When the city of Austin canceled South by Southwest on March 6, one week before the fest was supposed to start, Paramount Theatre president Jim Ritts did what anyone who suddenly had two empty venues to fill (including the Stateside Theatre) would do: He hit the phones.
"The Paramount and the State were supposed to be showing films from March 13 to the early morning of March 22," Ritts said Tuesday. "Several screenings a day. Suddenly, nine days were dark. We got that announcement at 4 p.m. Friday. By 6 p.m. we had several offers out to talent. You can’t curl up in a ball and cry about it. You’ve got to be very proactive."
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Ritts said that the Paramount and Stateside rake in about $100,000 during SXSW.
"We have a lot of part-time employees who work a lot during SXSW," Ritts said. "From front of house to box office to production teams to facilities folks to bartenders. We’re trying to create as many work opportunities for them as possible."
While Ritts said the Paramount is still waiting on some plans to finalize, the following shows are taking place:
• A benefit for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAMM) starring Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel with Shinyribs will take place March 17 at the Paramount.
• The comedian Steve-O (of "Jackass" fame) will appear March 19 at the Paramount.
• The Isola West Fest (aka comedian Hannibal Buress) will appear March 21 at the Paramount.
Tickets for these can be found at austintheatre.org.
Ritts said the theaters are looking to fill as many dates as possible vacated by SXSW, though they are much more likely to be filled by live acts than films.
"I can see us doing a few screenings, but SXSW has the relationships with the major studios, not us," Ritts said. "SXSW have been really good partners for us and really good from a reinforcement point of view, that we are one of the original movie palaces."
Ritts emphasized that he is going "day by day" with his bookings.
"Unless someone tells us otherwise," he says, "we are moving forward with our events."