After a long three-year wait and a few stops and starts, the new Alamo Drafthouse location in Brooklyn will officially open its doors on October 28. Ahead of opening night, Inverse hopped the line and took a sneak peek at the latest specialty theater in an already crowded cinema marketplace.
This new Drafthouse has spared no expense in its design which has been geared to please the most ardent and nerdy cinephiles: The lobby walls are lined with soundtrack record covers for films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Jaws, which moviegoers can gawk at while walking along the carpet from The Shining.
In fact, every step a visitor takes in the space is jammed with cinematic candy: Escalators ascend between wildly incongruous Turkish movie posters of films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Death Wish, bringing viewers to seven theaters outfitted with digital and 35mm projectors. The smallest theater has just 40 seats, while the largest room has 188 leather recliners, but each will offer up a diverse roster of first-run movies and repertory programming, with tickets that run from $10 to $14.50.
Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse will look to cater to diehard cinephiles and general audiences alike by creating a film community unlike anywhere in a city that is already filled with them. It’s a daunting task, but Drafthouse has a long track record of success in crowded spaces.
“We started out as a mom and pop single-screen theater many years ago, and we try to keep those sensibilities in a lot of ways,” Drafthouse founder Tim League said. “We’ve expanded a lot of places — this is theater number 25 — and the way we do it is we hire key people that are local.”
The Brooklyn Alamo hopes to first and foremost stand out with a purposefully eclectic film selection. It will feature a rotating program of six new releases of films and a combination of repertory titles and Alamo signature series; those specialty flick nights include programs such as Video Vortex (movies shown only on VHS tapes), Terror Tuesday, and Weird Wednesday. The programming will be overseen by Creative Manager Cristina Cacioppo who previously worked at 92Y Tribeca and for three years at the Drafthouse’s Yonkers location, but said the Brooklyn location is a whole new ballgame.
“In New York City you can stretch and experiment with programming in ways you can’t elsewhere,” she told Inverse. “But we try to make every market for the community.” She singled out the Brooklyn location’s ability to feature more events because of easier access to filmmakers, and their emphasis on making the space a place film fans congregate.
It’s something that other New York theaters like the Metrograph have honed in on after their recent openings, but one Cacioppo says that the Drafthouse can do better through its creative selections and fan-centric atmosphere.
Other New York theaters like the Nitehawk, which will open its second Brooklyn location in fall 2017, have capitalized on the in-theater food model, but the Drafthouse has become such a well-oiled machine that makes it seem so comfortable and seamless that it’s easy to see what Cacioppo is talking about. She hopes it’ll inspire an east coast version of the fandom that attracts newcomers to the Drafthouse brand.
“The Austin theaters have such a loyal following that people have no idea what’s playing when they have Terror Tuesday or Weird Wednesdays,” Cacioppo explained, “But they sell out 10pm screenings on weekdays because there’s a total trust. I hope to have that here.”
It’s that expertise — and communal viewing experience — that has helped Alamo stand apart in its other locations. The first run titles like Doctor Strange or Rogue One will pull in general audiences who she hopes will be attracted by some of the more unknown series. “The Cherry Bomb series is one I’ve personally wanted to have happen for a long time, which has movies like Times Square that I didn’t see until my mid-20s and it was like, ‘Why didn’t I see this when I was a teenage girl?’ There’s also this movie called Sticky Fingers from 1988 that’s a quirky New York comedy descended of Desperately Seeking Susan,” she said. “There’s no reason for anybody to show that movie, but it just works in this series and will hopefully be a discovery for people.”
“In New York City, you can stretch and experiment with programming in ways you can’t elsewhere,” she said, “But we try to make every market for the community. She singled out the Brooklyn location’s ability to feature more events because of easier access to filmmakers, and their emphasis on making the space a place film fans congregate.
Another big drawing card: the food and in-theater dining. Other New York theaters like the Nitehawk, which will open its second Brooklyn location in fall 2017, have also capitalized on the dinner-and-a-movie combo model, but the Drafthouse helped pioneer it, and at this point, it’s a huge part of its brand.
New Yorkers expect a lot when it comes to food, though, so Drafthouse is upping its game. It hired Executive Chef Fernando Marulanda — who worked previously at esteemed restaurants Per Se, Tavern on the Green, and Bouchon — to be in charge of marrying the Alamo in-theater dining tradition with a constantly evolving menu of seasonal gourmet food options catered to Brooklyn.
The space also has a standalone bar in the lobby called the House of Wax, which is named for its creepily awesome 19th century wax figures that function as a mini-museum. It offers 39 draft beers on tap (all from New York State) and 15 signature cocktails. The bar also has a small stage in back that will be used for everything from shows by local bands, vaudeville acts, and even competitive karaoke competitions.
The idea is to create a space in which New Yorkers of all persuasions can find something, whether it’s food, liquor, or indie films. There is a lot of competition, but Alamo is a well-oiled machine, and more importantly, has New Yorkers in mind. From the start, League thought the location would only succeed by being different from his other theaters. “Otherwise,” he said, “I think the job of expanding would become very boring.”Photos via Victoria Stevens