Now that Alamo Drafthouse has opened its Richardson location, here at Mixmaster we were curious: After all the hype and popularity Alamo enjoys, how does it measure up? So they chose me, a humble Louisianan who has no bias toward (and until recently not even knowledge of) Alamo, to investigate.
That's how I found myself sitting toward the front of a theater around lunch flipping through a menu and carefully planning my meal. I chose an afternoon showing of Elysium, thinking that choosing a first-run movie would help keep me impartial. (Among the other options was The Iron Giant, which meant I would have just loved everything within hugging distance.)
I was interested to see what ran before showtime, since every movie has tailored previews. For Elysium that included previews for director Niell Blomkamp's pre-District 9 films, a line-action Halo vignette I enjoyed way too much and a bunch of Three Stooges clips.
While Moe was bouncing off the ground with a spring sticking out of his ass, a woman wheeled a stroller up to the row ahead of me and I cocked an eyebrow. I knew Alamo was a little firm about their noise-free policy, and that it extended to phones and smaller varieties of children. This baby seemed like it should match that description.
At this point the lights came up and a manager appeared in front of the screen, thanking us for making it out for their opening week and giving us the rundown on food and talking.
"We are very strict about our no talking and no texting policy," she said, and I eyed the baby again.
She announced that Tuesdays are "Baby Day" to accommodate new parents who want to get to the movies (and the rest of us were free to swap out our tickets for another time if the baby caught us off guard). "I don't see any babies here today though," she said. "Oh there's one," she exclaimed when the mom in front of me lifted the kid up and waved her in the air. Crap, I thought, she's adorable. I'm not gonna be able to hold anything against her.
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I lost interest in the previews when I saw Tom Hanks getting on a ship but learned it wasn't going to be a Castaway sequel. Instead I focused back on the menu, and by the time the opening narration started I planted my burger order in front of my seat and waited for food to materialize. By the time my burger came out the scene in the movie was changing from the pristine wealthy space-spa to the Tea Party-nightmarescape of 2150 Los Angeles. I felt some guilt by association as a waiter scurried up and dropped off my fancy sandwich while city-sized slums filled the screen. But not enough to not order popcorn as soon as I inhaled the sandwich.
It wasn't until the waiter brought out a hubcap filled with popcorn that I regretted my decision. This was one of those massive steel bowls chefs use to toss salads before plating them, with a mound of popcorn rising out of it and a tiny container of herbs and Parmesan at the summit. My curiosity had bested me: This was more food than I could handle. (Alternate life lesson: My depth perception is even worse in the dark. I coated my legs in cheese while trying to shake some onto the popcorn.)
There's a colloquial distinction between quality films and "popcorn flicks," and after going through the ordering and bill-paying procedure during a movie I'm tempted to say there should be a new category. Maybe a "menu movie," one where the plot is so minimal you can spare minutes at a time to flip through the menu to decide what to order. Elyisum was a great movie to test run the whole process since, fun as it is, nothing happens in it that you can't guess will happen. Seriously, I dare you to be surprised by anything in it.
I left the popcorn mound defeated, less than a quarter of it eaten. The credits rolled and I waddled down the aisle to the exit, already planning my next Alamo meal. Most likely it's going to involve an alcoholic milkshake. I just need to find the right movie to pair it with.