The Austin Theatre Alliance, over the course of three decades and in various incarnations, has refined the meaning of the phrase "social fun."

The group that oversees the Paramount and State theaters throws a whopping good gala. It starts with drinks and chat under the emblematic marquee.

It continues with more drinks, snacks and one of the city’s liveliest live auctions inside the 1915 Paramount.

It gets really rolling with the musical act, usually a pop sensation with credible artistic chops, such as Elvis Costello and the Imposters last night.

Then more than 1,000 people disgorge from the theater to occupy a two-block-long tent erected in the middle of Congress Avenue.

There’s more drinking and — thankfully — some dining, as well as bidding on a silent auction.

Finally, there’s dancing. And oh yes, some guests are still drinking. Let’s hope not driving.

Sure, it follows the gala formula laid out by photographer and unintentional social historian Robert Godwin, but rarely is each element executed with such joie de vivre.

I’ve known at least five Paramount CEOs — John Bernadoni, Paul Beutel, Dan Fallon, Ken Stein and now Jim Ritts — and all are known for having a good time as well as for keeping these two theatrical treasures at the heart of Austin social and cultural life.

It rubs off.