Cinephiles, rejoice! Austin is a mecca for movie lovers — and not just when South by Southwest is in town. Seek out the right local theaters, and you can find everything from arthouse films to underrated classics to superhero hits (hey, pop culture is culture too!). And the best movie theaters in Austin offer so much more than popcorn.
You can find unique viewing experiences, vintage settings, and creative dining. There are cinemas that deliver champagne right to your seat and others that allow you to cozy up in the backseat of your car.
So if you’re longing for the sticky floors and constant shushing of your childhood cinema, you’ve come to the wrong place — the movie theaters on our list have made movie-going as much of an art form as the movies themselves.
From indie flicks to blockbuster hits, these are the best places to catch a movie in Austin.
Check Out These 9 Cinemas to Find the Best Movie Theater in Austin
Your favorite Austin cinema will depend on what kind of movie buff you are. But whether you’re looking for the latest French film or want to attend special events during big releases, the best movie theater for you is on this list. Find out what each of Austin‘s best theaters has to offer before you buy tickets to your next pic.
1. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
While their location at the Ritz in Downtown Austin may have closed, this movie house is still going strong with five other locations across the city. You can find them in Lakeline, Mueller, Slaughter Lane, South Lamar, or the Village.
An Austin original, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema was founded to bring movie lovers together with good food and cold drinks. Every location offers a menu of award-winning food that could rival the best restaurants in Austin. They also serve wine, local beer, and craft cocktails.
This is the place to go if you’re a passionate movie lover looking for your people. Not only do they show new releases, they also have special events, including seasonal screenings (think your favorite Halloween horror films or Christmas classics), and they offer events with movie and menu pairings.
2. AMC Barton Creek Square 14 & IMAX
With 14 screens, the AMC at Barton Creek Square plays all the new releases, including the occasional documentary and independent film as part of their AMC Artisan Film series. Of the theaters on this list, this is the closest you’ll come to a traditional movie experience — with a few upgrades.
This theater has reclining seats with select movies shown in Dolby Cinema or IMAX. They offer discount screenings on Tuesdays and during matinee showtimes. You can also rent a theater for private events, so this is the perfect place to go for a movie buff’s birthday.
3. AFS Cinema
This cinematheque is run by the Austin Film Society, and it’s the best movie theater in Austin if you want to discover unique pictures. AFS screens classic movies as part of their Essential Cinema series, plus they show restored vintage arthouse films and new releases from up-and-coming auteurs.
The Austin Film Society is a non-profit that promotes cinematic arts in the Austin community. In addition to movie screenings, they also support local filmmakers and offer film production classes.
Anytime you see a movie at AFS Cinema, you’ll feel good about supporting an art form you love. And if you want to offer even more support (and save a few bucks on movie night), you can become a member. Members get discounts on AFS screenings.
4. Bullock IMAX & Texas Spirit Theater
Located inside one of the best museums in Austin — the Bullock Texas State History Museum — this movie theater plays a unique combination of new releases, documentaries, and original films about the history of Texas.
Regardless of whether you go to see the latest Marvel movie in their IMAX theatre or check out one of their documentaries, the price of your movie ticket will support the Bullock Museum. Proceeds from the theater help cover the cost of the museum’s exhibits and educational programming.
5. Violet Crown Cinema
You can find this small, locally-owned theater in Downtown Austin. With just a few screens, they’re selective about which movies they show. And while they state that they play independent films, foreign films, and documentaries, their latest showings are all bigger blockbuster releases.
But even when niche films aren’t on the schedule, there are still plenty of reasons to seek out this theater. Violet Crown Cinema is integrated into the Austin community — they partner with local vendors and support the neighborhood.
This spot also offers good food that goes beyond the movie theater classics. Yes, they have popcorn and candy, but they also serve snacks like beet hummus and buffalo chicken meatballs. Plus, you can get a full meal, tasty side dishes, or desserts.
6. IPIC Theaters Austin
The IPIC Austin provides a luxury movie experience and is often ranked as the best movie theater in Austin. Located in North Austin, they have a full bar and lounge area with pool tables, so you can show up early and stay late.
This national movie theater chain prides themselves on their chef-created menus and master mixologists. The craft cocktails could compete with any of the best cocktails in Austin.
Plus, their seating goes way beyond recliners — they offer separate pods for your group where a waiter can sneak in unseen to help you order food.
7. Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In
For an updated version of the drive-in movie experience, head to Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In. This theater only takes 15 to 40 cars per night, depending on the location. You can find three locations around the city — one in Mueller, one in Downtown Austin, and one in Round Rock (which is among the best suburbs of Austin).
The small number of cars means you’ll always have a good viewing experience. Blue Starlite offers in-car experiences and outdoor experiences where you’ll leave your car but still enjoy the fresh air.
They show classic movies and seasonal favorites, and there’s an option for a private screening where you pick the flick — ideal for an intimate date night. Plus, the Blue Starbite restaurant will deliver updated Americana cuisine (think fried food and sweet treats) right to your car.
8. Moviehouse & Eatery by Cinépolis
With 11 screens showing all the new releases, the Moviehouse & Eatery in Northwest Austin will add a little pampering to your movie night. This cinema offers a full bar, fine dining, and plush recliners. It doesn’t have the private pods that you’ll find at IPIC, but it does have a waitstaff that you can call with the press of a button.
The menu includes small bites, tacos, bowls, salads, pizza, entrees, and desserts with a mixture of crowd-pleasing favorites like burgers and chicken strips with healthy bites like poke bowls and pesto roasted cauliflower.
9. The Paramount Theatre
Located on Congress Avenue, this historic theater was built in 1915, and it features the ornate beaux-arts architecture of that time period. It was originally a stage for classic vaudeville performers like The Marx Brothers and Harry Houdini. It also served as one of Texas‘s earliest cinemas, showing classic films that starred the likes of Greta Garbo, Rudolph Valentino, and Charlie Chaplin.
Today, the theater presents live music, comedy, and films. They often screen Hollywood classics, seasonal favorites, and small independent films. You can become a member of their Film Fan Club to support the theater’s programs and get discounted tickets.
The Big Picture
From fine dining to unique experiences to amazing film quality, the best movie theaters in Austin offer something you can’t get at home. They turn your movie night into an event.
So pick up some movie tickets and plan your evening out. And once you’ve seen every new (and classic) film in town, try one of these other fun things to do in Austin while you wait for the next new release.