Austin Film Society Cinema reopens after 15-month closure

A fixture in Austin's independent film scene is officially back open after closing its doors more than a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the Austin Film Society Cinema, the road to reopening has been challenging but it was made possible in large part due to the support from the community.

Longtime customers and first-timers caught up with old friends in the lobby and once again filled the seats and bought concessions after AFS opened its doors on July 15 after being closed for 15 months.

"We knew this day would come. It was just a matter of when," says Holly Herrick, Head of Film and Creative Media at Austin Film Society.

The Austin Film Society has been around for more than 35 years and is a staple of the Highland neighborhood. 

The theater has become a gathering place for the creative community. But like so many others, the home for art house, international, classic, and local films had to shut its doors at the beginning of the pandemic.

"We lost all our revenue of course with the cinema closing, and it's really expensive to reopen the venue. To hire back all the staff and to get things up and running, and also to make some physical changes to deal with COVID," says Herrick.

So AFS asked the community for help and the community responded. Along with some grant money, 800 people generously supported a fundraising campaign to get the nonprofit theater back up and running.

"We had support from even the smallest donors. $5, $20," Herrick says. "I think it shows that there's a real need to have a community-based cinema, and the community really showed up for it."

Once funding was in place, Herrick says the next question was what do people want to see and she says figuring out what to show first was a bit of a challenge. AFS settled on launching "Big Screen Classics" as its first series since the pandemic. 

Herrick says there's something for everyone and that people "just have to dive into the program and there's going to be something that you'll want to see."


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