Monday, August 19, 2013

A Week (Or So) At The Alamo Drafthouse Richardson

So, the day has come and gone; we had the grand opening of the new Alamo Drafthouse Richardson. This was a pretty busy week where Jonesy spent four days in a row, and I spent three days going to various movies and events. Let's go through some of the highlights including the grand opening and some of the special events.

Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League and DFW COO Bill DaGaetano.
Let's get some of the rough stuff out of the way first. If you've seen the Yelp comments on the web site, they are not very kind to the service at all. Having experienced some of said bad service, I can't say I disagree. I'm usually a pretty laid back bro when it comes to the service industry since I worked at a corporate coffee shop, unless service is just horrendous and people are rude. But the service during the first night when we saw ELYSIUM after the ribbon cutting ceremony was pretty terrible with me getting my food only 15 minutes before the movie ended and was still charged for the meal. To the credit of everyone involved, that was during their soft opening, and while it was a terrible first impression, I have faith that they will uphold the reputation of the Drafthouse. I have to admit that my faith paid off. Each time I came back over the various special events, the service and accuracy improved. As with any recently-opened business, there's bound to be kinks so let's wait a little before getting too judgmental.

Now on to the fun stuff! The opening ceremony, which also served as the grand opening of the theater, was as fun as one could expect. We had several people from the local Richardson city council in attendance as well as Alamo founder, Tim League. There was a really cool bottle cutting ceremony you can see the video above as well as the unveiling of A.L.A.M.O./Johnny High Five statue, the very mid-century modern styled robot mascot that will be overlooking the lobby of the theater! You can also check him out on the Twitters here @Johnny_HighFive.

Johnny High Five!
I want to highlight to the two special events: the first one was a rather special one for me since it was the first time I had seen the movie. On Saturday we were treated to a very unique screening of Fritz Lang's seminal 1929 sci-fi film, METROPOLIS. Keep in mind that this is the most "complete" version of the movie which includes footage that was found in an Argentinian museum back in 2008, and I was excited. METROPOLIS has long been on a personal shame list, and I was glad to correct this. The big draw for the screening was a live score that was provided by BL Lacerta. But the best part was the band wasn't going to be playing the original or the 1980's score to the movie. They would be playing a completely improvised and unique score for the entirety of the 2.5 hour running time.

The score itself was an amazing experience. The band was very technically proficient and very versatile adding a very free-style jazz vibe while also retaining the more futuristic aspect of the movie intact. The biggest drawback is that this was indeed a completely unique score, and no one will be able to hear it again. At the same time, I can't think of a better way to kick off the Drafthouse's presence in DFW.

One of the many posters in the lobby.
The second big even of the weekend was the debut of Master Pancake at a Drafthouse. For more info for about Master Pancake and what they're all about, check out our write up of their CONAN: THE BARBARIAN show here. The movie they'd be "commenting" on would be James Cameron's TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY. Having seen the Pancake boys a couple of times already, this was probably my favorite set of theirs. There's just something about Schwartzenegger movie that brings the best out of them. The crowd, despite half of them not seeing them before, was very receptive to the jokes and didn't get too chatty. What's even stranger is that the jokes actually painted the movie in a more ridiculous light that sort of changed my perception of the movie and just how silly it really was.

I have to also mention the special screening of TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE (1986) that I attended on this past Sunday morning. It was originally part of the opening week's robot-based programming. When the screening proved to be rather popular, they were able to squeeze in another screening that would be right before the theater opened and was advertised as a free family screening. As a huge Transformers (not the Michael Bay ones, though) fan, I was beyond happy to be seeing this on the big screen and in 35mm! But what really made the screening special was just hearing the various kids in the audience completely losing their minds and being really into the movie. Some choice quotes: "No, Optimus, please don't die!" "Oh my gawsh, Devastator is cool!" " I want a robot dinosaur, Dad" and my favorite, "The planet turns into a giant robot?!" I talked to a few dads afterwards, and they mentioned that this was their first time to see an old movie like this with their kids on the big screen, so they will definitely come back to the theater if programming like this keeps up.
The GHF sign facing the theater lobby.
And finally, we have the Glass Half Full bar. The bar sit adjacent to the lobby of the theater itself with a patio, comfy chairs, and some very cozy and darkly lit corners. The beer selection is a good mix of local and more well known craft beers from around the country. There's Martin House, Deep Ellum, Abitas, and Stone among other. When I went there recently, they were the only place around that had the Abitas Strawator, a very boozy 8.0% strawberry beer. On the liquor side they had some really good looking cocktails. Unfortunately, I haven't tried all of them yet. They did make a pretty great Old Fashioned on opening night, and that's one of my barometers for a good bar.

What really sets the bar apart is beer cocktails. These are going to be some rather unique beverages that go beyond the standard Michelada and Half & Half (yes, they do have those but they have their own unique twist). One unique local cocktail is the Suero, which uses the Deep Ellum IPA as a base along with a Worcestershire sauce, lime, and Tabasco. Between the atmosphere and the drink selection, I can definitely see that would be a good go-to destination even when I'm not going to see a movie.

So that's about it for the first week of the Drafthouse. It's been a little rough, yes, but the good times will hopefully balance out the next week. I look forward to seeing more of the special programming, delicious food and more good times. Welcome to the neighborhood, guys.

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