In 2016, when I was looking to leave Oklahoma and deciding where to live next, I wanted to move to a city that had great film programming – and by great, I mean unique and diverse. Something besides just the usual gamut of the latest first-run blockbusters. I wanted events that would introduce me to “old” movies that I had never heard of and would never have heard of if it hadn’t been for those events showcasing those movies. I had visited Austin, Texas early in that year and as I learned more about Austin and, in particular, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain that had six locations in Austin, I decided that Austin had what I was looking for, so I moved there in July 2016.
Once I had moved to Austin and looked more into what the Alamo Drafthouse had to offer, I learned about two long-running film series in particular that offered a weekly fill of cinematic exploration. Terror Tuesday was a series that played horror movies every Tuesday night, and Weird Wednesday was a series that played “weird” movies every Wednesday night. As I would come to find out, both “horror” and “weird” are used very broadly, as I’ve seen movies as tame and fun as Teen Wolf at Terror Tuesday and as seemingly conventional as Black Caesar at Weird Wednesday.
As it turned out, the events weren’t just rote screenings of the movies. Each movie was preceded by trailers for upcoming specialty programming (including future Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday shows) and then an introduction by one of the specialty programmers. Those introductions are some of my favorite things ever. They’re usually about ten minutes long, and they explore the history behind the film’s production and distribution, stories about the filmmakers and cast, the response to the film, both contemporary and retrospective, a description of the film print being shown (more often than not a 35 mm print from either the movie’s distributor or the Austin-based American Genre Film Archive), and a brief selling pitch for the movie being shown for the series the next week. The knowledgeable excitement coming from the programmer seems to always transmit onto those of us in the audience and get us jazzed up for both the movie we’re about to watch and the one coming up next week.
My first Terror Tuesday was Terror Tuesday: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, on September 27 2016, at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. (Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays were originally held at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, before switching to Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar starting in January 2018.) I subsequently went to Terror Tuesday: Plan 9 from Outer Space on October 4, and Terror Tuesday: The Deadly Spawn (one of my all-time favorites!) on November 1, out of being interested in seeing those movies. I hadn’t originally planned on going to one or more Terror Tuesdays every calendar month, but it had turned out that way, and by November I decided to keep the streak going and see how long I could do it.
I also wanted to see what Weird Wednesday was about, and my first Weird Wednesday was Weird Wednesday: Conquest, on October 19 2016, at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. I didn’t initially think of going to at least one Weird Wednesday a month the way I thought of doing it for Terror Tuesday, so while I did go to Weird Wednesday: School of the Holy Beast (also one of my all-time favorites!) on December 14, I didn’t go to any Weird Wednesdays in November 2016, January 2017, or February 2017.
But by March 2017, the two film series had become such an enriching and important part of my life in Austin, and I became enamored with the idea of keeping attendance streaks going for them. Having already gone to at least one Terror Tuesday in every month since September 2016, I decided that I might as well set a goal of going to at least one Terror Tuesday and at least one Weird Wednesday every calendar month going forward, and I started that streak that month, with Terror Tuesday: Castle of Blood on March 28 2017, and Weird Wednesday: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (another all-time favorite!) on March 29 2017.
And for the next 36 months in a row, all the way through February 2020, I managed to keep that streak going. In some months, I only saw one of each. In other months, I saw multiple ones of each, in some cases going multiple weeks in a row. There was just one month – December 2018 – where I managed to attend every Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday that month; it helped that there were only five events total that month due to the holiday season.
I saw so many movies during this three-year time period; some great, many others… well, terrible, but all of them made for worthwhile outings that more than satisfied the movie lover part of me. Most of them were eye-catching titles that I probably would not have seen or even heard of if it hadn’t been for the film series. And that’s what I love most about Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday: they introduce me to all these movies I wouldn’t have known about otherwise and I wouldn’t have even thought to search for. Going to Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays quickly became an integral part of my life. Planning my upcoming outings, including learning what movies were coming up and figuring out which ones to go to and which ones to skip, was one of my favorite things to do. And Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays became – at least! – 50 percent of the entire reason I wanted to stay in Austin. (There are Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays at the Brooklyn and San Francisco locations of the Alamo Drafthouse, but I have no desire to live in those cities.)
Alas, all good things will eventually come to an end. The last calendar month where I went to at least one Terror Tuesday and at least one Weird Wednesday was February 2020, when I went to just one of each: Terror Tuesday: Candyman on February 4 and Weird Wednesday: Polyester on February 12. As of this writing, those were also the last Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday I went to, period, and I can fairly say those were good ones to end on (for now). I long had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before I would inevitably have to end the uninterrupted streak, and I always figured it would be because I would have to leave Austin due to the frustratingly ever-rising cost of living. I could have never imagined the actual reason for the streak ending.
For March 2020, I was not able to go to the Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays in the first three weeks of that month, but I was set to go to Terror Tuesday: The Blob (1988) on March 24, and Weird Wednesday: Seeds (with a special appearance by Andy Milligan biographer Jimmy McDonough) on March 25. Those would’ve been my Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday quota for the month. I even had my ticket for Terror Tuesday: The Blob (1988) purchased already online. And then came the COVID-19 pandemic. I had been nervously watching the ongoing fast-moving developments surrounding businesses’ responses to the pandemic, seeing the Alamo Drafthouse in particular try to keep things going by introducing more vigorous cleaning procedures and spacing audience parties apart. As restrictions tightened around in-person gatherings, I kept my fingers crossed that the Drafthouse could at least stay open until March 25. But no, all too soon, movie theaters could no longer hold out against the tide of the inevitable, and on March 16 Alamo Drafthouse announced that it would be closing indefinitely in response to the pandemic. I was very dismayed, especially about the fact that I would not be able to end my attendance streak in March 2020 so it would neatly reflect having started the streak in March 2017. Later I realized that, having ended in and included February 2020, my streak still lasted an even 36 months, or three years, because the starting and ending months were both counted. Still, it would have been nice to finish on the same month of the year that I had started on.
With physical events suspended indefinitely, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is gamely trying to keep the fire burning by offering “Virtual Cinema” virtual screenings of Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays, where they send customers the movie selections digitally, complete with pre-recorded versions of the pre-show content and programmer introductions. They started this with a virtual Terror Tuesday: Centipede Horror on March 31 and a virtual Weird Wednesday: Godmonster of Indian Flats on April 8. (I have noticed that many of the titles are repeats from ones shown during my three-year attendance streak; for example, I saw Godmonster of Indian Flats at a previous Weird Wednesday on July 18 2018.) I have declined to participate. Not only do I lack a good movie-watching setup at home, it’s just not the same as going to the actual physical events. I would rather wait until the theater reopens and the two series start back up with regular in-person screenings, and maybe I’ll get a new streak going then.
It’s been four months now since I’ve been to a Terror Tuesday or a Weird Wednesday, and I really do miss them and the Alamo Drafthouse. In keeping with the trend of “this has been the longest I’ve gone without doing X” that all of us are experiencing during this shutdown, this really has been the longest time I’ve gone without going to these two series, since I started going to these two series. While it’s unquestionably sad that I won’t be able to make new memories for now, I do feel like my memories from the past are all I have to hold on to in these dark times. And there are plenty of good ones: for example, almost a year ago today, on June 5 2019, I went to Weird Wednesday: Can’t Stop the Music and I had so much fun.
My three-year attendance streak going to both Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays every calendar month started with Terror Tuesday: Castle of Blood on March 28 2017 and ended with Weird Wednesday: Polyester on February 12 2020. In that time span, my personal world really expanded tremendously and I learned so much about cinema. All this new knowledge and these fond memories from this three-year time span are truly gifts that have indelibly made my life all that more interesting and culturally rich, no matter what happens going forward.