It’s strange how powerful cinema can be with only 2 of our five senses stimulated: Sight and Sound. At a recent media tour and the soft opening, Training Days of the Alamo Drafthouse in Littleton, I was reminded how this movie lover’s haven captures yet 2 more: tapping the olfactory and taste buds. It’s a fully immersive experience at the Drafthouse and this extends to every detail of the newest theater at the Littleton, Colorado location.
There is a potentially tragic risk in franchising something as pure as the cinema culture that Alamo Drafthouse has cultivated in Austin, Texas. That Drafthouse vibe is very much a product of the People’s Republic of Austin and much could be lost on the road from South Lamar to Littleton. Fret not Colorado – we won’t be a secondhand creative commodity. We are safe in the thoughtful hands of the Alamo Denver family: Tom DeFrancia (Partner and Creative Manager), Tim Casey (General Manager), Seth Rexroad (Executive Chef) and Brian Mills (Bar Manager).
These 4 gentlemen set the tone for the immersive 4 senses to be experienced at an Alamo Drafthouse, and they lead a small army of 150 employees who put on the final touch. The end realization is a moviegoing event that is Austin-inspired and homegrown in Colorado, from the ingredients in the kitchen to the brew in your cup, with 32 local craft beers, Tommy Knockers Root beer, Liks Ice Cream, Pablo’s Coffee, Teakoe Tea and more locals. These are not your typical, overly processed theater concessions either, with buns, dressings, pizza dough and sauces made in-house from scratch.
Even with all these delicious distractions from the cinematic experience, Tom Defrancia assures that their philosophy is true to the Drafthouse ethic: “The film comes first.”
The trained staff graduates from the Drafthouse’s Road Warrior school, which addresses all the specialized skills that come with serving a demanding movie lover. From keeping orders straight in the dark, keeping tabs on the request flags patrons prop up at their tables, and regulating the strict no talking or texting policy – it takes a warrior mentality. From what I’ve seen at the Staff Training Days, soft-opening at the theater, they’ve got what it takes.
Here’s the run down: The movie house has 7 screens, ranging from 40 seats to the largest with 204 seats. The seating is designed so that there isn’t a bad seat in the house, eliminating that neck-cramping first row. There is a 30 minute pre-show before every movie, which in place of the disgusting practice of advertising, Drafthouse programs hilarious shorts from classic cartoons, viral videos and cult movie trailers to wet your appetite. The theater is on the cutting edge with Sony 4K Digital projection and is RealD (3D) capable in 2 theaters, plus 35mm projection, which is the only theater capable of such in the South Metro area, and 2nd only to the Sie FilmCenter in Denver.
As the theater serves Alcohol, it is an 18-and-older experience, unless accompanied by an adult. At the risk of offending what are probably respectful young adults, this in itself will probably eliminate the often daunting experience of moviegoing at first run new releases. I can’t tell you how many teenagers I’ve shushed at any number of theaters, and it just stresses me out and makes it awkward for everyone involved. I’ve had to leave my movie and wait patiently for a manager, who will ultimately do nothing about the noisy overgrown brats causing a disturbance. At Drafthouse, all of that changes and with a simple request written on a small piece of paper, your server will handle the situation, while you continue to enjoy all 4 of your senses, without having to use your 5th (touch) for exaggerated shushing.
The Littleton location will also make time at the theater for Baby Days, which will allow parents earlier showtimes to have run of the theater without the stress of offending someone else’s experience. A practice the airline industry could certainly learn something from. Though the real Drafthouse will come alive, once the interactive events start to roll out, where talking, even yelling is encouraged at quote-alongs, sing-alongs and a lot more crazy antics ready to change what you thought going to the movies was all about.
Originally published at milehighcinema.com