By: Gordon Smith
Since founder Tim League opened the first location in Austin, Texas in 1997, The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain has become a player in the movie industry much like Blockbuster Video was in its first 15 years. They have redefined and purified the art of movie-going, with their ad-free custom pre-shows, ironclad no talking/texting policy (two strikes and you’re out) and their elimination of the traditional first row for better viewing.
The Alamo gang is even more famous for their promotional events and Rolling Roadshow – a specially trained crew with state of the art equipment who present classic films on outdoor locations, sometimes in very creative ways. This has included showing JAWS on the beach wherein it was filmed, with the screen facing the ocean and floating audience members getting their legs yanked by divers at key moments; cap guns handed out at PREDATOR; a canoe trip to a screening of DELIVERANCE; and a premiere of the DARK KNIGHT preceded by a viewing of the bat flights from Austin’s Congress Avenue bridge.
As The Drafthouse prepares to open its fourteenth location in the Dallas suburb of Richardson in August of 2013, they are leading up to the grand opening with three outdoor film screenings of classic coming-of-age films of the 80s in July. DAZED AND CONFUSED, THE LOST BOYS and THE GOONIES were voted on by The Alamo’s social media followers. We caught up with COO/co-owner Bill DiGaetano, Creative Manager James Wallace, and Director of Operations Bryan Penley at a June roundtable.
BILL: My involvement started in 2001 when I started going to the Alamo Drafthouse, working and going to school in Austin. It was my theater of choice. In 2010 my group bought the franchise rights to The Alamo in the DFW area. I spent the next one and a half years looking for a location.
JAMES: I also started as a fan, going to Fantastic Fest and hanging out as much as I could.
BRYAN: I worked in Austin the last five years before heading this way. The Roadshow is one of those organic things that happened, more of a way of giving back to the community. We’re bringing in the food, the local breweries and having fun with the fans.
BILL: It’s nice to have a branch of the company where you can do that. We’ve done events every summer, at the Wildflower Music Festival, the Perot museum here (a showing of TRON in June). We like to show famous films where they were actually filmed – THE SHINING at The Stanley Hotel, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND at Devil’s Tower…
JAMES: There’s something about taking movies into another space, like doing DAZED AND CONFUSED in a parking lot in summer. I’m excited since DALLAS has such a wealth of films that have been shot here. Maybe you’ve seen them a thousand times, but there’s a totally different feel because of where you’re watching them.
BILL: Richardson and the Metroplex at large have been phenomenal. We felt extremely welcome and knew we had a built-in customer base. Lots of ex-Austinites and UT alumni here. In November we showed THE BIRDS (outdoors). We felt like the weird kid moving into the suburbs. It was a big success, so we thought, “let’s show a coming-of-age summer movie. We put the list out there, and that’s how we came up DAZED AND CONFUSED, THE LOST BOYS, and THE GOONIES. We won’t always theme them, but it’s a good idea to have something tying them together…from our founder, Tim League, down to the beer servers, we’re movie lovers, or lovers of draft beer, or foodies. We put out the call that experience is great but we would rather hire people who love what we do – food, film, beer, whatever it is, you can’t fake passion.
JAMES: There’s a heart, and a heartbeat, to everything we do, from our social media to our programming. It’s as much about what you’re going to see as where you’re going to see it. It’s a gathering place for people who love movies. There’s a sense of soul to it.
BILL: It has a lot to do with the way we do business. A lot of the decisions we make are not based on the bottom line by any means. There’s no way to quantify four free road shows in July. There’s no way handing out cap guns before showing a movie is going to make more money than just showing the movie, but it’s that experience.
JAMES: It’s like when Charlie got The Chocolate Factory. (For the July screenings) bring your own chair, some kind of sitting utensil, and water. We have outdoor bars, breweries, and mister tents. Dallas is actually windier than Chicago so that helps. (The Roadshow Truck) is also a venue to rent out. Inside the truck we have two 35 millimeter projectors, and four-K digital projectors on a scaffold. We can do either/or. We have three 40-foot screens and 55 gallon drums to weigh them down.
BRYAN: Another thing that helps us stand out from the competition is our extremely high bar for presentation of audio and video. There’s a lot of factors that go into making it flawless, and these guys are pros.
JAMES: Some of the things we’re going to be doing for DAZED – beer will be flowing like wine, which I know doesn’t make sense, a ’70s muscle-car show, and pinball machines. For LOST BOYS we’ll have a blood drive – not at the same time the movie’s playing. Ride your bike in, we’re very bike-friendly. Dress as your favorite character.
On July 25th the Richardson Alamo Drafthouse anticipates its grand opening with the premiere of the THE WORLD’S END, the finale of the “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy from director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. That indoor screening will be followed by free outdoor showings later that evening of trilogy parts one and two, SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ.
JAMES: This is a gift from the movie gods that we can do this – the films of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are right up The Drafthouse alley. THE WORLD’S END will be the first thing shown inside our theater.
BILL: We’ll be showing SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ in two acres of outdoor space. We’ll keep letting people in until it becomes uncomfortable or unsafe.
JAMES: Showing the whole trilogy on one night – it’s unfathomable how cool this is. The Alamo is going to completely change the film scene in Dallas.
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema DFW is at 100 South Central Expressway Building 14, Richardson, TX 75080, in the Richardson Heights Shopping Center. The July free outdoor summer series, starting at sundown each night, is:
July 13: DAZED AND CONFUSED
July 20: THE LOST BOYS
July 27: THE GOONIES
For more information on these screenings, go to facebook.com/alamodrafthousedfw. There’s more to come on the arrival of The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in DFW.