Alamo Drafthouse is capping off 2019 with shine. Ticket sales for the cinema chain are up 5.8% from last year, an especially impressive feat considering the exhibition industry as a whole is pacing over 5% behind 2018.
In a theatrical landscape that’s become particularly challenged by the rise of streaming services, Alamo Drafthouse attributes success to its scope of offerings. The theater chain, which has 41 locations across the country, played 2,083 different films over the past 12 months. That mix includes traditional studio releases, indie and arthouse films and repertory showings. Comparatively, the next highest number of movies offered by an exhibitor chain is 1,142 films.
“We’ve built up niche audiences for different kinds of content,” Alamo Drafthouse co-founder Tim League told Variety.
League believes that patrons remain loyal to Alamo Drafthouse because the theater chain works to foster a sense of community. Drafthouse distinguishes itself from other theaters with in-theater dining, a wide craft beer selection and activities like boardgames and video rentals in lobbies as well as themed-events and gatherings.
“We’re honest with our guests. We don’t feign enthusiasm,” League said. “It’s about building trust and not saying everything is awesome, because it’s not. When we get behind a movie, it’s something that comes from our own enthusiasm about the work.”
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Alamo Drafthouse is also testing waters in specialty distribution, a platform release strategy that studios use to generate positive buzz before opening a movie nationwide. Traditionally, indie companies opt to launch a film in just Los Angeles and Manhattan before expanding it to venues all across North America, but rarely do they venture to Brooklyn. This year, the company worked with Fox Searchlight and A24 to bring “Jojo Rabbit” and more recently, “Uncut Gems,” to debut in limited release alongside traditional locations in AMC’s Union Square and Lincoln Center. Both titles landed the No. 1 spot in the weekend even though it has fewer seats per theater than larger chains.
“It was part of a plan to support independent films,” League said. “There’s a tried and true methodology of opening a film in Manhattan. We’ve worked hard to show we can deliver a gross [in Brooklyn] that’s on par or exceeding Manhattan, despite the fact that we don’t have as many seats to fill.”
Even with increased competition from the Disney Pluses and Netflixes of the world, League remains optimistic about the health of moviegoing.
“In general, there’s some level of doom and gloom, League said. “But ‘Parasite,’ ‘Jojo Rabbit,’ ‘Uncut Gems’ and ‘Midsommar’ show that people like to get out of the house and have a great experience at the cinema. I’m certainly banking every penny I have on that.”