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Drafthouses to sound stages, a decade of film in Austin

A tally of Austin movie milestones during the past 10 years

Chris Garcia
Bill Murray made a surprise appearance at the 2008 Fantastic Fest, another event that has drawn the film industry's attention toward Austin.

A glance back at a decade of milestones in Austin film:

2000

• University of Texas film professor Paul Stekler's documentary (co-directed and co-written by Daniel McCabe) "George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire" wins the Special Jury Prize for documentary writing at the Sundance Film Festival.

• The Austin Film Society inks a lease deal with the City of Austin for Austin Studios, which features five former airplane hangars on 20 acres at the old Robert Mueller Airport in Northeast Austin. One of the first films to employ the new facility is Sandra Bullock's "Miss Congeniality."

2001

• The Texas Film Hall of Fame is born as a major fundraising apparatus for the nonprofit Austin Film Society and its raft of programs. Still going strong — it celebrates its 10th anniversary March 11 with Quentin Tarantino as an honoree — the gala event has inducted Texas celebs Sissy Spacek, Terrence Malick, Willie Nelson, Farrah Fawcett, Horton Foote, Larry Hagman and many others.

• Richard Linklater's "Slacker," one of the most influential indie films ever, turns 10. The movie put Austin and Linklater on the filmmaking map. Neither the city nor the director has slowed down since.

• Spreading their empire, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema founders/owners Tim and Karrie League open a second Drafthouse in the old Village Cinema Art location on West Anderson Lane. The Alamo Village has four screens and primarily shows first-run movies.

2002

• Eagle Pennell, a Texas filmmaker whose landmark indies "The Whole Shootin' Match" (1978) and "Last Night at the Alamo" (1983) inspired a generation of low-budget filmmmakers, dies of alcoholism at age 49.

2003

• The newly formed University of Texas Film Institute and its for-profit, off-campus partner Burnt Orange Productions embark on a singular venture that will allow graduate and advanced undergraduate film students to work on major feature films, with plans to distribute them and make money. Students will learn alongside professional directors, cinematographers and faculty members. The goal is to make one $3 million feature-length movie and two productions budgeted between $500,000 and $1 million. "UT will become the leader in this kind of thinking," said Thom Mount, head of productions at RKO Pictures and a member of the UT Film Institute advisory board. "I would be shocked if this did not become the bellwether for all film education at major universities in America."

2005

• Bryan Poyser's Austin-made drama "Dear Pillow" is nominated for a Someone to Watch Award at the Independent Spirit Awards. The Spirit Awards also tap Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset" for best screenplay (written with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) and UT alum Shola Lynch's "Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed" for best documentary and the Truer Than Fiction Award.

• Linklater, Hawke and Delpy earn an Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay for "Before Sunset."

• The Austin Film Critics Association is founded. The group currently boasts 18 local critics and movie journalists and is nationally recognized. austinfilmcritics.org.

• Bob Hudgins, former deputy director of the Illinois Film Office, is named director of the Texas Film Commission. He replaces Tom Copleand, who held the post for 22 years.

• Austin becomes home to yet another fantastic film festival, with the first annual Fantastic Fest. Founded by the Alamo Drafthouse's Tim League, Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles and filmmakers Paul Alvarado-Dykstra and Tim McCanlies, it's the largest genre film festival in the country, with a boggling array of horror, fantasy, action, animated and science fiction pictures from around the world. Parties, wacky events, contests, surprise celebrity guests and special screenings become the festival's signatures.

• The term "mumblecore" is coined by sound editor Eric Masunaga, who's worked on Andrew Bujalski's lo-fi films, in an Austin bar during South by Southwest.

• Entertainment Weekly names the Alamo Drafthouse "The #1 movie theater in the country doing it right."

• The six-screen Alamo Drafthouse South on South Lamar Boulevard opens. An instant hit, it serves as the epicenter of Fantastic Fest.

• The Austin Film Society celebrates its 20th anniversary as a powerhouse of film and filmmaker advocacy, education and inspiration. The nonprofit raises funds through Hollywood-style premieres, the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards and the invaluable Documentary Tour and Essential Cinema series — a movie-lover's dream. It has granted nearly $1 million in cash to Texas filmmakers through the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund. www.austinfilm.org.

• Kyle Henry's drama "Room" premieres at both the Sundance and Cannes film festivals.

2006

• Henry's "Room" is nominated for the John Cassavetes Award — honoring films made for $500,000 or less — by the Independent Spirit Awards. The film's star, Austin actor Cyndi Williams, is nominated for best female lead by the Spirit Awards. Former Austinites Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass are also nominated for the John Cassavetes Award, as well as the Someone to Watch Award, for their comedy "The Puffy Chair."

• Austin voters approve a $31.5 million bond package for local arts groups. Austin Studios receives $5 million of that for improvements at the facility. It receives another $1 million from Austin Energy and Austin Water Utility.

• Harry Knowles' snoopy, in-the-know and all-mighty Hollywood insider site Ain't It Cool News (www.aintitcool.com) turns 10. Perhaps not as influential as they were during the site's salad days, Knowles, his spies and minions produce plenty of scoops.

2007

• The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival salutes its 20th birthday. It's the oldest and biggest film fest of its kind in the Southwest.

• A group of investors and imagineers propose a $1.5 billion creative mecca called Villa Muse to unfold on about 2,000 acres in eastern Travis County. Like its own mini-city, it will contain residential housing, retail outlets and the $125 million, 200-acre Villa Muse Studios for filmmakers, gamers and musicians. Also included: a 50,000-square-foot soundstage and recording studios and an outdoor amphitheater with capacity for more than 70,000 people. In 2008, the Austin City Council puts a wrench in the Villa Muse proposal by refusing to release land from its regulatory and taxing authority. Villa Muse backers continue to look for a location in Texas.

• The for-profit partnership between the UT Film Institute and Burnt Orange Productions ends after producing four features, including "The Quiet" and "The Cassidy Kids." Burnt Orange, which raised millions for the films, closes shop, a victim of rough times in the independent movie market.

• Mike Akel and Chris Mass' mockumentary "Chalk" is nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards.

• In the same year that the League's original Alamo Drafthouse on Colorado Street turns 10, the vaunted venue shutters and is reborn as the Alamo Ritz on East Sixth Street with two screens.

• Critically hailed indie filmmaker Andrew Bujalski shoots his feature "Beeswax" in Austin. The Bostonite moves to town permanently the following year.

• After 11 years of experimental, avant-garde and indie-spirited movie love, the Cinematexas International Short Film Festival folds due to funding issues. Guests at the UT-based fest had included Atom Egoyan, Jim Jarmusch and Werner Herzog.

2008

• After five years in the post, Matt Dentler resigns as producer of the SXSW Film Festival and Conference to join Cinetic Digital Rights Management in New York. Austin Film Society vice-president Janet Pierson is named his successor. (Pierson's first SXSW as producer, in 2009, is a smashing success.)

• The UT Film Institute shoots its first film, "Dance With the One," without its former fund-raising partner Burnt Orange Productions. The crew of about 40 is composed of UT undergraduate and graduate students from several departments, as well as institute alums. The drama's $200,000 budget is funded through UT, grants and outside donors. Filmmakers hope to screen "Dance With the One" at SXSW in March.

• Critic Roger Ebert names Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols' "Shotgun Stories" one of his top 20 movies of the year. It's nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards. The year before, it won best feature at the Austin Film Festival.

2009

• Margaret Brown's documentary "The Order of Myths" is nominated for best documentary and wins the Truer Than Fiction Award at the Independent Spirit Awards.

• Character actor Lou Perryman, 67, is murdered in his South Austin home. Perryman was best know for roles in Eagle Pennell's "The Whole Shootin' Match" and "Last Night at the Alamo," and was featured in "Boys Don't Cry," "Poltergeist" and "The Blues Brothers."

• Gov. Rick Perry signs a Senate bill that sweetens financial grants to filmmakers and will hopefully spark more film business in Texas.

• Austin Studios begins to spend the $6 million endowment it received in 2006 (see above) for a battery of upgrades, from extensive soundproofing to a grand three-wall green screen, the largest in Texas.

• Mike Judge's Austin-shot satire "Office Space" celebrates its 10th anniversary. Overlooked on its release, the comedy has become a hugely influential cult phenomenon.

• Filmmaker Michael Moore declares Austin "the new hotbed of American independent cinema." Yeah, we kinda knew that.

The decade in Austin movie-making

(Dates indicate year of release)

2000

'Miss Congeniality’ (directed by Donald Petrie) 'Where the Heart Is’ (Matt Williams) 'Road Trip’ (Todd Phillips)

2001

'Waking Life’ (Richard Linklater)

'Spy Kids’ (Robert Rodriguez)

2002

'The Rookie’ (John Lee Hancock)

'Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams’ (Robert Rodriguez) 'The New Guy’ (Ed Decter) '25th Hour’ (Spike Lee) 'Master of the Game’ (Jeff Stolhand)

2003

'Secondhand Lions’ (Tim McCanlies)

'Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over’ (Robert Rodriguez) 'The Life of David Gale’ (Alan Parker) 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (Marcus Nispel) 'Screen Door Jesus’ (Kirk Davis)

2004

'Friday Night Lights’ (Peter Berg)

'Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style’ (Paul Stekler) 'Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt’ (Margaret Brown) 'Dear Pillow’ (Bryan Poyser) 'The Alamo’ (John Lee Hancock)

2005

'Sin City’ (Robert Rodriguez)

'Room’ (Kyle Henry)

'Troop 1500’ (Ellen Spiro)

'The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D’ (Robert Rodriguez) 'Murderball’ (Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro) 'The King’ (James Marsh) 'The Quiet’ (Jamie Babbit) 'The Wendell Baker Story’ (Andrew and Luke Wilson) 'Man of the House’ (Stephen Herek) 'The Ringer’ (Barry W. Blaustein) 'Viva les amis’ (Nancy Higgins)

2006

'Idiocracy’ (Mike Judge)

'Fast Food Nation’ (Richard Linklater)

'A Scanner Darkly’ (Richard Linklater)

'Infamous’ (Douglas McGrath)

'Jumping Off Bridges’ (Kat Candler)

'The Cassidy Kids’ (Jacob Vaughan)

'Chalk’ (Mike Akel)

'How to Eat Fried Worms’ (Bob Dolman)

'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’ (Jonathan Levine) 'The Return’ (Asif Kapadia)

2007

'The Unforeseen’ (Laura Dunn)

'Planet Terror’ (Robert Rodriguez) and 'Death Proof’ (Quentin Tarantino), parts of 'Grindhouse’

'A Mighty Heart’ (Michael Winterbottom)

'Hell on Wheels’ (Bob Ray)

'Elvis and Anabelle’ (Will Geiger)

'In Search of a Midnight Kiss’ (Alex Holdridge) 'Homo Erectus,’ renamed 'National Lampoon’s Stoned Age’ (Adam Rifkin) 'The Hitcher’ (Dave Meyers) 'Teeth’ (Mitchell Lichtenstein)

2008

'Baghead’ (Mark and Jay Duplass)

'Goliath’ (David and Nathan Zellner)

'I’ll Come Running’ (Spencer Parsons)

'Stop-Loss’ (Kimberly Peirce)

'Inning by Inning: A Portrait of a Coach’ (Richard Linklater) 'Fireflies in the Garden’ (Dennis Lee) 'The Sno Cone Stand, Inc.’ (Travis Knapp)

2009

'Beeswax’ (Andrew Bujalski)

'Shorts’ (Robert Rodriguez)

'Friday the 13th’ (Marcus Nispel)

'Harmony and Me’ (Bob Byington)

'Bandslam’ (Todd Graff)

'Sunshine’ (Karen Skloss)

Recently shot for 2010 release

'The Tree of Life’ (Terrence Malick)

'Machete’ (Robert Rodriguez)

cgarcia@statesman.com; 445-3649