Alamo Drafthouse Brings Movie Nostalgia To DTLA With New Theater — And A 40,000-Title Video Store
Unlike Regal's massive multiplex at L.A. Live, downtown's new cinema features smaller theaters, in-seat food service and retail space. It's the latest outpost of Texas-based chain Alamo Drafthouse.
The Alamo is known for a less blockbuster-centric programming approach, along with taking movies real seriously. That's clear standing in front of the theater's marquee, with The Lion King listed right alongside lower-budget films like Booksmart and arthouse documentaries like Hail Satan?
Company CEO Tim League is a self-professed movie nerd, and it shows at the new Alamo, nestled inside The Bloc shopping center off of Flower.
Adjacent to the bar — which serves up movie-themed cocktails, of course — there's also a retail space where you can pick up some Back to the Future socks or a drink cozy sporting the carpet pattern from the Overlook Hotel. Alamo calls this space the Video Vortex, which also includes vintage arcade games and free-to-play board games.
You can peruse tchotchkes and watch a film inebriated at several Arclight cinemas, too. What really sets the DTLA Alamo apart is the option for patrons to not only enjoy a night out at the movies, but rent (borrow?) a movie for free.
"I was a child of the '80s, and the video store experience was really important to me in developing me as a movie nerd," League said. "And I miss that."
The rental library at Video Vortex is more than 40,000 titles strong, and League promises there are both blockbuster classics and obscure foreign language films swirling around. There is some fine print, which you can read about here.
Alamo has also partnered with Vidiots, the beloved (closed) rental store-turned-nonprofit, to offer director talks and film screenings. A portion of the proceeds from merch sales at Video Vortex will go to Vidiots, League said.
"The idea is to further their mission, to do fundraising for them, to do programming partnerships with them so that they can raise money to build their own brick-and-mortar and revive the Vidiots video store on their terms," he said.
Upstairs from Video Vortex, the hallway that leads to the theater's 12 screens is lined with Italian and French movie posters from the '60s and '70s, a project curated by League. Inside the screening rooms, the seats recline for maximum comfort; the projection tech is both state-of-the-art and capable of running film. The Alamo will screen Quentin Terrantino's newly released Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in 35 millimeter.
League said his establishments haven't always been so posh. This isn't his first California theater, either — that was a now-defunct 50- seat arthouse cinema in Bakersfield called "the Tejon."
"Oh, we failed miserably," League said. "I was 24, got into the movie business with zero experience. We lived there, we lived behind the screen. It taught us the business and we were able to escape."
In a space dominated by chains like Regal and AMC, League said he's confident there's room for Alamo Drafthouse, even as movie theater attendance is on the decline.
Maybe streaming hasn't killed the video store after all.