Yesterday morning we put pen to paper regarding the early June Drafthouse Mainstreet press “release” along with our initial reactions. Shortly thereafter Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League posted a comment to same:
Hello. Tim League here, CEO/founder of Alamo Drafthouse. I wanted to clarify a few things about your article. Two weeks ago, we were building an unpublished Kansas City page including the press release in anticipation of closing the deal. Google search picked up the unlinked/unpublished page and someone from the KC media picked it up. We never formally released the press release and we were frankly quite sad that it had leaked out. It pointed to a need for a staging server on our website which we are working on now. It was a mistake on our part that it got out in the first place, a mistake that put us in an awkward situation, as we had not yet closed our deal with the property owner.
As soon as we formally closed the deal, we made the announcement and published the KC facebook and drafthouse.com webpage, which was our original intent.
As to the safety of the Power and Light District, we are going to be very involved in the district and want to make sure that future safety concerns are minimized. Our flagship theater in Austin is on Historic Sixth Street, and we face similar safety issues there. We work directly with the police and the city to always try to improve the overall safety of the district.
Now that we are formally announced and actually in Kansas City working to convert the space, I think you will find our company to be completely transparent and very open and approachable. A couple of weeks ago, we were just in an awkward position due to our own backend technical error. If you ever have future questions, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I arrive in Kansas City myself on Sunday. I look forward to doing more exploring, in particular comparing and contrasting Kansas City barbecue to our central Texas variety.
Reasonable enough – especially the need for a staging server. 1 And certainly open. So we decided to see if we could elicit a little more information:
WNBTv: “As to the safety of the Power and Light District, we are going to be very involved in the district and want to make sure that future safety concerns are minimized. Our flagship theater in Austin is on Historic Sixth Street, and we face similar safety issues there. We work directly with the police and the city to always try to improve the overall safety of the district.”
What, exactly, does that mean? I don’t want to overstate the dangers, nor minimize what you faced in Austin, but KCP&L has been a flash-point for racial tension & (some) violence since it opened – how do you intend to obviate that in an environment that seems itself conducive to (probable) confrontation? What lessons from Austin (and other venues) might work in KC? Do your personnel receive special training?
Tim League: I’ve reviewed the crime statistics for Power and Light vs Sixth Street and Power and Light appears by my numbers to be a safer neighborhood, and Kansas City and Austin are fairly comparable viewed citywide. If there are issues with safety or perceived safety we will contract with whatever security or off-duty police is required.
WNBTv: As for the bz side, it’s been reported that Cordish/Kansas City Live, LLC, have engaged you to ‘operate the theater’; does that mean only Drafthouse will be responsible for the venue? Or are you engaged in a co-operations arrangement with Cordish à la the AMC deal? In either case, what attracted you to KC – we seem to be rather far afield from your normal operations and don’t – at first blush – appear to have much in common with even your VA expansion…
Tim League: I’ve been to Kansas City many times and am quite fond of it. The real draw for us was the magnificent facility. It truly is one of the most beautiful cinemas in the country. We will be solely operating the theater and the adjacent bar.
WNBTv: What might KC expect in terms of programming; it’s reported that you intend to run feature films, as well as your own particular slate of entertainment, but how does that line up with the 6 screens available? And how does that match up (or not) with what The Midland is offering? Isn’t running first runs just more of the same?
Tim League: We will show a mix of independent, art and commercial first run films in addition to our signature Alamo programming: singalongs, quote-alongs, classic repertory films, live comedy, etc. There won’t be any overlap between what we are doing and what the Midland offers.
WNBTv: The pressers state “run the theater as is’ for the near future and re-configure by early fall; does that just mean programming, or the physical environment? Other than removing the first rows, what else might be in store (keeping in mind there was just a $25 mil renovation completed less than 5 years ago)?
Tim League: Eventually we will have full food service in all the auditoriums and that will require some physical modifications. We will likely not do too much specialty programming until we are fully converted.
WNBTv: I was somewhat kidding about barbecue on the menu, but seriously – will you tailor the menu at all to the locals; bring in your own eclectic foods or mix n’ match?
Tim League: We always try to augment our standard offerings, both in programming and cuisine, with a bit of local flavor. Once we get our bearings we’ll be more specific as to what that means.
WNBTv: What do you think will be the most surprising aspect of your theater to most Kansas Citians?
Tim League: Our strict no-talking/no-texting policy. We will kick people out for doing so. We want to keep our movie theaters safe for movie lovers who can’t stand talking and texting during the show.
WNBTv: Other expansions on the horizon for Drafthouse?
Tim League: Yep. Right now New York, Denver, Dallas, DC and San Francisco.
And there you have it. 2
As for our fears of violence in the new theater? Well, we’ll wait and see. Obviously Drafthouse have no little experience with unruly, rowdy and even physically aggressive customers.
The business seems to have done its homework, the CEO is actively engaged and we would surmise that by hiring locals they’re acquiring knowledge (and skills) sufficient to the situation; the addition of several off-duty KCPD officers should also help. At this point there’s no reason not to extend them the benefit of the doubt.
- This is one of the reasons many people use services like AKAMAI: document management. ↩
- It is certainly worth mentioning that before Tim left his comment on our post yesterday, Drafthouse publicist Bandy Fons (email@example.com) wrote offering us a formal interview with him. We were in the negotiation phase – we have this terrible sweet tooth and MUST have at least a dozen Chunkys™ at every interview…on the private plane – when Tim blew through the virtual red tape. Our sense of Drafthouse is: yes, they really did have an irritating human/server glitch that inadvertently posted the presser; yes, we expect they’ll be great corporate neighbors, a prized addition to the city (this from questioning reporters at “real” outlets in the cities Drafthouse already operates in.) ↩
- In point of fact it was all we could do not to beg free passes for the grand opening once they’re fully set-up. But that would have been
too Kansas City Star-likeunprofessional. ↩
- P.S. Seriously, Charles, are you not on your game? Where’s the interview about their food?What are you working on that’s sooooooooo important? Oh, right – lemonades… C’mon, man, what do they pay you for over there? ↩