A magical day at the movies


What a day, filled with artistic images, well wrought words and memorable music! I saw one movie at home (writer/director Mike Mills’ Oscar nominated 20th Century Women) before dashing out to catch the early matinee of C’mon, C’mon, (Mills’ most recent film), which is playing at my favorite art house cinema. The Violet Crown is a small venue tucked away like a speakeasy on the second floor of an office building. If you don’t know where it is, you’ll pass right by. That’s part of its charm.

To visit The Violet Crown, is to taste a piece of authentic Austin – before everybody else found out the city was cool. This isn’t a dusty Sixth Street joint the likes of which Stevie Ray Vaughn, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Ray Wylie Hubbard made famous. The Crown is for a more refined, upscale crowd and that’s no mistake.

The locally owned Crown takes its name from a short story written by another Austin original, O. Henry, published in The Rolling Stone October 27, 1894. Here’s an excerpt from that piece.

The drawing-rooms of one of the most magnificent private residences in Austin are ablaze of lights. Carriages line the streets in front, and from gate to doorway is spread a velvet carpet, on which the delicate feet of the guests may tread. The occasion is the entree’ into society of one of the fairest buds in the City of the Violet Crown.

O. Henry

The entrance is actually in the parking garage and then around a corner, with the door tucked behind a wall. Just finding it is fun. Trees hide the balcony and door from the street and sidewalk cafe below. A wall of tinted glass allows the sun to light the lobby in the daytime, while a darkened bar that offers a delectable array of hand crafted drinks and bites covers the back wall. My brother Michael accompanied me there.

The second venue, The Alamo Drafthouse was where I caught the last matinee of Spider-Man: No Way Home. There couldn’t have been a sharper contrast in theaters or film styles. The Drafthouse is another Austin original that’s been expanding, of late, as far as Washington D.C.

I got there at a few minutes past 5 and snagged one of the last of three seats. It was sold-out as expected. While the Drafthouse has a certain je ne c’est quoi, it’s meant to appeal, and does, to a younger more middle class crowd. Hence the name. Belly up to bar for a beer and some fries.

Afterwards, I drove home alone under a nearly full moon with a grateful heart. The dark streets made the houses dressed in holiday lights look magical. While the radio played cellist Yo Yo Ma’s version of John & Yoko Lennon’s Happy Christmas: End of War, followed by a Mozart violin concerto. Honestly. You can’t make a day like this up.

I’ll write my reviews in the morning. Sweet dreams.

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