When it was announced a decade ago that the Alamo Drafthouse would be opening locations in the Houston area, all the cool kids familiar with the experience the theaters offer were elated. Unfortunately for some, those locations happened to be far west of the city in West Oaks Mall and Mason Park in Katy. Now that the West Oaks location has closed to make way for a Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, cinephiles can turn their attention to two new Alamo Drafthouses, one at Vintage Park and another in Midtown.
First to open will be the Drafthouse at Vintage Park, near Tomball Parkway and Louetta. The grand opening of the seven-screen cinema will be Valentine’s Day, but screenings of new releases and classics such as “Ghostbusters,” “Jaws” and Ted Kotcheff’s lost classic “Wake in Fright,” begin Sunday. Films confirmed for the “official” opening weekend include the fifth entry in the “Die Hard” action series, a singalong to Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge,” featuring a live performance by the Houston Burlesque Revue on Thursday, and a professional heckling of “Back to the Future” provided by the master mockers of Master Pancake (Feb. 17).
And for the first time, Houston Drafthouses are being custom built.
“Designing an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema from the ground up allows us to create a unique experience for each theater,” says Robert Saucedo, programming and support manager for the Houston region. “From a small art-house film in an intimate screening room to a summer blockbuster in a 190-seat auditorium — we provide the perfect setting for each movie.”
Each of the auditoriums will be equipped with the latest iterations of Sony’s 4K digital cinema projection, a state-of-the-art sound system, and most will feature ReadD’s 3D technology. Two of the theaters also will sport classic 35mm projectors for screening cult films in their original celluloid format. Several of the theaters also will have stages for events, guest appearances and other live entertainment.
Of course, one of the things that make Drafthouses, well, draft houses, is the fine selection of beers. The theater is partnering with Saint Arnold to offer rare beers such as Saint Arnold’s Divine Reserve No. 4 for the opening.
Opening later this year will be a Midtown location at 2901 Louisiana, the chain’s first facility inside the Loop. Will the Alamo be able to compete with the Landmark River Oaks and the Sundance, both of which offer alcohol and more unique selections than the average multiplex?
Tim League, founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse, says yes.
“I am a firm believer in the studies that indicate home-entertainment options do not significantly compete with outside-the-home entertainment options,” said League. “People tend to first ask, ‘Am I staying home tonight or are we going out?’ If you stay home, iTunes competes with Netflix competes with VOD, and they all compete with just reading a book. If you go out, cinema competes with restaurants, bowling alleys, bars and nightclubs. The challenge we face in the cinema business is keeping our experience compelling and fun. If going to the movies continues to be exciting, the cinema business will remain healthy and vibrant for a long time.”
Jef Rouner is a freelance writer.