At last night's raucous midnight world premiere of Dance of the Dead, director Gregg Bishop said in his introduction that he was thrilled to have the film debut at the Alamo Drafthouse. He said it with a certain reverence, like he couldn't believe his luck. Several other filmmakers have echoed those sentiments at past screenings, i.e., that getting your film into the festival is pleasure enough, but having it play at the Alamo is nirvana. And I realized that the Alamo truly sets SXSW apart from most other festivals.
Think about Sundance. They use a dozen or so venues around Park City, Utah. Many of them are perfectly lovely and functional, and one or two even have some local historical or cultural significance. But I can't imagine any filmmaker ever saying, "I'm so glad my movie is having its world premiere at the Eccles Theatre!" None of the venues have any cachet. My impression is that this is the case with most venues at most festivals. Some of them are cool enough, but do you dream of one day premiering your film at that particular place?
But people who make movies -- especially horror flicks and rowdy comedies and other types particularly suited to the Alamo's irreverent attitude -- actually do dream of that. The Alamo really has (and richly deserves) that kind of "cool" status.