“You’ve shown us the price people are willing to pay for a good show,” hissed Dean Highbottom to Coriolanus Snow on the state-of-the-art Alamo Drafthouse screen during a showing of “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.”
It’s no secret that the film industry is a fickle and incredibly risky business — for every “Barbenheimer” moment there’s plenty of box office failures, such as that of Cats (2019).
Nowadays, one of the safest ways to cut your losses as a movie studio is to simply pull your movie from theaters and throw it onto a streaming service. But, this tactic leaves one major player high and dry: movie theaters.
As more and more movies continue to underperform and audiences lose interest, movie theaters around the country have had to close up shop.
While this has been a steady decline over the past decade, the advent of COVID-19 has sped it up significantly. One such victim was the ShowPlace ICON Theatre, which closed in 2021 after three years of business due to pandemic-induced challenges.
However, a strange thing happened on Nov. 17 — the Alamo Drafthouse Movie theater opened its doors at the very same Seaport address.
With its constantly improving projectors and movie screens, the Alamo Drafthouse is no ordinary theater. Unlike most movie theater chains, it seems its goal is not to simply make a profit — though that would certainly be a bonus — but to provide people with a truly magical viewing experience.
They attempt to achieve this by putting extremely strict guidelines in place for moviegoers. The two most important: no late admission and absolutely no talking or texting. Now, while I admit that, as a chronic movie talker, I had to go into this theater alone so as to not tempt myself with side conversations, I still appreciated their commitment to not disturbing the audience experience.
You might be thinking that this is all sounding pretty draconian, but the strict rules do not create a cold experience. Although the Drafthouse does not allow late admission to any movies, it also has a lenient exchange policy which allows you to exchange your ticket lost to tardiness for any other later show time.
As I went into my screening of “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” I wasn’t sure what to expect. As a chronically late person, I showed up to the movie 20 minutes early so as to not be barred from entering.
I was greeted with an attendant, Gerry, at the entrance of the theater who scanned my ticket and led me to my seat.
As you wait for the film to start, you’re shown behind the scenes footage of the movie and interviews with cast members rather than movie trailers on repeat.
If this doesn’t interest you, you’re also able to kill some time by ordering anything off the theater’s menu. Each seat has a menu for you to peruse throughout the movie should you want to order anything, with a “last call” around the three-quarter mark of the film.
The process of ordering is extremely simple and unobtrusive to the experience. You simply write your food selection on a slip of paper and buzz the button on the tray table attached to the seat.
Afterwards, your attendant will pick the order up and bring you the food when ready.
Of course, to get the full experience, I decided to try out one of their burgers. After having successfully (and stealthily) ordered my meal, it only took around eleven minutes for the food to arrive.
While it wasn’t exactly gourmet quality, it was by far the best movie theater food I’d ever had.
At this point I think it’s important to mention the price of this entire endeavor. When purchasing my ticket online, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it was a mere $11, where AMC charges a hefty $21 for a ticket to the same movie.
While the food is a similar price to what you’d find in other theaters, Alamo Drafthouse offers infinite free popcorn refills, and the food’s quality was impressive for a movie theater.
Now while the amenities are all well and good, the most important part of any movie experience is the actual quality of the screen and sound system. I’m delighted to have only good things to say about it.
Unfortunately, I chose to watch the new Hunger Games movie which, despite being a great movie in its own right, did not allow the theater to display its full potential.
I did get a glimpse of it, however, during the very short advertisement section right before the film started. They showed a trailer for the new Hayao Miyazaki movie I’d just seen at an AMC theater, “The Boy and the Heron,” and the difference was staggering.
The stylized animations were clear and vivid. It felt like they were dancing along the screen in their shimmering colors.
As I was contemplating how this theater, with advanced sound systems and projectors, kind and abundant wait staff and above average food with large portions is planning on staying afloat, I realized their strategy:Keep the price of admission so much lower than their competitors, show reverence to the watching experience and offer opportunities to spend a couple of hours truly losing yourself in a movie.
This is how they’ve attracted so many people.