On June 25, a hodgepodge of journalists and loyal Alamo Drafthouse customers toured the indie chain's new theater, which will launch on June 30 in Westminster, at 8905 Westminster Boulevard. The fans, some of whom wore Alamo Drafthouse T-shirts and raved about the personal relationships they've formed with the staff at the Littleton and Sloan's Lake branches, oohed and ahhed at the new facility.
A few made suggestions: Kettle corn, please! Keep the French toast. Make your Tex-Mex real Tex-Mex. (See photos from the tour.)
The multiplex will be the 39th Alamo Drafthouse to open in the United States and the third in the Denver area. In many ways, the new Alamo looks an awful lot like the company's other two theaters in town, and the programming will be familiar: a mix of Hollywood hits, kitschy classics, sing-along parties, all-you-can-eat cereal shindigs and some independent fare.
The walls are lined with original movie posters from the 1920s to the ’50s. A mural of the 1927 poster for Fritz Lang's Metropolis looms over the entryway. The theaters are equipped with comfortable seats where patrons can order food and drinks while the movie plays. Unlike at the other two Denver venues, the seats here recline, offering a creature comfort that AMC and other competitors have been introducing to stay relevant in a world where many cinephiles just want to watch movies at home.
The theater's manager, Patrick Russell — who claimed that his heart was beating out of his chest after watching a clip from Gravity in the location's largest theater, dubbed the Big Show — enthused about the team he's put together. Many have come to the new location from Littleton and Sloan's Lake; more than 90 percent are artists and will have input into how the Westminster theater connects to the broader creative and cultural communities.
How does Russell pick who works for him? He starts a conversation about movies, and if he forgets about the time during the discussion, he makes the hire. If you don't love movies, forget about working at this Alamo.
"We wake up every day [and] think: 'How can we make this movie experience even better?,'" he says.
Kitchen manager Rick Schulenberg is designing a menu that will focus on Tex-Mex cuisine, much of it made with what he calls Beer-Bacoa. He's also offering bone-in fried chicken, cooked in a pressure cooker to ensure that it's moist (Russell says it might be the best he's ever eaten). There will be vegan and children's menus, though kids are discouraged from coming to most Alamo screenings, which have strict age limits and behavior policies, including no talking, no texting, no distractions.
The bar, Pandora's Box, will be managed by Brittney Metheny, who has run Barfly, the Best of Denver award-winning venue at the Sloan's Lake Drafthouse. Westminster's bar will barrel-age brews on site, and bartenders will craft specialty drinks to reflect the theme of the bar: women in 1920s and ’30s cinema. About 48 beers will be on tap, most brewed in Colorado.
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The theater will be programmed by Creative Manager Austin Terrell, a Denver-area actor. Because customers' tastes largely dictate the programming, Terrell says the team is still figuring out what Westminster audiences will respond to. But there's plenty of room for experimenting: The location includes nine theaters, the smallest seating 69 and the largest 245, with a total of 931 seats — all of which are assigned by reservation. Guests are asked to arrive thirty minutes before movies start for the Drafthouse's signature quirky pre-show programming.
A variety of merch — from T-shirts and socks to role-playing games and collectible toys — is available in a shop in the lobby, and much of it supports the work of the American Genre Film Archive, a group with close ties to the Drafthouse that works to preserve films.
The theater has risen where the Westminster Mall once stood, in a part of the suburb that city planners are calling "downtown Westminster." Eventually, the Front Range's second Origin Hotel will be built nearby, along with other retail. The theater is within walking distance of the RTD Park-n-Ride at the U.S. 36 and Sheridan Station.
Screenings start on June 30; look for special "sneak peek" discounts on food and non-alcoholic beverages. Tickets are on sale now for Men in Black: International, Toy Story 4, The Dead Don't Die, The Biggest Little Farm, Yesterday and Annabelle Comes Home on the Alamo Drafthouse website.