Henri Mazza talks “cult and culture,” quote-alongs and the Alamo expansion onthis week’s Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show
Imagine my surprise when, upon syncing my iTunes this morning, two of my favorite things happened to converge: The Alamo Drafthouse and The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show. This week, our eponymous host welcomes Alamo’s Chief Creative Officer, Henri Mazza, for an hour-long talk about the rapidly expanding franchise’s roots and electic programming, plus some of Mazza’s favorite moments from his 11-year tenure at the theater.
You might recognize Rubin from his longtime gig at CollegeHumor, where he’s a cast member on original series Hardly Working. He also co-hosts gaming show Bleep Bloop and eclectic revue Nerd Alert, and The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show is basically a lengthier exploration of his wide-ranging interests; one week might feature a visit to a pizza expo or toy fair while the next gets in-depth on book-to-film adaptations or comedy philosophy. It’s like a variety show where you get to have fun and learn fun things — so naturally, the Alamo fits right in.
“We think of ourselves as this whole sort of brand for the geek culture, and the Alamo is our flagship church.”
Phoning in via Skype, Mazza gives a brief background on the Alamo for the uninitiated, touching on big bullet points like food service and breadth of events before diving into some stories.
For example, remember the time Tim League tricked an audience of Star Trek fans into thinking he’d accidentally destroyed a vintage print, only to have Leonard Nimoy emerge and introduce a secret screening? Or the time they filled a theater with Nazi flags to surprise guest Quentin Tarantino during an Inglorious Basterds premiere?
“We think of ourselves as this whole sort of brand for the geek culture, and the Alamo is our flagship church,” says Mazza. “We’re taking the movie theater as the church, but then we’re building the entire religion around that.”
The analogy comes up again when the difference between “pop and parties” (like contests and interactive events) and “cult and culture” (like Girlie Night and Terror Tuesdays) is explained:
It was really at one of those sing-alongs that I started thinking of it as church, because everybody stood up. We used to do a Buffy The Vampire Slayer sing-along to “Once More With Feeling,” and everybody stands up and sings along to the songs, and then sits back down…and I was like, this is just like church; we’re creating this group excitement, and people are just ready to come back and keep worshipping at the altar of Buffy.”
As anyone familiar with the Alamo knows, it's an apt comparison — and as most Austinites can attest, our city would be far less exciting without the theater's several local screens. Mazza also gives plenty of love to the Alamo’s other ventures, like wildly popular Mondo prints and the theater’s film fan community, Badass Digest. Also addressed: The infamous “angry texter” voicemail (Mazza reveals the staff still have no clue who the caller really is).