scott Dinger set the stage for the Alamo Drafthouse's ascendancy.

The first movie I ever saw at the Dobie was a midnight screening of Liquid Sky 23 years ago this month. I saw a lot of midnight movies at Dobie between 1987 and 1989 because it was an easy stumble from my dorm room. Alcohol definitely enlivened repeated viewings of low-budget, Troma-style gore vehicles like Blood Diner, Street Trash and Surf Nazis Must Die. Then there was the 3-D porn movie with the late John Holmes literally coming right at you.

I remember going to see Slacker there in 1990 when it was just a weird local indie film. The girl I went with thought the movie was pointless, but for me, Slacker epitomized why disregarding potential career opportunities to stay in Austin after graduation might not be such a bad idea.

The last movie I remember seeing at the Dobie was the Ramones doc End of the Century in 2005. After Landmark Theaters took over the Dobie in 1999, they gradually began shifting toward more typical art-house fare that could just as easily be seen at other cinemas around town. Landmark announced it was abandoning the Dobie earlier this year. The chain sought a new operator to take over, but like many formerly thriving UT-area businesses, the Dobie has become functionally obsolete.

When I came to UT, you could see movies at the Dobie, the Varsity and at several on-campus locations curated by the Texas Union Film Program. What a difference a quarter-century makes (adjusts dentures).


Lani Rosales said...

I read this headline and was really nostalgic and sad until I remembered that from 1999-2004 (don't try to add that up, please... lol) when I was at UT, I only went there once (to see Pink Floyd's "The Wall" just to be cliche).

I never spent time on that side of campus really, and I never heard about film festivals or even new releases, it's so hidden. Years ago, they should have pleaded with the city to allow more prominent signage and probably should have budgeted for some marketing.

C'est la vie, thanks for sharing!

kmel said...

Damn, that's the first I've heard of it. (I don't get out much anymore!)

I've always wondered why the Alamo doesn't take over the old Village Theatre location. I'm sure there's very good reasons, like it being a doomed location! It seems perfect though ... rescue an old theatre, right by UT, and now no more competition.

Patrick said...

Saigon Eggrolls for lunch, release party at Sound Exchange, and Saturday Night at the Bookstore. And Straight Edge Jim is pissed at Poop Deck Pappy for drag worms crashing the punk rock keg party. Priceless.