On August 9, the first North Texas location of the Alamo Drafthouse will open in Richardson. For those unfamiliar with the movie house, the new theater opening may sound like just another Studio Movie Grill-style eat-in movie theater lacquered with some attentive branding, like the new LOOK Cinemas. But fans of the Austin-based movie chain know the opening of the Drafthouse is a major local event.
The Alamo Drafthouse is a different kind of movie theater. Sure, it serves food in theaters and runs a mix of mainstream films, alongside new indie movies, cult films, and repertory programming. But what is on the screen is only part of what makes the Alamo Drafthouse unique. R. Kelly and Justin Timberlake sing-a-longs, tea and pastries served alongside Oliver Parker’s British rom-com An Ideal Husband, a screening of Con Air featuring a live comedy troupe cracking jokes at the movie’s expense: these are a few of the events that the Alamo Drafthouse will host in Austin this month. “Experience” is the key word. The Alamo Drafthouse can feel more like a movie club than a movie theater, and the chain has discovered that fundamental to the 21st century movie exhibition business is the ability to create an in-theater experience for which the movie on the screen is only part of the attraction.
In the August edition of D Magazine, I have a column discussing the Alamo’s approach and aesthetic, a model towards which I possess not a small amount of ambivalence. But then, when it comes to movies, I’m something of a dinosaur. I would get excited about a new theater opening up that tries to copy the Cinémathèque Française, the famed Paris theater that nurtured the movie hungry minds of the filmmakers who would give birth to the French New Wave. One of my favorite movie theaters in the world is New York’s Film Forum, if only because its programming offers a non-nonsense mix of new and repertory cinema with impeccable critical acumen. The Alamo Drafthouse has too strong a scent of gimmick about it, complete with its robot-themed lobby.
That said, there are realities to the 21st century movie exhibition business that require something more than just screening great cinema you could otherwise watch at home. And the Alamo does offer plenty of programming that will satisfy the strident cinephile. The new Alamo will immediately increase the number of screens available for screenings repertory, classic, and hard-to-find films. And the theater chain’s famously stringent no texting, no talking policies – best captured by an irate voice mail left by a customer who was kicked-out for playing with her cell phone – makes sure the Alamo experience retains a respect for the content on screening, no matter the sideshow.
All this to say, before the theater’s grand opening on August 9, the new Richardson location is whetting the appetite with a series of outdoor screenings in the parking lot in front of the new theater. Upcoming films include:
July 20: The Lost Boys
July 25: “Blood and Ice Cream” Trilogy: Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz with an advanced screening of World’s End inside Alamo Richardson
July 27: The Goonies
All screenings start at 6:30 p.m. The grand opening of new theater will also feature special programming, which will let you know about as soon as we hear it.
Photo: From Shaun of the Dead