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Butt-Numb-A-Thon (also known as BNAT) is an annual film marathon held every December since 1999 in Austin, Texas. It is hosted by Harry Knowles of the Ain't It Cool News website in celebration of his birthday. This mini-festival shows 24 hours of vintage films as well as premieres.
The marathon is invite-only via an application process. Before BNAT 5 in 2003, there were typically two ways to gain admittance – one for Austin residents that usually involved some event (such as BNAT 4 in 2002 having a costume contest at a horror movie screening at an abandoned mental institution on Halloween), then a separate one for those not in the Central Texas area. After BNAT 5, the application process was changed to internet-only involving several essay-style questions and submissions of pictures, which is then used to create a yearbook with all the registered attendees. Competition to get in is fierce, as 10,000 or more applicants attempt to gain one of the approximately 200 seats. This system was put into place to ensure that only die-hard film fans would be in attendance as well as to be fair, as attendance is limited to the seating capacity of the Alamo Drafthouse.
Films and notable guests
Films that have been shown include the first public screening of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, as well as the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Dreamgirls, Chicago, Black Snake Moan, Snatch, Magnolia, Knocked Up, Frozen, 300, V for Vendetta, and the 2005 remake of King Kong. Guests have included Mel Gibson, Zack Snyder, Peter Jackson, Seth Rogen, Adam Green, Eli Roth, Craig Brewer, Bill Condon, Vin Diesel, Guillermo Del Toro, Jackie Earle Haley and McG. Some celebrity guests, such as Eli Roth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Laura Harris, Elijah Wood and Burnie Burns have attended the event, even though they may not have any films exhibited. Though he was not present for the screening of King Kong in 2005, Peter Jackson introduced the film with a video-taped message in which he was seen pointing at various locations inside the Drafthouse theater, such as the stage area and specific seats, showing intimate knowledge of the theater from previous visits.
The event's unique style
While BNAT has been home to numerous special screenings and celebrity guest appearances, as much or more significant to explaining the thrust and tone of this event is the many other movies that have been screened, as well as the unique impact of seeing 12-13 films and 30-40 vintage film trailers back-to-back over a 24 hour period without ever leaving the confines of the movie theater. For every premiere or widely known classic that has been shown, there has been a forgotten gem, a tiny independent work, a foreign title or a film that is unlikely to receive a public screening in any other venue due to content that would generally be considered perverse, disgusting or a reflection of cultural sensitivities no longer considered acceptable.
BNAT has also been characterized by such novel surprises as having a live jug band accompaniment to Buster Keaton's silent classic The General, the delivery of fresh meat pies to attendees during the early screening of Sweeney Todd, shot glasses of caviar and vodka given to attendees to mirror a scene in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the use of electrically shocking devices to zap sleeping audience members during an intentionally interminable 3:00am viewing of 1950s creaker-classic Attack of the Gila Monster.
Butt-Numb-A-Thon is held annually in Austin, Texas, for the first eight years at the Alamo Drafthouse's (now closed) original downtown location at 409 Colorado St. In 2007, BNAT 9 was held at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz location at 310 E. Sixth Street. Since 2008, the festival has been held at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar at 1120 South Lamar Boulevard. The 2013 BNAT will be held at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz location while the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar undergoes renovation.
On June 24, 2007, as an acknowledgment of the last days of the Alamo Drafthouse's original downtown location, Harry Knowles hosted a hastily assembled half-birthday marathon titled Half-Ass-A-Thon. Half-Ass-A-Thon was to initially only show four features, but by unanimous vote of the audience the marathon was extended to five features.