Sit down and settle in. Order a burger, some chips and queso, or a themed cocktail. Take in the pre-show entertainment. But whatever you do, no talking.
You probably already know the business we’re featuring today: that’s right, Austin’s own Alamo Drafthouse. We’re talking about the story of this cult cinema’s rise to widespread success.
- The first Alamo Drafthouse opened at 409 Colorado St. in 1997.
- In addition to offering a dinner-and-a-movie experience, the chain is known for hosting themed showings, premieres, festivals, and a range of films from art house cinema to Marvel blockbusters.
- Alamo Drafthouse has a zero-tolerance policy for talking or using a cell phone during screenings. You will be kicked out.
Cannibals and parking garages
When Tim and Karrie League opened the first Alamo Drafthouse, Austin was seeing a strong — but still growing — film scene.
That first theater set up shop on the second floor of a parking garage with a handbuilt screen, showing second-run titles at a discount. Thanks in part to word-of-mouth marketing and a welcoming for the weird, the theater quickly became a local favorite.
Alamo Drafthouse’s dinner service — in part inspired by hosting Quentin Tarantino’s meat-centered Cannibal Film Festival in 1999 — was a rarity for cinema-goers at the time. Over the years, Alamo maintained its experimentation with innovation and technology, even becoming one of the first theaters in the US to offer digital tickets.
Alamo Drafthouse now has five locations in Austin, 18 in Texas, and 39 in the US, plus soon-to-open theaters in Massachusetts, Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida. The chain’s South Lamar location was recently remodeled, to add a 10th auditorium and recliner seating.