August 09, 2004
Drafthouse expansion update

The Alamo Drafthouse expansion, first noted here, has hit the AP wires.

With a slightly new name but same attitude, Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas Ltd. plans to expand to San Antonio this month, and by early next year to Tyler, San Angelo, Waco and Corpus Christi. The company also is working on deals in Colorado, Oklahoma and Florida, with the eventual goal of 200 U.S. franchises.

It's an ambitious project for a small chain founded in 1996 with one screen that showed second-run films and played host to eccentric events -- like a showing of Jaws at Lake Travis, where moviegoers watched the film from inner tubes while swimmers under the water pinched their legs.

"They love cinema more than just about any theater that exists in the country," said Harry Knowles, who hosts events at the Drafthouse and is the creator of the Ain't It Cool News film Web site. "They have an independent spirit and an outside the norm sensibility that is quirky enough to fit with my own."


The chain, which has three Austin locations and one in Houston, shows new releases as well as independent and older movies with special promotions. The theater may show a Kung Fu movie and offer a full menu of Asian cuisine. On another night, one screen may be reserved for amateur filmmakers who compete for $100. Parents can bring infants to Tuesday matinees for baby day. During football season, the Drafthouse shows NFL and college games, free of charge.

One of the most popular events is Mr. Sinus Theater, during which three comedians sit at the front of the theater with microphones, making quips and heckling during movies such as Dirty Dancing, Pretty in Pink and Karate Kid.

Director Quentin Tarantino has hosted film festivals at the original downtown Austin location, and the Drafthouse showed a premiere of his Kill Bill -- Vol. 1. Last December, Mel Gibson attended a screening of an unedited cut of The Passion of The Christ that Knowles hosted as part of his "Butt-Numb-A-Thon" film festival.

A side project of the Drafthouse is a giant inflatable movie screen that travels. The Rolling Roadshow, as it is known, aired Caddyshack on a Manor golf course, Deliverance along the Guadalupe River and Goonies at Longhorn Caverns. It recently was used to show Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11 in Crawford, near President Bush's Texas ranch.

You know, it occurs to me - and I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before now - they really need to get Joe Bob Briggs on board with this concept. I mean, if the Rolling Roadshow isn't the spiritual heir to the drive-in theater, then I don't know what is.

(Speaking of drive-ins, here's another variation on the concept that seems to be alive and well. Does one's heart good to hear this sort of thing, doesn't it?)

Anyway. I'm rooting for the Drafthouse to be a big success nationwide. And I'm ready for that new Houston location to open up. Go Alamo Drafthouse!

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 09, 2004 to TV and movies | TrackBack

It will change how you view movies. The Mrs. and I haven't gone to a regular theatre in a long time. You just can't beat dinner and a movie at the Drafthouse, even for non-quirky showings. At the showing of Spiderman, Drafthouse showed episodes of a Japanese Spiderman show before the trailers came on. What would you prefer? The advertisements and cheesy top-40 music playing while you wait or drinking beer and eating jalapeno poppers watching quirky cinematic material related to the main feature?

Posted by: elgato on August 9, 2004 10:37 AM

Hi guys:

Much as I look forward to the prospect of a theater pub coming to Waco, as a former Portland resident who recently moved to Waco I have to tell you that the Alamo Drafthouse most certainly did not invent the concept of the Theater pub.

The McMenamin Brothers who operate a chain of brew pubs in Oregon have been buying and restoring old theaters and opening theater pubs in Oregon since the 1980s. They currently operate six theater pubs in the Portland area and one in Tacoma. One of their amazing locations is the Kennedy School in Portland which is an old historic elementary school that they remodeled into a bed and breakfast hotel, brewpub, theater, and community center. In addition to movies they provide a lot of venues for live music and a number of bed&breakfast/pub combos. No visit to Portland is complete without a visit to one of the many neighborhood McMenamin's Pubs. Here's the McMenamin's home page:

Posted by: Kent on August 9, 2004 12:23 PM

Hi, Kent. I don't think we're claiming that the Alamo Drafthouse invented this concept - I have a vague memory of seeing "Wall Street" at a theater that served pizza and beer in San Antonio in the 80s - just that they do it very well. My parents now live in Portland and I've been to a McMenamins brewpub, though not to one of their theaters. Maybe next time. Thanks for the reminder!

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 9, 2004 12:46 PM

Tyler??? Interesting choice of cities to expand into.

Odd that they don't try Ft. Worth or Dallas.

Posted by: Tx Bubba on August 9, 2004 1:22 PM

Hi Charles. I guess I misread the original post or news report. In any event, I think it's great news that the Alamo is considering expansion to Waco. I think it would be a hit up here if they locate close enough to Baylor.

Next time you go to Portland, go check out the the Mission Theater in NW Portland or the Baghdad Theater in SE Portland. They are both historic old theaters that have been renovated and converted into brewpubs by the McMenamin's. The Baghdad is bigger and more elaborate. I've never been to the Alamo so I don't know their format but the McMenamin theater pubs generally charge $1 admission for 2nd run and offbeat films. The Mission has lots of tables, couches and free-form seating and the Baghdad still has most of the old theater seats but they took out every other row of seats and installed long narrow bar-type tables so you can sit and eat. The food is typical pub food. Hot sandwiches and pizza for the most part. And of course beer brewed on the premises or at another McMenamin's pub.

The Kennedy school is a whole different experience. They bought and rennovated the entire elementary school. The center of the school is a big open plaza that is an outdoor beer garden with a big open fireplace that is part of the restaurant/pub. I took my parents there recently and they liked it and they are rather retired and conservative and not generally inclined to frequent pubs of any sort. The Kennedy school also has separate little bars hidden around the place as well as a gym that is open to the community and an auditorium where they show movies. But you really go there for the restaurant and beergarden rather than the movies.

Posted by: Kent Lind on August 9, 2004 3:57 PM