Thursday, August 16, 2012

Alamo Drafthouse DFW Magical Mystery Bus Tour Part 1

As most of you Dallas locals know, we have a brand new theater moving into town, the Alamo Drafthouse. We were lucky to be asked to be part of a group of journalists and movie enthusiasts from the Dallas/Fort Worth area as a way of introducing us to the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson, its owner Bill DiGaetano, and the Drafthouse as a brand. At first, I thought it was a little strange considering that most of the people that I know that are into movies know the greatness that is the Drafthouse. But we found the trip to be rather informative and reinforces the need for a place like this in Dallas. If you want to follow some of the chatter that was going on that day, you can follow the #AlamoMystery hashtag on Twitter. We do encourage people to comment and let us know what they want to see the Drafthouse do when it eventually opens. I know that we are personally excited for some original and eccentric programming. I'll be writing a recap of the first half of the trip, and Jonesy will be covering the rest tomorrow.

To begin, the new theater will be located in the southwest corner of Belt Line and Central Expressway in Richardson. If you live anywhere near there, you'll know that there's absolutely no reason why you would want to go there, unless you want to go to Party City for some reason.  Part of the reason that the Drafthouse is opening up in that location is because they are trying to revitalize the area as a restaurant and nightlife destination with the Drafthouse at the center of it. There are additional plans to renovate other sections of the center that will have restaurants and bars.

Just another cool robot hanging out in front of Slaughter Lane.
As for the movie theater itself, there's plans to open up it sometime between April and June of 2013. According to Bill, they really want to be open before the busy summer season hits. The plans for the theater call for seven screens, the biggest of which will seat up to 250 people. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, out of the seven screens, there will be two screens that will only seat about 45 people. Now, Bill did tell us that there indeed will be two to three screens that will be suited for 35 mm, and the rest of the screens will have top of the line digital projection. What is not known yet, or at least no one asked about is how the tables are going to be arranged. I know that when the newest Drafthouse in Slaughter Lane in Austin opened, the Studio Movie Grill-like arrangement for the tables were a bit controversial. In regards to the seating, they are going to ensure that any and all seating is comfortable. For example, the first row of seats will be placed right above the screen and will be lined up so you don't have to look up to see the full screen.

The Drafthouse in Austin is known for their food and drinks and in Richardson, that won't be changing either. The plan is to have 30-40 different beers on tap and in bottles. When asked about what local breweries would be included, Bill informed us that there will be most certainly be included especially since so many of them have opened up recently. There will also be a full array of cocktails all created by Drafthouse beverage director, Bill Norris. I'm not personally much a liquor fella, but I can say that they make a damn fine Old Fashioned and I can't wait to see what unique drinks we'll be getting.

Building Manager Derek Dodd giving us the Slaughter Lane tour
One of the things that interested me the most and I think a lot of our readers is what sort of original programming this location of the Drafthouse would have. At this point, there is nothing 100% concrete that we report about. When I asked Bill specifically about running series like Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday, and the Sing-a-Longs and he said that they are open to that possibility. Because they are wanting to have this theater be a "reflection of the community," the details haven't been locked down but they are open to feedback and suggestions about what we want to see shown. I know that I would love to see older movies in 35mm shown at midnight much like another movie theater in town except without the loudmouth fratboys.

Super dark 35 mm prints!
When we finally got to Austin, we got to tour the new Slaughter Lane location, where we got to see some of the behind the scenes looks at their food operations and how their staff is trained to handle lots of orders with accuracy in a short period of time. Then, we got to tour the projection areas with Lars Nilsen, one of the programmers for the Drafthouse. Lars programs the Weird Wednesday screening series that my friends and I follow here in Dallas and hearing him talk about films was a real treat. The Slaughter Lane location has stacks and stack of 35 mm prints in cases. Lars went on to say that a lot of these prints were rescued from being thrown out and were the last existing copies of a particular movie. It was such a great display of the passion that this whole group of people hold for films and I hope to see this translated into some great events and programming in Richardson.

That's it for me, as I mentioned before, look for Jonesy's write up of the last half of the tour, including our first Master Pancake Experience. On my behalf, thanks to Kelly Kitchens and Bill for organizing the trip and thanks to Drafthouse for having us last Friday.

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