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Photo courtesy of Main Event

Main Event, the entertainment chain known for its arcade games, sports, and prizes, can’t resist adding even more to its roster. At its Austin location on North US Hwy 183, the games are still the main event, but now dinner is taken care of too — not just a few items at a concession window, but a full restaurant called Family Kitchen that boasts “nearly 50 new and unique menu items.”

These items start with the standard arcade food staples — burgers, sandwiches, pizza — but Family Kitchen applies its own spins for a more creative menu. Whereas before, the entertainment venue served many more generic items, Family Kitchen revamped every item to make sure it was unique to the restaurant, in addition to adding new ones.

A Triple Lava Burger comes with cheese and cheese sauce; a PBB&J Burger combines the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a less-expected blueberry jam and a totally left-field burger, bacon, and cheese; and chicken wings come in eight different sauces and rubs, including a Nashville hot blend and a lemon pepper rub.

“Family Kitchen was developed with extra care, attention to detail and a focus on premium quality ingredients,” said Chef Wiley Bates III, director of culinary innovation at Main Event Entertainment, in a press release. “We’re excited for our guests to experience our new menu offerings, which have been seasoned with salt, pepper and love, and added playfulness that customers experience throughout the rest of the Main Event center.”

As expected at the arcade, the first priority across much of this menu is shareables, including loaded fries, nachos, and pizzas. The shareability does start with volume, with “Family Feasts” bundling commonly ordered items for four to six people, but it also means more inclusive options like vegan Beyond Meat substitutes and salads. Mocktails are also available, although the presence of a “Cotton Candy Shirley” makes it clear these selections are more about being fun for kids than catering to sober adults. (Alcoholic drinks are available at the bar or the restaurant, but are not included on the online menu.)

“The Family Kitchen was largely inspired by Main Event’s brand promise to be a place for families to bond,” said Main Event Chief Marketing Officer Ashley Zickefoose. “From shareable favorites with our Family Feasts to offering something tasty and memorable for everyone in the family….”

Main Event may remind visitors of Dave & Buster’s, for good reason: the two entertainment and food venues are owned and operated by the same parent company. Dave & Buster’s, initially from Dallas, is the significantly larger brand with 148 stores, but Main Event is catching up. The latter is founded and headquartered in Coppell, Texas, and now has 52 locations. Main Event centers are also more kid-focused, and typically larger than those in the Dave & Buster’s, since they offer games like laser tag and escape rooms.

Family Kitchen is accessible to any visitors, whether or not they play any games, but there are food and game bundles to streamline the experience. More information about Main Event and the new restaurant are available at mainevent.com.

Photo courtesy of The Bird & Crown

7 things to know in Austin food right now: Hot chicken concept pops up for one night only

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

Chef Laila Bazahm, who landed in Austin at Eberly after her own restaurant, Hawker 45, earned international acclaim, is branching out for a one-night-only pop-up on November 19 at Central Machine Works. The Bird & Crown serves hot chicken in three sandwiches inspired by Filipino, Korean, and Indian flavors. These sandwiches have the basics — namely crispy chicken and something to cool things down — with big twists in flavor like pickled papaya slaw, gochujang, and mint chutney. The pop-up opens at 4:30 pm and closes when it sells out.

It’s a lovely idea to spend more time with senior citizens, but not always at the top of everyone’s mind. Plus, is it weird to show up for a meal just because? Chef Stephan Pyles, a staggering 12-time James Beard Award nominee, is opening his next restaurant in a luxury senior living center: the Hacienda at Georgetown. Called Alma, the restaurant’s goal is to bring organic traffic across many age demographics to the community, closing the social gap many seniors feel with the rest of the community and adding real culinary value to the experience.

High-tech shuffleboard bar Electric Shuffle opens on Rainey Street on November 4, making Austin the second US location for this London venue. The proprietary technology makes scoring tournaments easy for large groups, and injects some novelty into an old tradition. This bar is designed to accommodate plans for the whole night, with upscale cocktails and bar food, including seven types of pizza and an elaborate brunch (charcuterie and a whole lot of prosecco). Book at electricshuffleusa.com.

Other news and notes

A “hyper-seasonal” menu hits Local Foods as fall progresses, with at least a dozen new options, many featuring nearby vendors. HiFi Mycology continues to take Austin by storm, this time with lion’s mane mushrooms in a “Fall Power Bowl.” The “Autumn Mac & Cheese” sounds like the ultimate comfort food with Mill-King Mornay and apples, and things take a German twist with Falcon Lake Farms pork schnitzel. To celebrate, take 25 percent off all food and beverage after 4 pm, from now until November 15. Online orders use code “dinner” at localfoodstexas.com.

Loro, the Asian smokehouse and bar by chef Tyson Cole and pitmaster Aaron Franklin, also added some permanent new menu items. Like many barbecue joints, Loro offers an à la carte list of meats, sandwiches, and sides, so these won’t really compete with most favorite orders. That includes Thai peanuts with nam tok and lime leaf, a smoked three bean salad with chilies, a key lime pie, and a caramelized onion-cheddar burger available for a discount during happy hour.

I thought the Christmas memes would start after Thanksgiving, but at 11:59 pm on Halloween, they were already here. Black Rock Coffee Bar is right on schedule, it seems, with a new roster of four holiday drinks, from a caramel and eggnog latte to a more surprising orange marmalade energy drink. Also on the list are a peppermint white mocha and a “Christmas cookie cold brew” with macadamia, vanilla foam, and holiday sprinkles. Heartwarming, but chilled.

November 8 is a big election day, with more than 50 races on some ballots. Voters can fuel up at Kerbey Lane Cafe — but only after voting — if they bring their “I Voted” sticker to claim a free pancake. (Those stickers are for reminding others to vote, so make sure yours is visible even after the pancake is gone.) Early voting ends on Friday, November 4, so any stickers saved from that round are valid to trade in as well. All locations are participating in the voting incentive.

Photo by Chris Anderson

7 things to know in Austin food right now: Michelin-starred chef brings burgers to Rainey Street

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

Chef Phillip Frankland Lee has been very busy opening new restaurants and earning Michelin stars. This time, skateboarder Neen Williams joins him in a new collaboration, NADC Burger. The tiny burger joint is just a window behind Idle Hands, a Rainey Street bar and backyard. The third-pound patties use the same Texas Wagyu beef as Sushi by Scratch Restaurants and Pasta Bar. Leftover fat is used to fry the french fries. NADC (Not a Damn Chance) refers to Williams’ seasoning out of Dallas, which flavors the only burger variety offered at the window, with onions, pickles, jalapeños, sauce, and American cheese. NADC is open from 6 pm until it sells out, and is only accessible through the bar (so visitors must be 21 or older).

Chi’Lantro BBQ almost doesn’t need an introduction: Its famous kimchi fries, a loaded pile of french fries with onion, kimchi, sriracha, and more, are a hit every year at Austin City Limits Festival, and they’re coming to North Austin with Chi’Lantro’s 10th restaurant. The menu brings “all the favorites” including Korean fried chicken wings, wraps, and customizable bowls. The new location at Anderson Mill (12129 North FM 620, Suite 202) is open every day from 10:30 am to 10 pm.

Lick Honest Ice Creams, known for unique flavors like roasted beets and fresh mint (in one scoop!), is celebrating 11 years in business with a free scoop to all visitors, to any Lick shop, on October 19 from 7-10 pm. A more lasting celebration is the opening of a new location in College Station, at 175 Century Square Drive, Suite 11. This is the brand’s seventh location, and the first outside of Austin or San Antonio. Some of Lick’s seasonal flavors currently include spiced sweet potato pie (with marshmallows and molasses cookie), caramel apple cake, Hazel’s pumpkin pie (a more straightforward pumpkin spice), and a vegan coconut chia chai.

Cinnaholic, the vegan, customizable cinnamon roll shop, officially opens at The Arboretum on Friday, October 14. To celebrate, all cinnamon rolls on opening day will be $2 between 10 am and 2 pm. After that, Cinnaholic is open daily from 10 am to 9 pm at 10000 Research Boulevard, Suite 136. There are more than 20 toppings to choose from including nuts, fruit, and other sweets prepared at the shop. There’s much more than cinnamon rolls, like Barrett’s coffee, Pineapple Dole Whip, non-dairy soft-serve ice cream, and brownies.

Other news and notes

It’s always a party when tequila is around, but Arte Agave takes that to the next level. This mini festival on October 14 brings more than 100 varieties of agave spirits to try and demo cocktails with. Aside from the drinks, there are food vendors, a photo booth, music, and traditional dancing. A popup artisan market sells clothes, accessories, and baked goods. It’s all happening from 6-10 pm at Springdale Station. More information available at arteagave.com.

Pinthouse Brewing is celebrating a 10-year milestone at its anniversary celebration on October 15. At the Burnet location, where the brewery started, there will be a brand-new hazy double IPA in collaboration with Minnesota’s Surly Brewing, limited-release keg tappings, a guest food vendor that’s “a festival favorite,” special edition merch, and yard games like mini golf. Check Instagram for updates about the party, which starts at noon.

There are few more stylish places to watch a spooky movie than Honey Moon Spirit Lounge, the velvet and wicker-covered house just north of the University of Texas campus. Every Tuesday evening until November 1, the restaurant is showing scary movies and handing out free popcorn. There are “creepy cocktails” to go with it, like the Smokus Pocus with mezcal, squid ink agave, bitters, and smoke. Tickets ($10) available on Tock, call (737) 209-0319 for titles.

Photo courtesy of the Ruderman Family Foundation

Original TV series Jewish Foodie explores Austin in 2 episodes

Howdy & L'chaim

It’s not exactly Brooklyn down here, but Texas has a few claims to Jewish food fame. An original TV series, Jewish Foodie, explores some of those Southwestern-Semitic phenomena in a two-episode arc dedicated just to Texas.

The 10-episode series by the Ruderman Family Foundation — with dual missions to advocate for disabled Jews and connect all Jewish community members with their Isreali cultural heritage — was made to be viewed bidirectionally. While American Jews learn about their roots, Israelis are encouraged to learn about less-discussed Jewish communities in the United States. Hosted by Israeli actor and comedian Ori Laizerouvich, it promises “a colorful tour from shakshuka to breakfast tacos to burgers.”

Both episodes are dedicated to Jewish life in Austin, one of which dedicates all its screen time to “Jewish Cowboy” Jonathan Hochman, an ex-professional bull rider who teaches Laizerouvich to make shakshuka-style huevos rancheros. Hochman makes a subtle shift to vegetable oil from olive oil to mellow the Mediterranean taste and make it work in a Tex-Mex style.

The other episode does more exploring, led by Rabbi Neil Blumofe, senior rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin. He and Laizerouvich travel to Biderman’s Deli, known for its bagels and sandwiches, for breakfast tacos with pastrami served by owner Zach Biderman. Then they make perhaps the most obvious stop, JewBoy Burgers, for burgers topped with latkes, and a talk about stereotypes with owner Mo Pittle. He explains the somewhat controversial name as having more in line with the nickname “homeboy” than an anti-Semitic slur.

“‘This is my story. You don’t have to like it, but I ask that you respect my opinion and my story,’” Pittle says in the show. “‘Communication is everything. Food, culture — the more we talk, the better things will be.’”

The series makes a point — or several — to discuss the diversity of “American Jewry,” never more evident than in Austin, where its examples reflected not just Texas, but further cultural overlap with the East Coast and Mexico.

“I know that a lot of people, a lot of Israelis, don’t think about Austin other than maybe the music,” quotes the press release of Rabbi Blumofe. “But there’s a really thriving Jewish community here as well. … People ask me why I stay in Austin. It’s because it’s a really wonderful family and a great place to continue to grow and dream.”

The multilingual series, subtitled in English, also makes stops in Arkansas, New York, Tennessee, and Wyoming. It is available to watch for free on YouTube.

Photo courtesy of Second Bar + Kitchen

Second Bar + Kitchen gets a second chance with East Austin opening

Seconds Later

Another local pandemic closure is getting a second chance as business picks up.

Longtime downtown favorite Second Bar + Kitchen will stage a comeback in the East Austin Hotel at the corner of Sixth and Waller streets, less than a mile from its original downtown location, beginning September 15. In November 2020, the restaurant permanently closed its downtown location after a decade in business, due to dwindling foot traffic and the unpredictability of economic recovery in downtown Austin.

“I’m very excited to help bring Second Bar + Kitchen back to downtown Austin with Executive Chef Gerard Kenny,” said SBK founder and chef David Bull, who also serves as regional vice president of food and beverage for La Corsha Hospitality Group, in a press release. He is joined by executive chef Gerard Kenny. “Our guests will recognize that the food and service at this location is authentic to our original location, and we are delighted to be returning to our city’s core.”

The restaurant continued service at the Domain Northside in the Archer Hotel Austin, serving elevated plates in a range of styles from new American to Asian fusion to pizzas, and early breakfasts starting at 7 am. A second existing location also operates at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport next to Gate 16, with a relatively long menu compared to other ABIA eateries, as well as grab-and-go breakfast service.

SBK fans will recognize many menu items at the East Austin location. The Congress Burger honors the original location with onion confit and “comeback sauce,” while more adventurous menu items include the seared Faroe Island salmon with pork belly fried rice, coconut tempura, and mint. Snackers might enjoy truffle pomme frites with grana padano and white truffle aioli.

A long beverage list on the bar side includes a dozen classic and signature cocktails (the white peach sangria lightens up the fruity staple with white wine, peach liqueur, passion fruit, and limoncello), 37 whiskeys, beers, wines, and dessert drinks.

Guests are invited to the restaurant and rooftop, but food and drinks will also be served at the hotel’s poolside bar, as well as in event and meeting spaces. The hotel already has two eateries onsite: the eclectic and stylish Sixth and Waller Global Diner, and loungey cocktail bar and deck The Upside, perched above the pool like a very chic treehouse. Both eateries and the pool bar will be replaced by SBK.

Second Bar + Kitchen at East Austin Hotel will be open Sunday to Thursday from 7 am to 10 pm, and Friday and Saturday until 11 pm. More information is available at www.secondbarkitchen.com.

Photo by Jessica Attie, Courtesy of Higher Ground

Elevated Austin cocktail bar throws a heavenly week-long party

Bring me a higher love

Sometimes a birthday just doesn't cut it: Not all your friends can make it on the same night, or you plan a separate celebration with family because there's no guarantee things won't get out of hand at the official party. Or maybe you just deserve to be celebrated all week long, which is likely Higher Ground's reasoning behind its upcoming week-long anniversary event.

Opened in 2021, the elevated cocktail bar in the historic space at 720 Congress Ave. in downtown Austin is unassuming from the outside, but like most things, it's what's on the inside that counts. One step inside transports guests to a space that's part cathedral, part Prohibition drinks lounge, part intimate night club: Quasimodo, Gatsby, and Jennifer Lopez would all feel at home here.

The interior decor was a group effort (Lauren Travis of All Collective, Taylor Clouse of Love Country Designs, and Alexis Williams) with a unified theme of salvaged church artifacts and iconography for a gothic yet playful nod to divine spaces. Downstairs, diners sit on church pews from a decommissioned West Texas church; upstairs, a 19th-century organ finds new life as an LED-lit DJ booth for the bar's best dance parties. Outside, a secret, ivy-covered enclave known as the Sanctuary serves cocktails and al fresco dining in a greenhouse-style atrium.

The ecclesiastic theme carries on in both the food and beverage menu, with Italian-inspired fare from chef Chris Gallucio (Michelin-starred Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Gramercy Tavern) and drinks from mixologist Steven Delgado. Signature cocktails are named after the seven deadly sins ("Pride" really does go before a fall, while absinthe and mezcal are the spiritual roots of "Lust"). Gallucio's small "offerings" feature equally sinful indulgences such as blistered shishito peppers and whipped ricotta bruschetta, while the Higher Burger ($5 on Wednesdays) is good for the soul if not for the heart. Don't skip the delectable drunken apple fritters, either.

All of this is cause enough to stop by any (or every) night of next week's festivities, which will feature food and drink specials as well as unique entertainment in the bar, dining room, and sanctuary. A full lineup of events is below:

  • Tuesday, August 16: $1 East Coast oysters, $1 Bubbly all night with music by Eric Bowden from 5 pm-8 pm
  • Wednesday, August 17: $1 Sliders, $1 Lone Star from 4 pm until midnight
  • Thursday, August 18: complimentary food & drink tastings starting at 4 pm; Revival - 7pm Saxxdoc + Docblust followed by DJ Soleiman and DJ AJ with surprise performances until 2 am
  • Friday, August 19: Four Record Friday with When Where What 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm Special Anniversary Edition followed by Good Fridays from 9:30 pm to 2 am featuring Harvey Bombay, Royal NV, and Eli Arbor
  • Saturday, August 20: Afterglow Let There Be Light, 6 pm - 2 am featuring Mirror Mirror, Errow, Henry Mora, Ashten Troyy, Hotmessmeesh, Hoodatboy, and Sista Krista

For up-to-date information, follow @HigherGroundATX on social media or visit HigherGroundATX.com.

Quasimodo, Gatsby, and Jennifer Lopez would all feel at home at Higher Ground.

Photo by Jessica Attie, Courtesy of Higher Ground
Quasimodo, Gatsby, and Jennifer Lopez would all feel at home at Higher Ground.
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New self-guided tour showcases iconic Fort Worth Stockyards' many Hollywood ties

Tinseltown in Cowtown

A new self-guided tour showcasing the Fort Worth Stockyards’ many star-studded appearances in cinema throughout the years recently debuted in time for the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, which took place earlier this month in the Stockyards for the first time.

Called Stars of the Stockyards, the eight-stop, go-at-your-own pace walking tour guides folks to famous film sites where celebrities have stepped foot in front of Hollywood cameras. Visitors to the Stockyards can access the PDF tour map on their smart phones via QR codes (no app required) posted throughout the district, namely at hotels and tour kiosks.

"The Stockyards is a historic and celebrated destination for many reasons, but one that may be lesser known is its popularity as a filming location for some of our favorite movies and TV series," said Ethan Cartwright, VP of marketing for Stockyards Heritage Development Co.

The tour and corresponding QR codes are a permanent addition to the district, he said.

Stops on the map include the iconic White Elephant Saloon, a hotbed for Hollywood performances including several by legendary actor and martial artist Chuck Norris in the longtime TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger when the watering hole was portrayed as the fictional CD Bar. The White Elephant was also graced by country music superstar Tim McGraw and Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton for their appearances in Paramount Plus’ hit series 1883.

Also in 1883 and featured on the tour is Hookers Grill, hidden in the less flashy West side of Exchange Ave. The burger shack transformed into a gambling den in the show called The Texas House of Liquor & Sport. It’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the façade constructed by 1883’s production team. During operating hours, customers can order at the outdoor burger window and dine at patio tables within the two-story structure.

Cowtown Coliseum is marked on the map for its appearances in the 1983 film Tough Enough, where actor Dennis Quaid played an amateur boxer. It’s also the home of the final rodeo scene in the 1992 movie Pure Country starring country music legend George Strait.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the Stockyards Hotel, and even unassuming historic cattle pens also make the list on the tour, along with notations for the Texas Trail of Fame, which features more than 240 bronze markers honoring contributors for preserving and perpetuating the Western way of life.

Veteran actors Sam Elliot and Robert Duvall, both stars in the megahit TV series Yellowstone, are among the most recent Texas Trail of Fame inductees.

For more information and to get started on the tour, go here.

Favorite Austin burger chain joins local music nonprofit for $50,000 grant campaign

Musical Tastes

In Austin, the bell of the ball is the rockstar. Black Fret, a nonprofit that creates gigs and organizes funding for local musicians, makes sure these rock stars get their spotlight at the annual Black Fret Ball, now in its ninth year, and this time with some unexpected help from a burger bar.

Staff at Hopdoddy Burger Bar (a local favorite for lovers of toppings) got to nominate their favorite artists from across the country for a total of $50,000 in grants, an initiative called “Tuned In.” The restaurant asked guests to vote on favorites and landed on a group of nine final artists, including one from Austin.

Bonnie Whitmore, an Austinite, a singer, and a bassist, makes nostalgic country and Americana with bold, feminist themes. Although her candid tone matches that of the pop stars taking over the industry from their bedrooms, she’s been an active member of the music industry for more than 20 years.

Other Texas musicians made the final nine: Gold Fighter, from Dallas, leans back into the good old days of pop punk; Piñata Protest, from San Antonio, also plays pop punk while moving the needle more into Tejano traditions; and Will Van Horn, from Houston, makes the pedal steel languidly cool and a little psychedelic. (Listeners may recognize Van Horn’s work in records by the unique and popular Houston trio Khruangbin.)

The Black Fret Ball is returning for its first in-person year since 2019, on Saturday, December 3 at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. The fundraiser will distribute grants totaling $250,000 to 20 local artists, with performances from all but two. The 2022 class of musicians includes Whitmore, rap duo Blackillac, blues guitarist Buffalo Nichols, R&B singer Mélat, and one of Austin’s most frequently booked and buzzed about bands, Quentin and the Past Lives.

Black Fret members ($750 annually) are invited to join the ball at 6 pm. See the local lineup at hopdoddy.com.

Santa Claus comes to town for a fight in Violent Night

Movie Review

When it comes to movies themed around Christmas, there are an infinite number of heartwarming films and a surprising number of horror movies. But, unless you are among those who count Die Hard as a Christmas movie, there are almost no holiday action films, and even fewer where Santa Claus is the hero at the center of it.

That makes Violent Night a unicorn of a film, one in which Santa (David Harbour) is a disillusioned, drink-addled mess whom we first meet downing beers in a bar on Christmas Eve. After stumbling through house after house, complaining all the while about kids’ obsession with video games, he makes his way to the estate of Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D’Angelo).

Instead of seeing a happy family, he encounters two jealous siblings and their families, and a coordinated attack by an outside group led by a man nicknamed Scrooge (John Leguizamo) looking to steal $300 million in cash. Somewhat reluctantly, Santa uses his holiday magic – and long untapped military experience – to take on the bad guys and ensure a merry Christmas for those who deserve it.

Written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller (the team behind the two Sonic the Hedgehog movies) and directed by Tommy Wirkola, the film more than lives up to its title, splattering much of its running time with enough blood to satisfy any hardcore action fan. The creative ways in which villains are killed or maimed are numerous, including a fantastic final death and an homage to Home Alone that’s only slightly more graphic than the sequences in that classic kids movie.

Photo by Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures

David Harbour in Violent Night.

It’s surprisingly easy to accept Santa Claus as a vengeance-seeking action hero. Harbour is clearly having a ball in the role, and because he plays Saint Nick as grizzled and grumpy, there’s no disconnect between the kindly version we know and love and this more intense one. He also gets the majority of the laugh lines in the film, with a good number (though less than expected) giving a fun twist on holiday clichés.

The problem with the film is that it can’t sustain the momentum of the Santa mayhem scenes. The filmmakers try to have it both ways, pairing ultra-violence with a (dysfunctional) family story, using a cute girl who still believes in Santa as the bond between the two tones. The lack of attention paid to the dialogue of the Lightstone family is glaringly evident, especially since all of their roles, with the exception of D’Angelo, are filled by relatively unknown actors.

Anytime Santa Claus is on the screen – which is less than you might think – the film works. But any other time, it’s clear that they’re just trying to come up with something – anything – for the characters to do until they can get back to Santa kicking ass. And most of the time, what they’ve come up with is so eye-rollingly stupid or poorly written that you wonder why they included it in the first place.

Harbour is the glue that keeps the film watchable, committing himself 100 percent to the idea of the role. He doesn’t go overboard with the typical Santa elements, and the fact that he looks different from your typical Santa Claus also helps with the believability factor. Almost no one else is worth mentioning, save for maybe Leah Brady, the aforementioned cute girl who shines amid the depravity.

The potential for an alternative holiday classic was there with Violent Night, but the filmmakers focused too much on balancing the film instead of delivering on what the concept promised. If there is a next time, they should just let go of the reins and let Santa Claus go completely loose.

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Violent Night opens in theaters on December 2.