Dinner, drinks, movies, events all at the same place. The cuisine is enough to differentiate the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas from the competition, but it is just the beginning. This article will really only scratch the surface on the numerous ways in which the Alamo is strikingly different from the competition and why Time Magazine has called us “the best movie theater ever.”
Henri Mazza (pictured above) leads the Alamo creative team which includes a head-office staff of video editors, graphic designers, social media experts as well as regional hosts in each market. Alamo Drafthouse is the only theater operation in the world that creates a true bond between the audience and staff. We do that by being the only movie theater that is run by true movie nerds.
Every Alamo location employs numerous show hosts who cultivate audiences and introduce our signature programming events. Their most important job, however, is get to know the customers and make them feel like they are part of the Alamo family. Show host Zack Carlson, pictured above, recently published DESTROY ALL MOVIES, a comprehensive overview of punk rock in the movies. Seven years in the making, DESTROY ALL MOVIES features over 5000 capsule reviews and dozens of interviews. Zack is movie-obsessed, and at the Alamo the movie-obsessed call the shots.
From day one, the Alamo made a pledge to its customers: we will never show advertisements before the film. Instead, the Alamo employs a full-time video editor and pop-culture sleuth to create custom “preshow” montages of vintage clips, educational films, cartoons, Scopitones, Japanese game shows and more. The preshow is usually themed to the movie you are about to watch. Our goal: even if the movie you watch is terrible, because of the preshow you will still feel you got your money’s worth. Lars Nilsen (pictured above) has been a show host and preshow curator since 2001.
At the Alamo Drafthouse we strive to offer the best presentation in the business. We have standardized on Sony 4K digital projectors, we maintain changeover 35mm projectors in our metropolitan locations, and we have an extensive preventative maintenance program overseen by Alamo CTO Andrew McEathron (pictured above).
Mondo is the alternative marketing arm and design studio of Alamo Drafthouse. Primarily Mondo is known for their much hunted series of hand-silkscreened movie posters designed by world-renowned artists such as Drew Struzan, Shepard Fairey and Chris Ware. Mondo creative director Justin Ishmael (above) works directly with studios to create buzz for films such as True Grit, Iron Man, Inglourious Basterds, Transformers, Tron and Star Trek. In 2011, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began archiving one of every Mondo poster. Mondo is the first design house outside of the studio system to receive this honor.
Design and architecture of the Alamo Drafthouse is overseen by CDO Tim Reed. With over 30 years of theater construction experience, Reed ensures all Alamos meet strict design standards while the creative team ensures that no two Alamos are alike. The historic Ritz pictured above was awarded the Austin Heritage Society of Austin prize for best historic renovation. The Slaughter Lane Alamo, currently under construction, will feature whimsical “Little Shop of Horrors” inspired sculpture and lighting, an homage to the nearby Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.
John Bullington uses fresh ingredients whenever possible and trains his kitchen staff to make sauces and dough from scratch. Our regular menu remains several notches above the competition, but where we really shine is with our “feast” events: rotating specials that match the themes of new-release blockbusters and multi-course tasting menus and wine pairings for classic films.
Here are just a few examples of recent feasts we’ve put together in other cities:
Each year the Alamo celebrates the magic of the Lord of the Rings with a marathon screening of all three films accompanied by seven full meals (one for every Hobbit meal time) over twelve hours. Pictured above is John Bullington’s interpretation of Elvish Lembas bread.
J.K. Rowling’s rich description of Hogwarts has provided the Alamo culinary team a wealth of opportunity for food pairings. With each film, we host a multi-course feast that features the food of Harry Potter; everything from butter beer to chocolate frogs.
For the opening week of Pedro Almodovar’s THE SKIN I LIVE IN, executive chef John Bullington prepared a special menu of tapas paired with Spanish wines. The promotion garnered strong local publicity that yielded tangible results. The Alamo opening weekend gross was #2 in the country.
But the fun doesn’t stop in the kitchen!
We have buried our customers alive to experience the same anxiety Ryan Reynolds does in BURIED; we’ve brought out Robosaurus for the premiere of TRANSFORMERS and set up a flame throwers station for the premiere of RAMBO. Above is the football stadium Jet Pack Guy for the premiere of IRON MAN. At the Alamo, we always try to make the show something special for the fans.
From screening The Descent in the bottom of a cave, Jaws in the middle of a Lake, Close Encounters at Devil’s Tower, Escape from Alcatraz on Alcatraz and Field of Dreams at the Field of Dreams, the Alamo’s mobile projection team, the Rolling Roadshow, spends each summer screening famous movies in famous places.
Badass Digest is the online movie nerd and culture blog owned by the Alamo Drafthouse. Badass Digest is helmed by LA-based editor and chief contributor Devin Faraci, formerly the voice of CHUD.com. The Badass Digest reader is a geek/pop culture enthusiast, social media savvy and an early adopter. As of November 2011, Badass boasts over 900,000 unique visitors a month and 2.7 million page views. Although the relationship between Alamo and Badass Digest is arms length, the site helps to cover Alamo events and is an extension of our family of audiences. Pictured above is a Badass Digest event: the Party Down cast and crew reunion marathon.
The Action Pack creates interactive programming and theatrical parties that begin where the Rocky Horror Picture Show left off. Dozens of films have been transformed to cinematic experiences as Quote-Alongs, screenings of classic comedies and action movies featuring props, subtitled lines to quote back at the screen, and audience games before the movie. Sing-Alongs create a dance party in the movie theater with curated music videos, and HeckleVision gives audiences the chance to text in a movie theater and have those texts appear on screen to crack wise about the action the crowd is watching.
Now in its eighth year, Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the United States with 75 features and 50 shorts. Fantastic Fest was named by Variety president Charlie Koones as one of “10 Film Festivals We Love,” a list which included industry heavy-hitters such as Cannes, Toronto and Telluride. We’ve also been named as one of the “25 coolest film festivals” and the “25 film festivals worth the entry fee” by Moviemaker Magazine. In addition to the great films and an impressive roster of celebrity talent, every day of Fantastic Fest features flamboyant, lively parties. In the photo above executive chef John Bullington prepares a whole butterflied cow for the closing night gala.
The Alamo Drafthouse brand has recently expanded into distribution. The first film under the Drafthouse Films banner was British comedy FOUR LIONS (pictured above), which was named by Time Magazine as one of the top ten films of the year. In 2012 Drafthouse Films will release six new releases and six repertory classics. Drafthouse Films aims to share the movies we love with as many people as possible.
If you talk during a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, we will kick you out without a refund. Earlier this year, a video featuring the voicemail of a disgruntled customer who was kicked out for texting was viewed by over five million fans and was featured on the View, Fox News, Howard Stern, Bill Maher and more. Anderson Cooper praised the video on his nightly program, calling Alamo founder Tim League an “American hero” and further suggested his nomination for the Nobel Prize.
Founder and CEO Tim League oversees the show at Alamo Drafthouse. His job is the exact same as everyone else in the company, “ensure every guest has an awesome experience and is excited to come back.” By following this simple mission and continuously striving to improve the customer experience, the Alamo has been called the “Best Theater in America” by Entertainment Weekly, the “Best Theater in the World” by Wired.com and the “Best Theater Ever” by Time Magazine. League is pictured here in the vault of the American Genre Film Archive, the 501.C3 non-profit started by Alamo Drafthouse to preserve and share 35mm exploitation film classics.