The Alamo Drafthouse officially opens on Thursday, capping off a grueling four-year wait for fans of the Austin chain looking forward to drinking a beer and eating some queso while watching a film. If you pop by this week however, you can catch a few preview movies as the theater works out the kinks before opening day (and with half-price food, too). The Drafthouse, with locations in 22 cities across the country, is certainly the big name in in-theater dining, but it faces a lot of competition in New York. Nitehawk has been operating a smaller theater in Williamsburg for years, and is expanding to a second location in Park Slope next year.
Last night, Alamo founder Tim League led a media tour through the theater, located at the top of the new City Point development in Downtown Brooklyn. Then Sam and I, who both in the spring got the chance to check out an Alamo theater in Austin, popped in to see a film (the perfect misandrist Halloween revenge fantasy Ms. 45) to get the full experience. Here are the 10 best things you’ll find at the new theater — and some things that left us feeling a little bit disappointed.
Ticket prices ain’t too bad
Prices for first-run movies at Alamo run
$12 $14.50 (preview shows this week are cheaper) — not counting special events, 3D, 4D, 1D or whatever other upgrades. Matinees (first show of the day) cost $11. Tix for the UA on Court Street, for instance, run $15.50 on Fandango; a ticket to a movie at BAM costs $14. You get to reserve your seat too.
The freaky House of Wax bar
The House of Wax bar is a watering hole next to the lobby that you can hang out in before/after your movie starts, or anytime, really. It looks like a mashup between the Morbid Anatomy Museum and the Coney Island freakshow: the walls are lined with oddities and medical sculptures, with more than 100 anatomical models purchased from a collection of a 19th-century wax museum in Berlin.
It’s not the most appetizing place to grab a drink: It’s got models of gross, festering body parts, tracheotomy procedures, full-body figures showing a cesarean birth, tuberculosis ridden lungs, and an “adult” section behind some red velvet curtains that shows syphilitic penises and other medical procedures. But it’s definitely grabbing the title of freakiest place to drink in increasingly Manhattan-ized Downtown Brooklyn. Plus, it’s got 48 taps of craft beer (with another 48 in the upstairs theater), and creepily named cocktails like “Napoleon Death Mask.”
The theater has its own indoor bike racks, though they’re slightly strangely placed: one rack is inside the main entrance, the other is up an escalator on the first-floor landing. I didn’t see any exterior bike racks by the entrance to the theater, so this is a good way to not worry about your bike being stolen (or rained on) while you’re watching the Trolls movie.
The stringent no-cellphone policy
Besides in-seat dining, Alamo’s strict no-phones policy is its most well-known feature. They’re serious about it, and encourage you to snitch on your fellow theater goers if you catch someone’s screen light up. They will even turn your complaints about it into a pre-roll warning, like the video above. They’re bringing this policy with them to Brooklyn, where in-theater phone use has been on an unfortunate creep upwards lately, so we welcome it.
UPDATE: Alamo created four new anti-cell phone messages just for the Brooklyn theater starring Janeane Garofalo, Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Rock, the cast of Don’t Think Twice and High Maintenance’s Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld.
The theater comes with a slice of rooftop space that will be turned into a bar or a TBD-event space. It’s got a nice view of the city skyline, until it’s inevitably gobbled up by new Downtown Brooklyn development in a year or so, of course.
It’s ample! They had to leave room for the hunched servers to make their way to your seat while the movie is on, after all.
The theater drink menu offers a chance to get a Tecate done “Wild Style” with lime, salt and hot sauce. Around here we call those “micheladas,” but hey, these guys are from Texas, so we’ll cut them a break.
The King Kong photo
The lobby has this DIY King Kong photo set; just pick a black and white filter and you’ll look like a tragically misunderstood and abused natural wonder that understandably went bezerk.
A soundtrack-specific record store
Alamo has its own record label called Mondo, which also makes T-shirts and other merch. The House of Wax bar has a mini record store in it, where you can buy special Mondo releases of movie soundtracks and the like. Alamo founder Tim League said you can expect the bar to host music events in the near future.
Local food on menu
Trying to up its NYC bonafides, Alamo turned to local vendors to help fill out its menu, including Salumeria Biellese, Murray’s Cheese, OddFellows Ice Cream and Toby’s Estate Coffee.
AND FOUR NOT-SO-GREAT THINGS
It’s kind of in a mall
CityPoint is still being developed, but it’s got a fancy mall-vibe to it, which may or may not be your bag. The building will eventually contain a Trader Joe’s, a Target and a food hall; the Century 21 on the site is already open. If it doesn’t become as crowded as Atlantic Center, this may not turn out to be a big deal.
Stiffed on vegan food
Sam and I were a little bummed yesterday to see NYC’s first Alamo eschew the vegan-friendly menu of its Austin counterpart. In Austin, we snacked on buffalo cauliflower (with vegan ranch), and you can also order vegan sliders and more. In Brooklyn, vegans are stuck with a few salad options or a very not appetizing sounding vegetable sandwich, which you still have to ask to be modified so as not include the cheese (ditto the popcorn, which comes with butter). We get it, everyone loves meat, but this snub is surprising for the chain.
The food prices
The tickets may be cheap, but you’ll pay a bit more for food in your seat. A brisket burger costs $15, a hot dog costs $13, boozy shakes cost $14 and gummy bears cost $7. Oh, and a bottomless soda costs $6.
Where Brooklyn at?
This is a small thing, but don’t think we didn’t notice: The Alamo Drafthouse is officially being called “Alamo Drafthouse NYC” on its website and promotional materials. Yes, it’s the only Alamo in city limits (the other closest one is in Yonkers), but it’s not just in NYC — it’s in Brooklyn! Yeah, they surely want to appeal to the whole city, but people in Brooklyn are possessive, and proud. Manhattan and Queens don’t have this theater — only Brooklyn does.
The Alamo Drafthouse is located at 445 Albee Square West in Downtown Brooklyn.