It takes a movie theater chain from Austin to prove that L.A.'s downtown revitalization is permanent.
After four years of scouting locations in Los Angeles — some as far west as Westwood — the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has finally chosen a spot to build a nine-screen multiplex: right off the subway at 7th and Metro.
“The biggest factors for us were a cool neighborhood, free parking and transportation connectivity,” says Alamo Drafthouse CEO and co-founder Tim League. “We've been snooping around DTLA for quite a while. Since we first started looking, the transformation has been really significant and doesn't appear to be waning in any way.”
Scheduled to open in 2015, the new theater will be one piece in a $180 million reconstruction project headed by the Ratkovich Company to revamp the 7th and Metro city block and turn it into a partially open air retail district dubbed the BLOC. The Macy's and the Sheraton are staying put, but now the Drafthouse will make the corner cool. And with the city extending a subway access tunnel directly to the BLOC, movie-goers won't even have to go outside to get to their seats.
And once in their seats, they won't have to get up again to get food and booze — the theater has waiters happy to bring you prosciutto and goat cheese burgers and a stiff margarita, or just a simple order of fried pickles, hot wings and beer. The Alamo will be hiring a local chef to oversee a healthier, more Californian menu it's considering extending to the rest of the chain. “That said, you will always be able to cheat with queso, pizza and milkshakes,” assures League.
The Alamo Drafthouse chain has become internet famous for their strict anti-texting policy. When a girl texted anyway, got kicked out and left the theater an irate voicemail, they turned her message into a mocking viral video that's been viewed almost 3.5 million times.
But what really makes the Drafthouse chain stand out is its programming: a mix of first-run popcorn, interesting indie, crowd-pleasing rep films, and quirky special events. In one week in Austin, you can see The Expendables 3, Reservoir Dogs, a schlock gross-out flick called Septic Man, a Monty Python and the Holy Grail quote-a-long, a night of N*SYNC and NKOTB music videos (singing encouraged), a morning of cartoons with all-you-can-eat cereal, and a special five-course dinner that pairs the Helen Mirren foodie flick The Hundred-Foot Journey with coriander-crusted tuna and a mango-fleur de sel lassi.
That's awesome for Austin, but Los Angeles is already crammed with great movie houses. Is the Alamo Drafthouse worried that the city won't make room for one more?
“Yes, for sure there are awesome theaters in Los Angeles,” says League. “The Arclight and the flagship Landmark are fantastic, and I dare say Cinefamily has some of the best programming in the world. But there are over 16 million people in Los Angeles, and in my opinion there is a lot of room for more folks trying to be quality exhibitors. I don't think we'll be elbowing in, but rather creating additional demand.”
Plus, those theaters all have one thing in common: they're west of La Brea. Eastsiders: When the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown opens in 2015, it'll finally be your turn to make the city's cinema nerds jealous.
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