The moment I walked into the new Alamo Drafthouse in downtown LA, as a filmmaker and fan of cinema, I felt like I was finally at home. You enter to find a ticket counter lined with a wall of VHS sleeves.
A few steps away is a retail area with all kinds of movie and pop culture merchandise. Shirts, pint glasses, toxic avenger action figures even your favorite soundtracks on vinyl are for sale.
Then is a video rental area called Video Vortex. This was the first element of Alamo Drafthouse that was so good it was hard to believe. Around 40,000 DVD’s and Blu-rays available to rent….. absolutely free! You just register at no cost and then you can check out up to two movies for up to four nights. After four days late fees apply. I was overwhelmed by how great their inventory is, everything from mainstream comedies to rare cult classics and out of print foreign titles. They even have criterion collection releases. For my first visit I picked out the legendary Larry Cohen film Bone, and the low budget indie Bass Ackwards.
As if that wasn’t enough to give you all the retro feels, a row of classic arcade games are there for your enjoyment.
Across from those arcades is a bar worth stopping by. There you can imbibe over 45 beers on tap and order food from their select menu. Keeping with theme, the menu at the bar is enclosed in a VHS case (see photo below). 80’s nostalgia achieved, thank you Alamo Drafthouse.
Perhaps the best is yet to come, when it’s time to enter for your screening. They announce it over the intercom and begin seating around 30 minutes before showtime. The halls that lead to the 12 theaters are lined with colorful murals of classic movie posters from a bygone era.
Trust me, you’ll want to enter your screening ahead of showtime because you get full service inside the theater and can order from their full menu of signature food and drink items. Outstanding variety here, Tex-mex style comfort food or healthy salads and vegan options are served up. If that is not enough, they have liquor infused adult milk shakes.
The code of ethics Alamo Drafthouse is known for is made clear in a short video right before the screening. This disclaimer says “This theater is now a quite zone. No use of cellphones or talking is permitted. If you do that you will be given one warning, after that you will be asked to leave the theater with no refund.”
We have all been there before, movies ruined because of some rude idiot on his cell phone or teenagers talking throughout “A Quiet Place.” It is moments like this we wish all movie theaters had these strict rules to enforce basic respect for a movie going audience. As a filmmaker I certainly appreciate a policy like this as well. At least we can be guaranteed a good night at the movies at Alamo Drafthouse.
Instead of the common modern pre-screening movie trailers and advertisements, Alamo Drafthouse plays a carefully curated line-up of retro content that relates to the movie you are about to see. For example, I was in a screening for The Art Of Self Defense, and delighted in watching old advertisements for karate schools and trailers for movies like Three Ninjas: Kick Back and The Karate Kid.
In summation, The Alamo Drafthouse is sure to be a landmark of downtown LA. It is conveniently located at The Bloc shopping center which has a subway stop at 7th and metro. The staff is friendly and just as enthusiastic about cinema as you are. This is a film fan’s soggy dream come true. I’ll see you at the movies…. and make no mistake, Alamo Drafthouse DTLA is the place to see them.