Alamo Drafthouse Cinema sure has been grabbing headlines with its women-only screenings of the upcoming Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman film in NYC and Austin. So committed are they to the theme, that according to Alamo’s own breathless press release, “Everyone working at this screening — venue staff, projectionist, and culinary team — will be female.”
I admit I raised an eyebrow.
When I moved to Austin some years back, I was a cinema PhD student looking for a part-time job that used my unusually diverse skills and experience as a projectionist* in a new city, and submitted my resume and sterling references to Alamo. Twice. Over two years. I never heard a whisper back. Okay, so maybe they just didn’t like my choice of resume font, or were overwhelmed with qualified applicants–I can accept I’m not always going to be the top contender in any and all situations, that’s cool.
BUT (while I cannot insist to know that Alamo has no female projectionists or event programmers on staff), I can attest that over many years of attending films frequently in several of their Austin locations, I never saw a woman working there in any capacity but serving drinks or selling tickets. And believe me, I was actively looking after a certain point. I did see a lot of male-programmed-and-presented events, often laced with rambling tales namedropping (male) industry names, and I saw a large number of male filmmaker events, neither category really having a detectable representational flipside. The last show I ever went to there, was a marathon event with a roughly 60% female audience (if the marathon’s topic carried “manly” connotations), and my jaw dropped when the one of the male programmers of the event made a joke implying there would be no line for the ladies’ bathroom but too bad for all those overwhelming numbers of guys here. My heart sank as I said to my companion, “They literally can’t even see their audience here.”
So I hope this gesture indicates they are starting to see their female filmgoers and not just the Austin Brotherhood of Film Culture Bros, and that they’ll be taking their presence and interest more seriously. That they’ll host other events of this size for new works from other female directors. That they’ll light the way to making Austin film culture more inclusive and less of a hipster-white-bro club.
Because I’m super-ready to congratulate them, yes, on doubling-down when the predictable misogynist whines began to roll in about “unfairness”, and committing to even more ladies screenings in response. So howsabout it, Alamo, take that last leap forward and invite women all the way in, and not just at events specifically designated for them?
Have you had a contradictory experience with Alamo in Austin? Do you feel shut out by a local theater’s gatekeepering? We want to know!
*I was absurdly fortunate to receive training in a number of deeply esoteric skills and formats of analog film projection, at a long-ago job.