That’s the quote on Alamo’s business and comp cards: “Best Theater in America”. 1 I will attest they work exceptionally hard to live up to it.
If you were expecting an even-handed appraisal of Alamo’s Kansas City venture, forget it. I am biased. I love movies; always have, always will. So does Mainstreet.
I fucking love this place.
And, no, not because they wined and dined me gratis. 2 If you’re a cinephile, THIS IS THE PLACE. It’s that simple.
Yes, Tivoli and the Screenland theaters do well; for quiet, even intimate experiences (the cinematic equivalent of a late night corner bistro avec juste vous et votre amoureux), or to catch the one-off only-playing-a-week film or art house darling no one ever shows, both venues do a wonderful job. But sad to say people will yammer throughout a film at either of those businesses. I still have painful memories of a Tivoli audience member ‘critiquing’ Laurence Fishburne’s turn as Othello. 3 That doesn’t happen at Mainstreet.
Last night Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet invited every Yelper 4 in the Midwest to their pre Grand Reopening Cruise and Last Minute Shakedown. Prior to the screening of Jurassic Park Yelpers, a couple of local media folk and a few bloggers cruised the free food, drinks and each other in The Chesterfield, the bar just to the right of the lobby.
Drafthouse laid out a never ending spread of their finger food: pizza, wings, cheese fries 5, you name it.
Attractive women snaked through the crowd and offered trays of exotic libations. Meanwhile a winsome lass, pale pale pale of skin, dandled idly overhead. 6 The only thing missing was absinthe and the smell of the pipe from a secreted back room, though if I could have worked my way to the bar I just might well have discovered a bottle of the green prominently displayed.
Yep – definitely my kind of place.
Mostly because they screen films properly.
Once seated in the auditorium wait staff will cruise by and explain the rules: how to order food and drinks and warn that once the film starts there is no talking, no texting, period. Then they take your order and hie themselves off.
Then you get to experience Alamo’s special “Previews” reel, which is a hoot in itself.
That’s followed by The Clip. You know the one, where the chick is upset she wasn’t allowed to use her own phone in these here Magnited States?
And that’s followed by 3 more screens that further detail the negative ramifications of talking/texting/using your phone as a flashlight in these here Magnited States. The tone is deadly earnest and impressive. 7
Then, in dead silence, the film starts. And from that point on you hear nothing but the movie, see nothing but the grand illusion presented just for you. It is fucking epic.
Granted, there were perhaps but 175 people in the audience last night, not huge numbers by any stretch. However you need to recall these were all social media types, and if there’s one thing they adore it’s talking. 8 Not a peep from any of them.
When T-Rex stomps some lesser Dino, rends a goat from its very molecules or roars his defiance, your seat, perfectly in sync with the soundtrack, quivers in sympathy or shakes with fear. I was initially skeptical of the effect, expecting the Barcalounger equivalent of a 1950s Belton motel bed anxiously hand-fed -one by one -a roll of quarters. 9 But the actual experience was both subtle and effective.
We viewed the film in Theater 1, the largest of the auditoriums. And while the actual screen isn’t quite the dimensions of the lamented Glenwood, it more than suffices. The sound? Top notch. The dinos roared off the screen. All in all it was an extremely pleasurable event.
The owner is smart, driven and personable. 10 His PR people are also on the ball, the Mainstreet staff well trained; friendly but no nonsense when they need to be. And the venue is a work of art. Seriously, it’s worth making a trip downtown just to have a drink and hang out in the Chesterfield to soak up the vibes.
The Alamo Drafthouse is opening screens in Virginia, WDC and (a new, pet project for League) the Mission Theater in San Francisco.
- A cite by Entertainment Weekly. ↩
- STILL out money, dudes; parking – o.k., I was late – was at Event Parking rates. Which is $20. Ouch…though, honestly, I don’t know if it would have been any different had I arrived early. Are the garages nearby any more reasonable? ↩
- “Was Othello black? I don’t think he was black, right? And he invented the game, right? Othello?” ↩
- Actually, from my informal survey, only elite Yelpers were duked in. And I suppose that works just as one might expect, with rankings based on number of reviews and eyes on those reviews: shout out to Rachel, of Brightergy, and her gentleman. ↩
- And many other things. At least I think that’s what they were: the plates disappeared from the wait staff’s hands long before they could make it anywhere near the tables set up specially for the food. It put me in mind of those grainy documentaries of sharks swarming their prey. Or Federal employees when freebies are available…don’t ask. Really. ↩
- And, yes, there was a lil’ sumthin’ sumthin for the ladies; as I arrived a gentleman, complete with spangled top hat…and little else…had most every eye turned his way. ↩
- So much so the trailing giggles over the Magnited States airhead immediately ceased; perhaps some subliminals, à la The Exorcist? ↩
- Pot, meet Kettle. ↩
- Again…don’t ask. ↩
- We chatted both before and after the screening. In his 40s, Tim League finds himself with 15 month old twins and seems bemused at the situation; I assured him that it was possible to be even more nonplussed with oneself by starting that particular journey in one’s 50s. He was speechless there for just a bit… ↩
- I would indeed be at the ribbon-cutting and view JP again this morning, if I didn’t have a STEM project to finish with Asta; we’re making a killer robot. ↩
- Dum de-de-dum-dum, dum dum dum, dum de-de dum dum, dum dum dum… ↩