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Alamo Drafthouse to open downtown Los Angeles theater in July

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A rendering shows Alama Drafthouse Cinema, set to open next month in downtown L.A.
(Alamo Drafthouse)

Alamo Drafthouse, the maverick cinema chain known for its beer and food service, is set to finally open its long-awaited downtown Los Angeles location next month.

The Texas-based exhibitor’s 12-screen theater, located in the Bloc shopping complex at 7th and Flower streets, is nearly complete and will hold a “soft launch” in early July, the company said Wednesday.

A spokesperson did not specify the theater’s opening date.

Alamo Drafthouse first announced its planned downtown L.A. location five years ago with the goal of opening at the Bloc in 2015 as part of a major renovation for the shopping center.

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But the Bloc project — which includes a 420,000-square-foot open-air retail center, a Sheraton Grand Hotel and an office tower — ran into major difficulties. It fell 18 months behind schedule and soared $70 million over budget.

The $250-million makeover by Los Angeles developer Ratkovich Co. came back online in mid-2017, and Alamo Drafthouse was expected to launch in 2018. That target for its opening also came and went.

As the project dragged on, Alamo Drafthouse held special events in the L.A. area to promote its brand in the entertainment industry’s hometown, including an outdoor screening of “Titanic” at the Queen Mary. It hosted pop-up screenings of movies including “Drag Me to Hell” at Vintage Cinemas’ Los Feliz Theater and “Wayne’s World” at the Regent Theater downtown.

Alamo Drafthouse’s L.A. auditoriums will be equipped with 4K digital projection, and the theater will also be able to screen movies on old-school 35-millimeter film. As with its other locations, the theater will offer locally inspired cuisine and beverages to patrons from its full bar and kitchen.

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Tim and Karrie League founded Alamo Drafthouse in 1997 as a one-screen theater in Austin, Texas. The couple got their start in the business when Tim League left a job at Shell Oil in Bakersfield to operate the Tejon Theater in Bakersfield.

The company, one of the first to serve alcohol, has since grown to 38 theaters and has expanded its business to include film distribution through Neon and digital publishing through the film news site Birth.Movies.Death.

Alamo developed a cult following for its special events, in-seat food and beverage service and themed nights such as “Terror Tuesdays.”

The chain is famous for its strictly enforced policies against talking and texting and is beloved by cinephiles because of its mix of art house movies, Hollywood blockbusters and programing highlighting classic cinema and cult favorites.

But until now, it has not had an actual theater in L.A. In a statement, Alamo Drafthouse Chief Executive Tim League acknowledged the drawn-out process.

“After SO MANY years of planning and development, to be opening in Los Angeles with such a strong team of movie-lovers at the helm is absolutely thrilling,” League said.

Alamo Drafthouse is entering an L.A. cinema market that already has multiple upscale venues for people to watch movies. Established companies and new players have invested millions of dollars in luxury amenities, including recliner seating, fancy food and adult beverages, for picky moviegoers in order to fight long term declines in attendance.

Arclight Cinemas has six locations in the L.A. area, while dine-in chain iPic Entertainment offers its luxe take on the theatrical experience in Pasadena and Westwood. Landmark Theatres and locally owned Laemmle Theatres also have built loyal followings over the years for screening art house fare.

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Mexican exhibitor Cinépolis, which boasts luxury theaters in Westlake Village and Rancho Santa Margarita, last year reopened the historic Bay Theatre as a five-screen location with 250 seats catering to the area’s wealthy clientele.

Like other cinema chains, Alamo is trying to adapt to moviegoing trends that have rocked the exhibition industry, including the spectacular rise and collapse of subscription service MoviePass. AMC Theatres, the largest theater circuit, launched its own AMC Stubs A-List program last year, allowing people to see three movies a week for at least $19.95 a month. The AMC subscription plan currently has more than 800,000 members.

Alamo Drafthouse is planning to unveil its own subscription offering, dubbed Season Pass, which will let patrons see up to a movie a day for a monthly fee. The program is expected to cost about $20 a month, depending on the location, but the firm has not said what the L.A. theater will charge. The company is currently having people sign up on a waiting list online.

ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

Twitter: @rfaughnder


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