To help clarify a few things, Cinematical was able to have a brief chat with Alamo Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League. So if you're wondering what kind of plans he has in store for Drafthouse Films or when there might be an Alamo Drafthouse near you, read on. [Spoiler Alert: NY and LA film folk, Tim League is going to be personally changing the way you watch movies.]
Cinematical: How's it going?
Tim League: Oh, you know, I'm alright. Kind of busy, but it's a good busy.
Cinematical: I imagine so. The news of Drafthouse Films came out of the blue and when I saw the press release I instantly thought, "Holy sh*t, this is huge!", so I'd first like to just say congratulations.
League: Thank you, thank you very much. We've been working on it for a little while, so it's not totally out of the blue for us.
Cinematical: Is this something you could only have only done once you became the CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse again?
League: Yes, that was one of the issues why we didn't pursue it actively before. It's something that we've thought about, and with the development of the festival and us getting more in tune with that side of the business it seemed like a natural progression for us. But yes, all of this couldn't come together until we merged the company and I came back on as CEO. Once that happened we had the parlor talk of these kind of ideas and that's how it started.
Cinematical: Have you come up with a sort of singular motive for Drafthouse Films or are you going to just pick up any amazing films you think are getting swept under the rug?
League: We don't have a target number of releases. Four Lions is a great example. It's a film I saw on the festival circuit – I saw it at Sundance and loved it – and because it didn't find distribution in the States that opened up the window for us to take a look at it and think about it as a release for Drafthouse Films. So while there's no set number, we're always going to be on the lookout for films that we feel we can handle, that we feel it's important for them to get out. Who knows, we're going to take it slowly. But that's the idea; just the type of films that we, me and the other programmers at the Alamo, are passionate about and want to share with the rest of the country.
Cinematical: Very cool. So what's the next stop for you? Are you going to be going to TIFF or are you in full Fantastic Fest mode now?
League: I'm going up to TIFF for just a couple days. Who knows what I'll see, I'm mainly there to take a couple meetings and probably watch a few movies. But because Fantastic Fest is now two weeks away I've got a lot to worry about here.
Cinematical: Well I know you go to a lot of festivals already to scout for Fantastic Fest and the Drafthouse, so on a personal level is this going to change the way that you do business? Where do you think you'll draw the line between titles you'd be interested in distributing and titles just to play at the Drafthouse?
League: That's the interesting thing, I don't think there is a line anymore. We're not going to be one of those players that goes out and bids against Warner Bros and Fox Searchlight the opening weekend of Toronto. We're always looking for new films just for the Alamo Drafthouse and the Austin market, so when the Drafthouse theaters expand there's opportunity there for a wider sense of distribution. It's building this infrastructure and assembling this team that will allow us to a release a film.
It's not that much different from building a local campaign for the Drafthouse and the Austin market, it's just that on a national level it's more expensive.
Cinematical: Do you have any immediate plans, at least that you can share, of Drafthouse theater expansions to other cities?
League: We've got two avenues for expansion. The past several years the company has had a franchise model and we're actively recruiting new franchise partners to open up in other markets. At the same time, I'm going to try to oversee some in house expansion. We want to open up in New York and L.A. hopefully within the next year, year-and-a-half. And that will tie in well with the potential distribution channels to have a presence in New York and L.A.
Cinematical: It sounds like your plans are similar to the Landmark and Magnolia model of expanding the theaters you can show your own films in, though obviously they'll be shown in non-Drafthouse theaters as well. Is that the ultimate goal?
League: Right, right. Yeah, Landmark is an interesting example. They definitely have the same type of structure but on a much bigger scale. We're not going to grow extremely quickly on either front; building too many theaters or taking on too many distribution projects. Slow and steady and as we can handle it. But for sure some of the efficienies that Mark Cuban has with his organization are interesting and something along those lines is definitely a possibility down the road.
Cinematical: Do you have a second title in the pipeline or are you just going to play it by ear and see what comes along?
League: We're going to play it by ear. We're going to push out Four Lions and see how we do. When the time comes and the right project comes we'll talk about title number two.