The Austin Film Society announced Wednesday that it has signed an agreement to operate the theater and event venue formerly known as the Marchesa Hall and Theater at 6226 Middle Fiskville Road)
The venue will be temporarily renamed the AFS Cinema until—after undergoing renovations to incorporate a second screen—it will relaunch with new branding and expanded programming in early 2017.
The property is owned by Renaissance Limited, and AFS has signed a long-term lease, the terms of which were not disclosed.
AFS director Holly Herrick said that the nonprofit film organization was meeting with architects and planners to see what was possible in the space.
“We want to run a full-time arthouse by early 2017 and continue to rent out the event hall until the renovation is complete,” Herrick said. The Marchesa is also home to such events as Staple! The Indie Media Expo, MondoCon and Inspire Pro Wrestling.
The plan is for the two screen cinema to give a full-theatrical run to the sorts of independent films and contemporary foreign films that might not make it to indie-oriented cinemas such as the Violent Crown, the Alamo Drafthouses or the Arbor.
“The idea is to be able to offer these films something more than a single screening, something like a real opening in town,” Herrick said. “This means we don’t just do two or three screenings a month of these sorts of movies, it means we can do it all the time.”
The AFS has been using the Marchesa since 2013. The plan now is to keep the current, 278-seat theater and turn one of the other rooms back into a second theater. AFS co-founder and artistic director Richard Linklater announced lead gifts and AFS’s plans to open an arthouse theater on stage at the Texas Film Awards in March.
David Monahan, an Austin native who has held management positions with Nordstrom’s, UT’s Texas Performing Arts and the Alamo Drafthouse, has been hired as general manager.
Leaving the space is Marchesa owner/booker Deborah Gill, who has been synonymous with the space since 2009.
“It was a very hard decision, but the lease was up and AFS was really ready to take that next step,” Gill said Thursday. “My career has always been about building a strong community around the arts, and that’s not going to change. I stand behind what they want to do and I am proud to have been a part of it.”
Gill is also a longtime rock promoter whose family also owns and operates the Parlor.