Remembering the Alamo…in Drafthouse form

One time I was driving through Ossining and I noticed a sign saying a Quiznos was opening soon on South Highland Avenue. I nearly drove off the road. My favorite place was coming right where I live?

I ended up renting an apartment right across from the Quiznos. If you ask me, I’ll say how the rent is good, I have a lot of space and I have a Hudson River view. But between you and me, it was because of the Quiznos.

That’s how I’ve felt ever since I heard that Alamo Drafthouse was opening at 2548 Central Ave. in Yonkers. For months, I’ve been excited, counting down the days, getting construction updates and wondering why an Alamo Drafthouse had to open the same year I cut back on movie-going.

Does anyone know a cheap place to live in Yonkers?

Alamo Drafthouse has food, beer, wine, and shows cool movies. I don’t even drink, and that’s awesome. Tim and Karrie League opened the first Alamo Drafthouse in 1997 in Austin, Texas.

“We wanted to make a movie theater for movie fans,” said Tim League, founder and CEO of Drafthouse Cinemas. “We were movie fans and we wanted a place where we could go to.”

Drafthouse won over fans with its policy of no advertisements before the films, and a strict no-talking and no-texting policy. It also has no time for crying babies. The fact that a theater gets recognition for not allowing crying babies is another rant for another day.

Alamo Drafthouse became popular, expanding in Texas and opening locations throughout the country, winning people over wherever it went.

New York was the white whale it had to conquer. Aside from Yonkers, Alamo is opening on the Upper West Side next year and in Brooklyn in 2015.

An Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn will be too much hipster for one setting. I’m already getting chills.
Yonkers seems like an interesting location. Westchester is many things. Hip and cool are not two of them. League thinks he has an audience here, and God bless him for it.

“This location seemed like a really good fit,” he said. “I spent a good amount of time in Yonkers and in Westchester. There wasn’t anything like this. We like this spot.”

The theater will have seven screens, showing your usual Hollywood fare, but with cool festivals, screenings and indie films. Drafthouse Cinema distributes indies, many of which will screen in a special 30-seat theater.

Yes, League runs a movie theater chain and an independent film studio. He might be cooler than John Quiznos, the inventor of Quiznos. (Ed. note: There is no John Quiznos.)

Buzz has been building throughout the summer. I felt at home at a meet-and-greet at Growlers Beer Bistro in Tuckahoe back in May, where League and I discussed filmmaker Ben Wheatley and our favorite independent films and filmmakers.

Aside from showing movies and serving great food and drink, League is committed to making Alamo a part of the Westchester community.

“We haven’t lost sight of what my wife and I were trying to do 15 years ago,” League said. “We’re a mom-and-pop theater. We hire locally. We support local charities, film festivals and young filmmakers. We want people to know the names of everyone who works here.”

Now let’s talk about what’s important – the food and drink.

Alamo Drafthouse offers 32 beers on tap and has a guy whose job it is to test and choose the beer. I don’t drink, but you don’t have to be Otis from “The Andy Griffith Show” to think that’s cool. And suds from local breweries Yonkers Brewing Co. and Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. will be on tap.

The food is casual – pizza, sandwiches, salad – nothing too fancy.

“It’s food you’re eating in the dark,” League said. “Everything is made from scratch. It’s good quality. We source our ingredients locally.”

League must’ve remembered the time I tried to eat a chipotle chicken sandwich during “Milk.” The people who sat next to me are still in therapy.

For certain movies, the chef will create a special five-course meal. Movies that have received this treatment include “Julie and Julia,” “Big Night” (I wonder what our own Stanley Tucci would say), “Like Water for Chocolate” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”.

I’d hate to see what they served for “The Silence of the Lambs” or “Titus.” What is it with Anthony Hopkins and cannibalism?

The Westchester location will be the first one to have calorie counts, which has never stopped me before.

Being named The Best Theater in the World by Time magazine spawns its imitators. AMC Theatres has gotten in the act, offering dinner and a movie at select locations, and other theaters have begun offering reserved seating.

“We just thought it’d be a cool idea,” League said. “We’ve proved it. It compresses date night, and if you have kids, you’re gone for two hours instead of five. It makes the movie-going experience fun and exciting. The more, the merrier.”

And don’t worry, the food and drink is done in a stealth way, so I won’t be disturbing your experience when I order another plate of chicken wings.

Remember: Don’t talk or text during a movie at the Alamo. I’m serious. The theater doesn’t screw around and will kick you out. In summer 2011, a customer left a hilarious voicemail after she was kicked out and it went viral, getting almost 3 million views on YouTube.

“It was a really weird week,” League recalled, laughing. “It was pretty unexpecte
d. I did so many interviews in 48 hours. I was in The New York Times and on Howard Stern. It was crazy.”

League said he has been warned about the attitude of New Yorkers, but will he change his policy? Fuhgeddaboudit.

“If you can’t change your behavior and be quiet (or un-illuminated) during a movie, then we don’t want you at our venue,” League said. “Follow our rules, or get the hell out and don’t come back until you can.”

You’re on notice, old people and teenagers.

Live the dream at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, now open at 2548 Central Park Ave, Yonkers. For more, visit drafthouse.com.

– Sam Barron

 

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