The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema opened in Austin, Texas in 1997 and quickly became legend amongst movie goers. Created by cinephiles for cinephiles, the theater became famous not only for its content–ranging from first run movies to Award-winning classics to grindhouse films to Cinemascope favorites of years gone by–but also its policies against talking and cell phone usage in the theaters. Adding to the legend is the fact that you can get food and alcoholic drinks deliver right to your seat. For a lot of people, this seems like a small slice of heaven.
Unfortunately, it seemed like a slice of heaven that you would have to travel to Austin to experience. Then, the Drafthouse started expanding, first in Texas, then to Virginia, Michigan, Colorado and then Metropolitan New York area.
The chain opened a location on Central Avenue in Yonkers, New York in August of 2013. I’ve passed buy it a number of times in my travels, and made a promise to myself to stop by for a visit. Well, I fulfilled that promise this Saturday.
Since I couldn’t find much online that explained what it was like to see a movie at Alamo Drafthouse before I went, I decided to give all the FBOL readers a review of the experience. Naturally, each and every movie going experience is different for each and every person, and my experience had some variations that you might not necessarily have if you went. However, I hope for this to be a primer for anyone thinking of going or a kind of replacement for a visit if there is not an Alamo Drafthouse near you.
The first thing you’ll notice as enter the Yonkers location is a foyer with two computer ticketing kiosks. While these kind of kiosks are found in every theater, my first instinct was to think this was the only way Alamo Drafthouse sells its tickets. We bought our tickets for 22 Jump Street at the machines.
Having used these type of computers before–and hating it, I’ll say that Alamo Drafthouse’s machine worked smoothly, quickly and intuitively. This is with the added step of having to pick your seat, because all of Alamo Drafthouse’s seats are reserved.
Another good thing is that every showing before 4pm is at matinee prices, giving you more chances to save some money while catching a flick.
We made our way to our seats. One of the pieces of information you can find about the theater is that the room is essentially made up of clusters of cabaret tables. Not so in our theater. Our theater had several rows of comfy chairs separated by long, bar-like counters. These counters were deep enough to hold all our food and drinks, and the seats were some of the most comfortable that I’ve sat in.
It turns out that my wife and I were the only two people at this showing, so we couldn’t see the legendary rules become and issue. However, during the pre-film entertainment, the theater does clearly and emphatically spell out the rules. If you talk or use your phone during a film, and someone complains about it, you get a warning. If you continue to talk or text, you will be removed without a refund. Also, the theater will not seat you if you arrive after the show has started. Strict, yes, but not quite as harsh as they could be.
Another cool thing about the pre-film entertainment that it is tailored to the film you are seeing. Granted, there are ads for special events at the theater, but what we got most were talk show interviews with Jonah Hill, a SNL skit featuring Channing Tatum, clips from 21 Jump Street and several Funny or Die clips with Dave Franco and Nick Offerman. I found this an excellent way to get into the mood for the film we were about to see.
Now, on to the food and drink. The menu is quite thick, but the fare is primarily pub grub-burgers. pizzas and salads. However, the portions are big and filling, although it is hard to eat a meal in a darkened movie theater. I’d recommend getting there early to peruse the menu and be able to ask the waiter any questions before the film starts.
The ordering process goes like this once the film starts. In front of every seat was a number of order cards and a pen. If during the film you want a refill on your soda or popcorn (both are bottomless) or any other menu item, there will be a waiter in the back of the theater. Simply write down what you want, lift the order card and the waiter will come and pick up your order and then come back with it a few minutes later. I don’t know how well this works with a crowded theater, but with just the two of us, it worked out exceptionally well.
Half the menu is devoted to drinks. The theater has a wide variety of alcoholic beverages. You can get everything from craft beers, wine, cocktails and even liquor-infused Adult Milkshakes. The selection in each category is extensive.
As for the theater itself, the sound was good, the screen nice and big and the experience was better than most other theaters in the area. And the workers were helpful and friendly. No complaints there.
The theater also offers a number of reissued films, movie marathons, kids days and theme months (July’s theme was Play This Series Loud, dedicated to rock and roll in films). And every month the print out a free magazine, written by the creative minds behind BadAss Digest, tying into the months theme.
All in all, I had a positive experience there. I definitely want to go back, perhaps on a kids day with my daughter or to see a reissued classic on the big screen. I don’t know if it could ever life up to its legend, but the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema comes pretty darn close.