Alamo DrafthouseWhenever I've tried to explain to people that the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema company is not the same as the three Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters that founders Tim and Karrie League own in Austin, everyone ends up confused, including me. The Leagues sold the company in 2004 -- except for three theaters, for which they licensed the Alamo name back from the company -- and it's never been entirely clear to me what role, if any, they had in the franchise after that. What we do know is that they've built a solid reputation for combining movies, dining and other entertainment with their three Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters.

Today, it's a lot simpler. Effective immediately, Tim League is assuming the role of CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, and has plans to oversee and expand the brand's franchise operations. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema currently has nine locations spread throughout Austin, the greater Houston area, San Antonio and Winchester, Virginia. League hopes to lure franchise operators to open Alamo Drafthouse theaters in other parts of the U.S.

It appears that as of this announcement, all the Alamo theaters including the ones the Leagues own are now under a single umbrella, which at least makes it all easier to explain. It also means that with League at the helm, Alamo franchise theaters are likely to resemble the three League-owned theaters more closely in terms of menu, programming and special events. The current Alamo Drafthouse Cinema theaters all offer food and beer/wine with the movies they screen, but most focus primarily on first-run Hollywood movies. They don't have quite the variety of programming you'd find at the League-owned Alamo Ritz, for example, where the schedule can include classic Hollywood movies, sing-alongs, 1970s exploitation flicks and locally made indie features all within a single week.

League says he is looking at "expanding some of the signature programming that has been developed over the past few years in Austin and expanding it to our franchised locations." I believe this is one of the things that gives Alamo an edge over other movie theaters -- making a movie outing more like a special event, so you feel like you're getting an experience you could not possibly have in your living room, and also feel like you're getting good value for money. Maybe it's a special guest at a premiere screening of a big Hollywood movie, maybe it's a four-course feast served during a film, but it's all a great way of keeping the theatrical experience alive and kicking. League also is one of the founders of Fantastic Fest and owns an entertainment-and-event bar/restaurant called The Highball adjacent to one of his Alamo theaters. Sometimes I wonder if he ever sleeps.

Tim and Karrie League filed a lawsuit in March 2009 against Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, then-CEO John Martin, and others involved in the company, claiming they were misled by the company's partners about the level of franchise expansion and growth that would occur. Apparently the Leagues retained some partnership interest in the company even after they sold it. The press release announcing Tim League as CEO does not mention this lawsuit, and the obvious question is whether this move is a resolution of that disagreement. The announcement also notes that former CEO Martin will work on the expansion of the franchise outside of Texas as an area developer.

"I feel ready to share the results of our Austin 'incubator' with the rest of the country," League said in the press release. Is the rest of the country ready for Alamo Drafthouse?
CATEGORIES Movies, Cinematical