Don't Watch That, Watch This

New Alamo Drafthouse in Dallas Is Awesome

The new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in The Cedars is, in a word, awesome. The second Alamo in Dallas-Fort Worth is located on South Lamar Street and the view of the city skyline from the front doors is absolutely majestic. In the lobby, there is an enormous film poster of RoboCop, which was filmed here in Dallas. But that’s just a hint of how well these theaters blend into their communities.

The Austin chain first showed up in North Texas back in 2013 with a spot in Richardson. But this new location in The Cedars is a much more interesting spot near art galleries, music venues and bars. One of the owners, Bill DiGaetano, has been involved with Alamo Drafthouse for 14 years and says he even plans to eventually use the location as part of a new local film festival.

The theater just started its soft opening on Monday with some of the best films of 2015 — like Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina — screening for just a dollar, with food being half off through Thursday. About the food: In this new Alamo Drafthouse theater you have a full menu, a full bar and a server at your disposal while you watch the film. You have a table in front of you and your chair reclines back. If you get stuck in the front row, you can take consolation in having a particularly nice chair with a footrest.

On Thursday night, this latest Alamo Drafthouse location will begin showing new films like Zoolander 2, Where to Invade Next and Deadpool. Food will go to 30 percent off from February 12 through the 14, then to 15 percent off from February 15 to the 21. From February 22 to March 8 your party can enjoy a free order of cookies and then the official grand opening will be March 9.

DiGaetano says there are plans for several more locations in North Texas, but admits that it is hard to describe what makes each one of these theaters so special that they remind some people of going to the movies as children. “I think that it has to do with the fact that these theaters have always been run by movie lovers,” he says. “From top to bottom, our founder, myself, and everyone we hire, it is movie lovers, and I think that comes across. I think that means a lot to people.”

New Alamo Drafthouse theaters also make a point of fitting in with their communities, with programming varying depending on location. “We try to get the community involved,” DiGaetano says. “We try to hire people from the neighborhoods we're in. We’re already in talks with the Dallas Arts District and local Dallas breweries. We just try to bring the vibe of where you are inside.”

The process is so organic that DiGaetano admits that they do not yet know what to expect from this new location, other than expecting it to take on a life of its own. This is a very different approach from many companies who show up with an attitude that seems to be, "This is who we are and this is what you get." “Everything becomes shaped by the people who live in the area,” DiGaetano says.

The experience is very immersive and a very strict no talking or texting policy is key. DiGaetano admits that every once in a while someone thinks it is their right to talk and text in the theater. About once a month or so, they even have to call the police to have someone removed from the theater. But people typically appreciate this policy and it is explained to them before the film starts.

If you need to order food or complain about someone who won’t shut up or put his phone away, just fill out a little card, prop it up and a server appears. Amazingly, there are also no advertisements in these theaters, which makes for an almost otherworldly experience in this day and age. Filmgoers are urged to show up a half-hour before the film starts and a carefully selected video montage that somehow relates to the film you are about to see is typically hilarious and bizarre enough to help draw you in.

“That is one dude who works full time at corporate in Alamo Austin and that is all he does,” DiGaetano says. “He’s the guy who finds those obscure clips and puts them together and it’s an undertaking.”

A screening of Mad Max: Fury Road, an action film that truly tests the limits of a movie theater, in one of these new rooms Monday night confirms that this is a flawless visual experience with sound that could rival any concert venue in the city. The chairs are extremely comfortable and, after sitting in the back row, it is safe to say that there is not a bad seat in the house. Sipping a Blood and Honey and eating fresh food made in house is nothing to sneeze at either.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jeremy Hallock