Before the Alamo… the Tejon
Some of you folks may not know that the original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on 4th and Colorado was not our first theater venture. In 1994 and 1995, Karrie and I operated the Tejon Theater in east Bakersfield, California. Before the Tejon, I was an engineer for Shell Oil, Karrie was a research microbiologist in San Francisco. I had been with Shell for almost 2 years and was looking for an exit strategy. On my way to work, I passed the Tejon Theater and one morning I noticed a "for lease" sign. A week later, I was signing on the dotted line and entering the theater business with absolutely no experience. We were both 24 years old. The Tejon was were we cut our teeth, learned the business and developed a lot of the shows that eventually became signature events at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. As we are drawing to a close on the original Alamo chapter of our lives, I'm starting to feel a little nostalgic for the Tejon days.
We had some great memories at that theater, but it was also very difficult. Business was lousy, and we were very, very poor. We were on "the wrong side of the tracks," and we had a hard time getting folks out to the movies we promoted. For that two year period, we didn't have any employees. It was just me and Karrie 7 days a week, and we lived in the theater too. We built a room behind the screen that also served as a hospitality room for bands when we would do live shows. These concerts were the only real influx of money we had and were what made it possible for us to eventually leave Bakersfield and start up fresh with the Alamo in Austin.
When we went back to Bakersfield for an outdoor show in 1996, the Bakersfield Californian newspaper ran an article about our early days at the theater and our return with the Rolling Roadshow Tour 10 years later.
I've dug out the scant few photos I still have and have posted them to our Flickr Page. I've also started uploading a few photos from the very early days of the Alamo Drafthouse downtown. There will be many more to come, so check back often. We are also updating the Vintage Ritz photos set. Look for photos from The Ritz: The Metal Years coming soon, as well as some photos and articles from the very early days of the theater in the early 1930s.