Original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Downtown Austin
|Industry||Entertainment (movie theaters)|
Number of locations
|Tim League (Chairman) |
Shelli Taylor (CEO)
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is an American cinema chain founded in 1997 in Austin, Texas that is famous for serving dinner and drinks during the movie, as well as its strict policy of requiring its audiences to maintain proper cinema-going etiquette.
It has 41 locations across the United States, including twenty-one (with seven more being built) across Texas. Outside of Texas, it has 4 locations in Virginia (Winchester, Charlottesville, Woodbridge and Ashburn). There are three locations in both Colorado (Denver, Westminster and Littleton) and Arizona (Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe), as well as two locations each in New York (Yonkers and Brooklyn), Missouri (Kansas City and Springfield), Nebraska (Omaha and La Vista) and California (San Francisco and Los Angeles), respectively. There are individual locations in Woodbury, Minnesota, and Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema was founded by Rice University alumni Tim and Karrie League at 409 Colorado St, in an Austin, Texas warehouse district building on Colorado St. (between 4th and 5th) that was being used as a parking garage.
The company began as a second-run movie theater, and distinguished itself by the food and drink service offered inside the theater, including cold beers, which continues to set Alamo Drafthouse apart from many other cinemas. The seating is arranged with rows of cabaret style tables in front of each row of seats, with an aisle between each row to accommodate waiter service. Customers write their orders on slips of paper, which are picked up by black-clad waiters.
Soon after opening, the original downtown theater began offering occasional unique programming such as silent movies scored by local bands playing live accompaniment, food-themed films such as Like Water for Chocolate served with a dinner matching the meals shown on screen, and retrospectives of various directors and stars. This includes location-based food options depending on the film setting.
In 2001, the Leagues renovated a four-screen art-house theater at 2700 Anderson Lane in North Austin, called Village Cinema, which had recently closed, and opened it as an Alamo Drafthouse which specialized in first-run movies. With this new Alamo Drafthouse Village, the downtown location ceased showing second-run movies and began to concentrate almost exclusively on unusual programming including classics, cult classics, independents, documentaries, special guest appearances, and audience participation shows.
In 2003, the Alamo Drafthouse opened on 13729 Research Boulevard in northwest Austin. The Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek had seven screens, all dedicated to new movies. Almost simultaneously, the Alamo granted their first franchise, which opened in the West Oaks Mall in Houston, Texas.
In July 2004, Tim and Karrie League sold the brand, including the brand name, intellectual property and rights to all future Alamo Drafthouse expansion to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas CEO Terrell Braly, John Martin, and David Kennedy, but retained an irrevocable license for the Austin locations (Village, Lamar, Downtown), which includes their Rolling Roadshow.
Since February 2005, the new company has purchased the original franchise unit from Doss, opened a theater in the Katy Area and in Spring, Texas and has built a new-build multi-screen theater in the Rio Grande Valley; though it was announced in 2006 to open, the building has remained unfinished since the original owner was foreclosed upon.
In 2006, due to rising rent in downtown Austin, theater owners took steps to hand the theater over to a non-profit group called the "Heroes of the Alamo" foundation, operating the theater as a cultural arts center. However, with the historic Ritz Theater on 6th Street offered as an alternative location, the original Alamo was closed. The final event at the original location consisted of a special triple-feature event the evening of June 27, 2007. The final movie shown was Night Warning, with star Susan Tyrrell attending. At the conclusion of the movie, audience members were allowed to disassemble their seats and take them home as mementos of the theater.
Of the first seven theaters, the downtown Austin theater was unique for being the host of many important film events in Austin, such as the Quentin Tarantino Film Festival and Harry Knowles's annual Butt-numb-a-thon.
After six months of construction, the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz opened on November 2, 2007 with a triple feature of Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People, with a five course mushroom feast; a sneak preview of No Country For Old Men; and a Terror Thursday screening of War of the Gargantuas, introduced by Quentin Tarantino who flew out from Los Angeles for the night to attend the opening.
In 2009, the first outside of Texas was opened in Winchester, Virginia.
A second San Antonio theater opened in 2009 (Park North), with six screens.
In June 2010, founder Tim League was brought back in as CEO of the franchise operations.
A third San Antonio location (Stone Oak) opened November 5, 2010, with six screens.
In 2013, the Lake Creek location was closed upon the opening of the brand new, larger, Lakeline location.
In June 2017, the current largest Alamo opened in Springfield, Missouri with 14 screens seating 1,050 people.
In March 2019, Business Insider reported that Alamo Drafthouse's movie-ticket subscription service, Alamo Season Pass, will launch nationwide at all Drafthouse theaters by the end of the year with the unlimited plan costing $20 a month in most regions of the country.
In May 2020, Alamo announced that former Starbucks Exec Shelli Taylor would become the new CEO of Alamo Drafthouse and that founder Tim League would transfer from his current role as CEO to become the Chairman of the Board of Directors.
The company announced the launch of "Alamo on Demand" video streaming service on May 7, 2020. The streaming service will have films from Drafthouse Films, its film distribution arm, as well as partner with name-brand studios like Sony Pictures Classics and Lionsgate.
Italicizes indicate location has not officially opened yet
- Alamo Drafthouse Phoenix - Chandler (Planned 8 screen location in downtown Chandler, AZ abandoned due to construction issues, development taken over by Harkins Theatres. Alamo Holdings LLC later inked a $14.6 million lease on a location in south Chandler which opened on December 2, 2016)
- Alamo Drafthouse Tempe (opened early 2018)
- Alamo Drafthouse Gilbert (8 screens, opened November 2019)
- New Mission Theater - San Francisco (opened December 17, 2015, includes Video Vortex video rental store)
- The Bloc - Downtown Los Angeles (opened July 19, 2019, includes Video Vortex video rental store)
- Alamo Drafthouse at Aspen Grove - Littleton (7 screens, opened March 2013)
- Alamo Drafthouse Sloan Lake - Denver (8 screens, opened May 2017)
- Alamo Drafthouse Westminster - Westminster (9 screens, opened Spring 2019)
District of Columbia
- Alamo Drafthouse Orlando (opening TBA)
- Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet - Kansas City (6 screens; took over operations from AMC Theatres June 21, 2012)
- Alamo Drafthouse Springfield (14 screens; opened June 2017)
- Alamo Drafthouse City Foundry - St. Louis (10 screens; opening 2020) 
- Alamo Drafthouse Omaha - La Vista (8 screens; opened October 31, 2015)
- Alamo Drafthouse Midtown - Omaha (5 screens; opened Winter 2018)
- Alamo Drafthouse City Point - Brooklyn in City Point (7 screens, opened October 28, 2016, includes Video Vortex video rental store) 
- Alamo Drafthouse Staten Island (10 screens, opening TBA) 
- Alamo Drafthouse Lower Manhattan - Financial District of Manhattan (14 screens, opening 2020)
Other New York cities
- Alamo Drafthouse Raleigh (11 screens, opened early 2018, includes Video Vortex video rental store) 
- Alamo Drafthouse Village – Austin (4 screens; opened July 2001)
- Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar – Austin (6 screens; opened March 7, 2005, closed January 3, 2013 as the 1950s era Lamar Plaza shopping center is demolished and rebuilt. Reopened in third quarter 2014 in new building with 9 screens on the same site.)
- Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz – Austin (2 screens; opened November 2007)
- Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane - Austin (8 screens; opened on March 8, 2012)
- Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline – Austin (10 screens; opened July 2013)
- Alamo Drafthouse at Mueller - Austin (6 screens; opened March 2017)
- Alamo Drafthouse Cedar Park - Cedar Park (10 screens; opening summer 2020)
- Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra (8 screens, replacing previous Mason Park location, July 2018)
- Alamo Drafthouse Sugar Land (opening 2020)
Two additional locations are also being planned for the Houston area.
- Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes (9 screens; opened August 2004 as first San Antonio area location)
- Alamo Drafthouse Park North (6 screens; opened November 2009)
- Alamo Drafthouse Stone Oak (6 screens; opened on or after November 5, 2010)
- Alamo Drafthouse La Cantera (11 screens, opening 2020)
- Alamo Drafthouse Richardson (7 screens; opened August 2013 as first Dallas-Fort Worth area location) 
- Alamo Drafthouse The Cedars (8 screens; opened 2016)
- Alamo Drafthouse Las Colinas (opened April 2018)
- Alamo Drafthouse Lake Highlands (opened March 2018)
- Alamo Drafthouse Denton (opened June 2018)
- Alamo Drafthouse North Richland Hills (8 screens, opened April 2019)
- Alamo Drafthouse Frisco (TBA, will include Video Vortex video rental store)
- Alamo Drafthouse Montecillo Town Center - (8 screens; opened May 6, 2016)
- Alamo Drafthouse East El Paso (opening 2020)
Other Texas cities
- Alamo Drafthouse Marketplace - New Braunfels (11 screens; opened December 20, 2013)
- Alamo Drafthouse Lubbock (8 screens; opened April 25, 2014) 
- Alamo Drafthouse Laredo (7 screens; opened September 4, 2015)
- Alamo Drafthouse Corpus Christi (7 screens; opened February 2017)
- Alamo Drafthouse One Loudoun - Ashburn (8 screens; opened April 2013)
- Alamo Drafthouse Woodbridge (8 screens, opened June 2018) 
- Alamo Drafthouse Crystal City (TBA)
Other Virginia cities
- Alamo Drafthouse Winchester - Kernstown (8 screens; opened October 2009)
- Alamo Drafthouse Charlottesville (7 screens, opened July 2017)
- Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow - Mobile unit operates worldwide
- Alamo Drafthouse Downtown – Austin (single screen; opened 1997, closed 2007 to move to Ritz location)
- Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek – Austin (7 screens; opened May 2003; closed July 2013)
- Alamo Drafthouse West Oaks Mall – Houston (6 screens; opened May 2003 as first Houston area location, closed June 25, 2012)
- Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park - Spring (7 screens; opened February 2013; sold December 6, 2016)
- Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park – Katy Area (7 screens; opened February 2006, closed June 2018, replaced by LaCenterra location)
Alamo Drafthouse is famous for enforcing a strict policy on behavior while in the theater. Children under the age of two are not allowed, except for showings on specific days which are designated "Alamo For All" showings where parents are encouraged to bring young children, and rules around talking are relaxed. Unaccompanied minors are not allowed in showings, except for members of the Alamo Drafthouse's Victory Vanguard rewards program, which allows 15–17 year-olds to attend showings unattended after their application to the rewards program has been submitted and reviewed. The application involves demonstrating an understanding of the theater's policies around talking, texting, arriving to the theater late, and basic tipping etiquette.
The cinema also prohibits talking and texting during the film. Anyone who violates this policy is subject to warning and potential removal from the premises. Alamo made national headlines in 2011 when the rantings of one angry customer who was ejected for texting were included in its "Don't Talk or Text" PSA shown before films. "When we adopted our strict no talking policy back in 1997, we knew we were going to alienate some of our patrons," Tim League posted on the cinema's website. "That was the plan. If you can't change your behavior and be quiet (or unilluminated) during a movie, then we don't want you at our venue."
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Every year in September, the Alamo South Lamar location in Austin hosts a week-long film festival called Fantastic Fest dedicated to the horror, sci-fi, fantasy, Asian and "cult" film genres. Alamo Lake Creek holds the annual Zombie Film Festival (Dismember the Alamo) and the Off-centered Film Festival. The Ritz and South Lamar locations also participate in the SXSW Film Festival in March.
Other events include:
- Action Pack - patrons are armed with cap guns in order to shoot at the screen during fun action films (often in-house pyrotechnics are performed as well)
- Austin Air Guitar - each competitor has 60 seconds to perform air guitar to a song of one's own choosing
- Austin Air Sex - same as the above except for sexual acts
- Big Screen Classics - classic movies shown on a Cinemascope screen
- Butt-Numb-A-Thon ("BNAT"), an annual 24-hour film marathon in honor of Harry Knowles's birthday in December, held from 1999 to 2016 at Drafthouse locations. Following sexual assault allegations against Knowles in September 2017, League said the Alamo had severed all ties with Knowles.
- Celebrity Guests - special event where a famed film industry person or star speaks
- Cinema Cocktails - bar service with at-seat waitered service during movies at the Ritz location
- The Dionysium - monthly arts variety show including debate panels, lectures, forums, and socializing
- Filmmaking Frenzy - ongoing filmmaking competition with annual awards
- Food & Film Events - special meal service for certain movies
- Foleyvision - films which replace original audio with live commentary; formerly "Buzz Moran's Kung Fu Masterpiece Theater"
- Kid's Club - free children's movie screenings last Saturday each month
- Master Pancake Theater - live movie mockery; a panel of comedians mock a movie as it is shown with live comedy voice-overs, real-time commentary, and some pre-selected movie editing; a successor to the former special event "Christmas Show"; content frequently Rated R. Previously called "Mister Sinus Theater", until a cease and desist court order filed by Best Brains, holder of the Mystery Science Theater copyright, brought about the name-change.
- MondoCon - Taking place the first weekend of Fantastic Fest, it focuses on the art and artists behind Mondo's posters and other collectibles. It also offers exclusive items, panels and screenings with filmmakers and artists.
- Mondo Mystery Movie - infrequent event where the movie is unknown until it's played. Typically admission includes a poster.
- Music Monday - weekly Monday music-related film showing
- Open Screen Night - weekly; patrons show their own videos
- Quote-Alongs - patrons can sing, quote, and perform along with a movie, typically a cult film
- Rocky Horror Picture Show - weekly live performance tribute to the movie of the same name
- Rolling Roadshow Tour - somewhat annual 35mm movie screenings of famous movies in famous film-related locations across the United States
- Sing-Alongs - patrons sing along to musical films or a collection of music videos
- Terror Tuesdays - weekly horror movie showing
- Weird Wednesday - weekly eclectic movie showing for $1 at midnight
Alamo Drafthouse hosts 35mm screenings of famous movies in famous places all over the world with their traveling portable projection system and a blow-up screen. Past events include: Fistful of Dollars at Cortijo el Sotillo, Spain, A Christmas Story in Cleveland, OH, The Lost Boys in Santa Cruz, CA, It Came From Outer Space 3D in Roswell, NM, The Goonies in Astoria, OR, Close Encounters of the Third Kind at Devil's Tower, WY, The Warriors in Coney Island, NY, Clerks in Red Bank, NJ, Jaws at Martha's Vineyard, MA, Field of Dreams at the Field of Dreams, IA, The Shining at the Stanley Hotel, CO, Poseidon Adventure on the Queen Mary, CA, Escape from Alcatraz on Alcatraz, CA just to name a few.
In 2017, then CEO Tim League founded another film distribution company with Tom Quinn in New York City called Neon, which has earned a total of 12 Academy Award nominations. As of 2019, Tim League was reportedly not involved in the daily operations of Neon.
Birth.Movies.Death. is a magazine and website formerly published by Alamo Drafthouse. The magazine and website provide news and commentary about films and the entertainment industry.
Hostile workplace allegations
In October 2016, Devin Faraci resigned from Birth.Movies.Death. after allegations of sexual assault surfaced. Less than a year later, Tim League re-hired Faraci to write film blurbs for the 2017 Fantastic Fest. Upon discovery of Faraci's re-hiring, Todd Brown resigned as Fantastic Fest's director of international programming in early September 2017. Faraci resigned from writing for Fantastic Fest, and League made several public apologies regarding the matter.
Later in September 2017, several women accused Harry Knowles of sexual harassment and sexual assault at events sponsored by Alamo Drafthouse or in professional workplace settings. Subsequent to these revelations, Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest severed business ties with Knowles. League did not attend Fantastic Fest, opting instead to visit Alamo Drafthouse locations around the country to discuss workplace environment issues with employees. Despite these events, Alamo Drafthouse proceeded with plans to show a previously-unreleased pornographic film by Ed Wood.
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