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Austin’s New Arthouse Cinema, Violet Crown

As I’ve mentioned before, Austin has a wonderful movie palace.  But the latest theatre in town is Austin’s new Violet Crown Cinema, which is as contemporary as the Paramount is vintage.  Nestled in downtown’s ever-expanding second street district, Violet Crown Cinema offers a lovely balcony view of the area.  Film posters and a violet lit staircase easily capture the attention of those unaware of the theatre above them.

The facility itself is simply decorated with exposed bulb chandeliers, huge windows and plenty of pre-screening seating.  There are two lounges where patrons can wait prior to the films.  With a full bar and a menu complete with the type of old-fashioned cocktails (now found everywhere in this city), the Violet Crown Cinema is the perfect place to grab that pre-movie drink.  If you’re in the mood for something other than the standard movie fare, the café offers a small, but delectable, range of items.  An Antonelli’s cheese plate pairs nicely with any of the range of wines available.  Pizzas, fries and hot dogs, all with a grown-up twist are also on offer.  The café even offers a little something sweet, cake balls from Doris & Dixie Bakery.

If, however, you are a more traditional film-goer, fear not!  Popcorn and candy are also available.  The soda fountain is incredibly tempting.  I’m usually a water or sparkling water kind of girl, but Dublin Dr Pepper, Maine Root Beer and Black Cherry Soda, and Mexican Coke all sounded rather delicious.  For those in need of a little caffeine without the added sugar, a selection of coffees awaits you.

Violet Crown has four theatres, and their aim is to show international, independent, art and documentary films.  A calendar of screenings is available online.  One of the unique aspects of this theatre is the reserved seating.  When you purchase a ticket online, you can see which seats are available and choose accordingly.  I’m not entirely sure how necessary this is as the theatre rooms are small, and the stadium seating allows you to the screen perfectly fine no matter where you are located.  The screens themselves are in close proximity to the seats, almost to the point of being too close.  Once the film started, however, I felt like I was almost in it, and enjoyed the experience. The seats are incredibly comfortable, and each is equipped with a pull out side table à la college desks.  You cannot order from your seat, but you are welcome to bring food and drinks into the theatre.

As a person who has lived in Austin for ten years, I’ve come to love the pre-show offerings at many of the theatres around town.  For me, this is part of the overall theatre experience.  I can sit comfortably in my own home and simply press play on a DVD screen menu.  I was a bit dismayed when this is precisely what one of the Violet Crown employees did.  The previews are limited to what will be available in the theatre, and that I can definitely appreciate.

Overall, Violet Crown Cinema is a superb addition to the Austin film scene.  The limited, yet thoughtful, (not to mention thought-provoking) film selections provide the city with an arthouse theatre in the heart of downtown.

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