Alamo’s long-de­layed down­town mul­ti­plex is set to open in 2018

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Ryan Faugh­n­der ryan.faugh­n­der@la­

For two decades, mav­er­ick the­ater chain Alamo Draft­house Cin­ema has at­tracted a cult fol­low­ing with its spe­cial events, in-seat food and beer ser­vice, and themed movie nights.

But Alamo has never had a pres­ence in L.A., the home­town of the movie busi­ness.

That will change next year when the Austin com­pany opens Alamo Draft­house Down­town, its long-de­layed down­town Los An­ge­les lo­ca­tion, as The Times re­ported Thurs­day.

The 12-screen Alamo in Los An­ge­les will seat 560 peo­ple in au­di­to­ri­ums equipped with 4K dig­i­tal pro­jec­tion. The the­ater will also have the abil­ity to project old-fash­ioned 35-mil­lime­ter films. Pa­trons will be able to or­der lo­cally in­spired cui­sine and bev­er­ages while sit­ting in their seats. The mul­ti­plex will have an ad­join­ing bar with home­town brews and cock­tails.

Alamo shows a mix of in­die, for­eign and spe­cialty films along with Hol­ly­wood fare. Many of its prac­tices, such as in-the­ater food and al­co­hol ser­vice, have been widely em­braced by the rest of the in­dus­try.

Yet Alamo’s en­try in the L.A. mar­ket has faced lengthy de­lays. The the­ater was first an­nounced three years ago, as a key com­po­nent of the mas­sive over­haul of the Bloc, an ag­ing mall at 7th and Flower streets. But the much-pub­li­cized project ran into ma­jor dif­fi­cul­ties, fall­ing 18 months be­hind sched­ule and soar­ing $70 mil­lion over bud­get.

With the project back on­line, Alamo is ful­fill­ing its long­time am­bi­tion to tap into L.A. Bring­ing the chain to Los An­ge­les was a pri­mary goal of Alamo’s out­spo­ken founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive, Tim League, when he an­nounced na­tion­wide ex­pan­sion plans sev­eral years ago.

“Los An­ge­les, be­ing the home of this in­dus­try, is the most im­por­tant city from which to build ex­cite­ment about film,” he said. “Not only is the in­dus­try here, but the in­dus­try that builds buzz and aware­ness about movies is here.”

Tim and Kar­rie League founded Alamo Draft­house Cin­ema in 1997 as a one-screen mom-and-pop the­ater in Austin. The com­pany has since grown to 27 the­aters (in­clud­ing a lo­ca­tion in San Francisco) and has broad­ened its busi­ness by re­cently launch­ing film dis­trib­u­tor Neon. It also owns the pop­u­lar film web­site Birth. Movies. Death. It was among the first the­aters to serve al­co­hol.

Alamo is fa­mous for en­forc­ing a strict no-talk­ing and no-tex­ting pol­icy, which has led to the ouster of some at­ten­dees. In 2011, the com­pany fa­mously re­leased a “pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ment” that in­cluded a pro­fan­ity-laced voice­mail from an an­gry cus­tomer who was thrown out of a screen­ing for tex­ting.

The com­pany has not shied away from pub­lic­ity or con­tro­versy. Last week­end, the chain hosted women-only screen­ings for “Won­der Woman,” which led to some male grip­ing on so­cial me­dia.

The ex­pan­sion of Alamo comes as other the­aters are ex­pand­ing their own fancy the­ater ex­pe­ri­ences to in­crease ticket sales af­ter years of de­clin­ing at­ten­dance. Florida-based IPic The­aters, with lo­ca­tions in West­wood and Pasadena, of­fers a restau­rant-style food and drink menu that pa­trons or­der from their seats. Ar­cLight Cin­e­mas, with its six L.A. area lo­ca­tions, also wines and dines its movie­go­ers.

Ma­jor the­ater chains have in­vested heav­ily in up­grad­ing their own of­fer­ings with re­cliner seat­ing and lounges. AMC The­atres, Cinepo­lis USA and Cine­mark all now have lux­ury mul­ti­plexes in the Los An­ge­les area. Still, League said Alamo can thrive in L.A.

“I love see­ing other great the­aters op­er­ate well and be suc­cess­ful,” League said. “I feel like Alamo will of­fer enough unique and en­ter­tain­ing op­tions with our pro­gram­ming and our food and bev­er­age that we’ll all be able to co­ex­ist quite nicely.”

League hopes to open ad­di­tional the­aters in L.A., he said. He was drawn to down­town be­cause of its ac­cess to pub­lic trans­porta­tion and its growth as a hub for busi­nesses and res­i­dents.

Al­though down­town has a deep and grow­ing list of pop­u­lar restau­rants and con­cert venues, the area has long lacked cin­ema op­tions. The only ma­jor the­ater down­town is the re­cently re­mod­eled Re­gal L.A. Live mul­ti­plex.

“It’s another notch in the belt for down­town, and another chance to say, ‘This is where it’s at,’ ” said Jeff Bock, an an­a­lyst who fol­lows the cin­ema in­dus­try with Ex­hibitor Re­la­tions.

Stu­dio One Eleven

A REN­DER­ING of the 12-screen Alamo Draft­house Down­town. It will seat 560 peo­ple in au­di­to­ri­ums with 4K dig­i­tal pro­jec­tion.

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