The Best Independent Movie Theaters in Austin

Austinites have flocked to the Paramount since 1915
Austinites have flocked to the Paramount since 1915 | © Peter Tsai Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Jessica Devenyns
17 June 2019

Austin may have a world-class music scene, but don’t rule out its passion for film. As the home of Robert Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios and South by Southwest, the city has a lot to offer cinephiles. There are also a number of theaters that host special movie nights and screen local and independent films.

Austin Film Society Cinema

Cinema, Movie Theater

One of the lesser-known projects in town, the Austin Film Society (AFS) is the result of Richard Linklater’s creative genius. Founded in 1985, AFS is the heartbeat of the city’s independent film industry, but it only recently opened its own dedicated art-house cinema, complete with a full bar and café. On its two screens, the society shows a wide selection of films, including repertory series, new restorations, documentaries, independents and premieres. Many of the films are also accompanied by introductions by the film directors and other special guests.

Violet Crown Cinema

Cinema, Movie Theater
Violet Crown movie theater. Austin, Texas, USA.
Headlights show the way to the Violet Crown movie theater | Courtesy of Violet Crown
An art-house theater devoted to showcasing independent, documentary, international and studio films, Violet Crown Cinema is locally owned and operated. There are four screens inside, making it a charming place to appreciate the art of filmmaking. Unlike most theaters, the Violet Crown is known for premiering many independent and international films in the city, which is perfect for those who like a little something different. For the best possible experience, the theater offers wireless headsets that carry the movie soundtrack at an adjustable volume according to the needs of the viewer. The cinema even has captioning devices that display subtitles in sync with the movie. This is a venue that does its utmost to tailor to all viewers.

Alamo Drafthouse Ritz

Cinema, Theater
The old Alamo Drafthouse sign in Austin, Texas, USA.
The old Alamo Drafthouse sign in Austin | © Peter Tsai Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Head to the Ritz location on Sixth Street for themed movie nights, custom pre-show clips, fried pickles and draft beer. The Alamo Drafthouse may be the most established indie-movie powerhouse franchise in Texas. Founded in Austin, Alamo operates in the city, as well as Dallas-Fort Worth and several other locations around the state and the country. The original intention was to create a theater by fans, for fans. Indeed, Alamo enforces strict cinemagoing etiquette so that movie lovers can have a genuine, uninterrupted experience. The theater runs several events, like Quote-Along nights and Master Pancake sessions – where comedians mock an entire movie on the spot – and Weird Wednesdays, which show eclectic movies for $1 at midnight. With so many events, there’s no excuse not to visit.

Moviehouse and Eatery

Cinema, Movie Theater

Dinner and a show gets a whole new look at the Moviehouse & Eatery. Start your evening with a craft cocktail or a local brew in the lounge. Then, when you’re ready for the show, curl up in one of the plush leather recliners and wait for a waiter to appear and take your order. Try movie-theater classics like popcorn, or opt for a Texas twist with a perfectly seared steak. If you’re able, catch the first showing of the day – you’ll pay only $9.50 a ticket.

Paramount Theatre

Cinema, Theater
Austin Film Festival premier of Oliver Stone film W at Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, USA.
People gather for the Austin Film Festival premiere of an Oliver Stone film at Paramount Theatre | © Dennis Cox / Alamy Stock Photo
For more than 100 years, the Paramount Theatre has been one of the city’s most popular attractions, with Austinities heading to the Congress Avenue spot for a relaxed evening with friends. Originally a vaudeville and variety house, the Paramount Theatre is now a melting pot of film, comedy, drama, music and dance performances. This venue is the oldest surviving theater in Austin and has a special place in the hearts of locals. It also hosts many red-carpet film premieres, as well as local and touring acts. Everyone from jazz artists to spoken-word poets has played here, so peruse the listings and choose something exactly to your tastes. Cool off in the hotter months with the Paramount’s summertime double-feature series.

Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In

Cinema, Movie Theater
Blue Starlite, Austin, Texas, USA.
Head to Blue Starlite for something different | © Josh Frank
This great drive-in shows both old and new movies, including indie films, art-house, children’s favorites and pop-culture hits. You can even purchase s’mores and roast them over the drive-in’s fire pit. Keep your eyes on Blue Starlite’s website for upcoming screenings, as they rotate weekly. It’s a small establishment and space is limited, so make sure to book ahead of time.

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