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An Evening at the Alamo

This past weekend was very special. A few weeks ago, the Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester, Virginia invited Stephen Tobolowsky and I to a special “movie club” screening of The Primary Instinct, the storytelling film I directed starring Stephen. It’s pretty cool when any decent movie theater decides to screen your movie, so Stephen and I both traveled across the country to be there. We introduced the film, took a group photo with them, and did a Q&A and signing afterwards.

The screening went great. We sold out one of their larger theaters (We couldn’t get the largest one on Venom/A Star Is Born weekend, unfortunately). People laughed and cried. The person sitting next to me noticeably teared up multiple times. Afterwards, a huge line formed in the lobby and people bought DVDs and took selfies. They even asked for my autograph.

A woman came up to Stephen and I to thank us for the film. She told us about her parents were suffering from health issues (a topic which the film covers) and she said, “It is truly a gift to be able to hear your story from another person’s perspective.” I’ll never forget that.

While Stephen and I were very proud of The Primary Instinct, it wasn’t a movie that lit the world on fire in terms of attention or response. But sometimes, movies can take years before they find the people who will get a lot out of them. That’s part of what makes them amazing — they can still have that impact years, or even decades later.

Really grateful to all the folks who came to the screening, to Andy and the folks at Alamo Drafthouse Winchester for making the invitation, to all the people at who made the film possible, and to Stephen, who remains one of my best collaborators.

A few more stray observations from the week:

  • We don’t have Alamo Drafthouses in Seattle, so I was excited to take advantage of their presence in Virginia. Prior to our Primary Instinct screening, I went to the Alamo Drafthouse in Charlottesville two nights in a row to see A Star Is Born and Venom. While I wasn’t a big fan of either film, I loved the filmgoing experience. The Alamo has interesting video essays that play before each movie. They famously and religiously guard against talking and texting during the movie. And they serve decent food that’s presented in a thoughtful way (waitstaff skillfully duck and jog through the aisles so as to minimize any impact on your movie enjoyment). Overall, I’m a big fan and wish I had access to one near me.
  • Speaking of A Star Is Born, I appreciated Alison Willmore’s essay about the film. As usual, she is thoughtful and articulate about what the film conveys about the pleasures and pitfalls of fame. That said, I feel like I saw a completely different film, which didn’t have any nuance or anything interesting to say in how it presented these concepts at all.
  • The Bill Simmons podcast has a fascinating, in-depth interview with Matt Damon. While Damon is a mega-superstar now, it’s easy to forget that not that long ago he was barely scraping by as an actor and desperately trying to get Good Will Hunting made with him Affleck in the lead roles. I was particularly interested in his thoughts on how mid-budget dramas have become nearly extinct at the box office these days, largely due to the decline of DVD sales.