One balmy and grey afternoon following a less than thrilling shift of cashier work, I took the tip of a co-worker and checked out Violet Crown Cinema just down the street. One of the greatest things about Austin is the very large number of places in which one may imbibe non-traditionally: Alamo Drafthouse, Whole Foods, Bird’s Barbershop, any given farmer’s market… Austinites truly enjoy enjoying themselves and there are not many things more enjoyable than getting drunk during a movie. Teenagers have been doing it for years and it helped Crystal and I get through “Twilight” in a theater full of people who actually thought that movie was good.
Violet Crown Cinema is capitalizing on this national pastime in the most sophisticated way. The locally owned and operated theater houses four screens, a bar, a snack bar, and a small café. The 44 seat theaters are simple and very comfortable, opting for quality on the screen rather than flair in the decorations. If you don’t believe me, every time I’m in Vulcan Video at least one person recommends seeing a flick at Violet Crown over Alamo. (And if you’ve never been to Vulcan, you are truly missing out on the best movie rental experience of your life.) They’ll validate your parking for up to four hours, they don’t seat you in the theater until five minutes before the show (minimal previews! No stupid ad-ridden pre-movie trivia!), and you can pick exactly which seat you want, in fact you have to.
I chose a 2:20 showing of “Melancholia” with Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland. I don’t want to focus on the movie because I might fall back into the sad place where I want to cry while I’m sleeping. I know, I know, should’ve guessed something called “Melancholia” would bum me out, but “Knocked Up” didn’t get me pregnant, so…
I got to the cinema maybe 25 minutes before the show. The cinema is easy to find, but it’s up about three flights of stairs so if you’ve been blogging about all the tacos you eat maybe take the elevator so you don’t look like a fat-ass to the box office chick. (#protip) My ticket for this matinee (before 5pm everyday) was $9 so I wandered around for a few minutes to gather my impulse-buy regret (barista salary!) before I succumbed to the bar. The bar and café area are very comfortable, albeit slightly hotel bar like and could easily accommodate a casual afternoon or a classy date, there is even a shelf full of board games and film-nerd books to peruse while you wait for your show to start. Or if you prefer, you can enjoy a (sadly sub-par) coffee, ICEE (!) or $6 bag of popcorn (free refills, shrug) in a comfy seat in the lobby looking out a floor to ceiling window over 2nd street.
I ordered the $8 spring rolls and a glass of sauvignon blanc even though the beer selection was actually great and I usually always prefer beer, my guard was down and I was in an art house cinema about to see a sad movie alone, if they had offered me a silk nightgown to change into I would not have flinched. The spring rolls were amazing, crisp veggies in a chewy wrap accompanied by a creamy and not overly peanut-y hoisin sauce. The wine was in a stem-less glass which was fantastically comfortable and casual. The bartender was knowledgeable and chatted up a new-in-town beer fan looking to find Austin’s best IPA. He let her taste everything they had and offered outside suggestions as well.
The biggest and best difference between Alamo Drafthouse and Violet Crown is that there is no service in the theaters at Violet Crown so your film experience is pristine and uninterrupted, which I thoroughly appreciate. I wish I would’ve pre-ordered another drink to take into the theater, but I wasn’t thinking; once inside, I saw several people double-fisting it in anticipation of the film’s length.
I’ll definitely be back for more movies, beer, and samplings of their promising menu. No more sad Kirsten Dunst, though. No more… I want Mary Jane Watson, and that’s it.
Check out Violet Crown at www.violetcrowncinema.com and download their iPhone app!