Today: Can Alamo Drafthouse Lure Enough Geeks to AMC Mainstreet to Make a Buck?

They’ve got their work cut out for them…

It may sound like no big deal – other than the Nazi-like rules and regs about talking and texting – but when Alamo Drafthouse takes over the AMC Mainstreet later this week (after AMC gets kicked to the curb), there’s gonna need to be a whole lotta remodeling shaking going on.

That is if Alamo intends to sell enough upscale food and booze to its patrons at the downtown movieplex to make a profit.

Don’t believe me? Check out how roomy other Alamo theaters are in these crowd shots.

The Mainstreet has spacious seating, don’t get me wrong. But nearly 80 percent of its seats are downstairs where it’s not designed (and all but impossible) for servers to deliver the gourmet food and booze the Alamo must sell to survive.

Not without wreeking more movie havoc than merely peering into one’s purse to check a text.

Which, by the way, will get you kicked out of the Alamo quicker than you can say "Davy Crockett."

With no refund, no less. Here’s your coonskin cap, what’s your hurry?

There’s no problem serving food and drink in the Mainstreet’s three tiny screening rooms upstairs. Those theaters were designed for dining and drinking during movies, but they only hold 68 people in the "big" room and 23 in the two smaller ones.

It’s the 431 regular movie seats that are the problem.

And if Alamo hopes to make a profit at the Mainstreet – unlike AMC – it will need to fill those downstairs auditoriums which range in size from 283 seats for the largest to 74 seats for each of the two smaller theaters.

The trick is how to reconfigure the downstairs auditoriums without losing half the seats.

Or forcing patrons to slosh their way to and from their seats while balancing pitchers of beer and upscale food.

From the get go movie insiders were skeptical about AMC being able to make money after sinking $25 million into the Mainstreet with so few seats to sell. Even AMC honcho Gerry Lopez put it this way to the Star yesterday before his comments were taken down by the newspaper an hour later:

"…With six screens…there’s not enough oxygen in that fish bowl for all the fish to live."

It won’t make things any easier for the fish if Alamo has to remove rows of seats so the servers can swim past.

And with $25 million already sunk in the tiny movie money pit, how much more will Alamo have to spend to make the Mainstreet right?

Nobody bothered to ask those questions of Alamo, which has declined to discuss the matter thus far.

"For the time being, the Mainstreet will continue to operate business-as-usual on its own while signature Alamo Drafthouse touches are implemented," Alamo’s Web site teases. "Touches like our ad-free custom preshows, ironclad no-talking/no-texting policy, and the elimination of the traditional front row for a better viewing experience."

The $64 million question being, how many more rows may have to bite the dust before Alamo’s "signature touches" free up room for it to do its food and drink thing?

And after looking at the audience shots from other Alamo’s plexes I have another question.

Does Kansas City have enough movie geeks, dweebs and film snobs downtown to make Alamo’s Mainstreet pay off?

Tough one.

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26 Responses to Today: Can Alamo Drafthouse Lure Enough Geeks to AMC Mainstreet to Make a Buck?

  1. Super Dave says:

    Hearne showing some hate
    I bet Alamo thinks your site sucks as well Hearne. This isn’t news or an unbias story it’s very clear from your comments that you hate Alamo Drafthouse and are hoping they fail. Hope when you and Craig go looking for freebies they slam the door in your face.

  2. Super Dave says:

    Owners of Glass Houses
    “Alamo are total control freaks – text, talk, get fingered by someone else in the theater and they kick you out with no refund, no questions asked. Let’s see, by my count that’s judge, jury and executioner.”

    Answer this Hearne, when you delete a comment you are doing the same thing as Alamo does by asking you to leave if caught texting. So don’t bitch about what another does with their operation when you as well do the same thing with yours.

  3. Lance the Intern says:

    Hearne…
    Must have been kicked out of an Alamo Drafthouse in the recent past. I suggest you look up “Godwin’s Law”…And keep in mind, falling afoul of Godwin’s causes the individual making the comparison to lose their argument or credibility.

  4. PB says:

    While The Odds
    Might be against a successful downtown KC theatre (I thought AMC Main St. would have trouble as well), the Alamo Drafthouse seems to be a much better run organization than AMC (what isn’t?) and I’m sure they’ve done all the necessary research and have come to the conclusion that they can somehow make it all work despite your dozen or so paragraph post to the contrary. Is there anything…ANYTHING…that happens in KC that you and your blog cronies are the least bit positive about? On the surface, this seems like a great move in a positive direction, but I could see now that due to your exhaustive research on the matter, myself and the powers that be at Alamo Drafthouse, have it all wrong. Better alert them now and tell them to save their money since you have it all figured out.

  5. Pee Wee says:

    The Alamo is awesome.
    I’ve been to the Austin Alamo Drafthouse and it is an awesome experience. The place is packed nightly and I was jumping for joy when they announced they were taking over AMC Main Street. This is a huge upgrade for Kansas City. And their policy of not allowing self-absorbed people to ruin the movie going experience of others is right on. I agree with it completely. If you are oh-so-busy that you can’t wait for an hour and half on a Friday night to check your phone, you need to stick to Netflix and your own living room.

  6. kcobserver says:

    If you’re not like me . . .
    So if I am not like Hearne, meaning I am unable to sit back, relax, and enjoy a good movie without constantly checking my cellphone, sending some e-mail, or surfing the net, then I am a geek, dweeb, or film snob. Wow, I felt pretty good about myself until I read this.

  7. the dude says:

    You lost the intarweb
    argument when you invoke “Natzis” or “Hitler”.
    New to teh intarwebs are you?

  8. PB says:

    Dude is Right
    While I’m not one to get overly offended by the use of the term “nazi” (admittedly it has become part of the venacular), it is way overused and in this particular case, it’s not even close to being applicable. The no texting/talking policy is a pretty basic rule and falls under social manners and the theatre kicking out folks who can’t follow some simple guidelines they were warned about, hardly equates with “nazi-like” tactics.

  9. take another look says:

    The “fish” quote is in the print version of The Star today. If you lived in Kansas City not Topeka, you’d know this, and quit harping on it.

    It was obviously some sort of oversight. Yeesh.

  10. paulwilsonkc says:

    A DIFFERENT COOK IN THE SAME KITCHEN
    doesnt sell more soup, if the initial problem wasn’t the quality of the soup!.

    And thats the problem. A management name change isn’t going to fix the problem. What would change is for that space to be used for something that FITS the current demographic issue thats caused its failure.

    A failing, money losing theatre doesnt get fixed by someone else taking it over management if management wasn’t the prior problem, and it hasn’t been.

    There isn’t a big enough audience for Fine Arts given there are some mainstays here in town for that, if you choose.

    I’m all for their “nazi” tactics, however. I’m not a huge movie goer, but if I do, the LAST thing I want is an ongoing commentary from who I’m with, the person next to, in front of or behind me. I dont want unruly kids of any race mouthing off during the show and, I really dont want to stare at people’s phones texting. We made it fine without all this bull shit technology 10 years ago. Take a break, go enjoy the show, let others do the same…. and catch up with your deep, meaningful 140 character reparte when its over!

    But go quickly to the new Alamo, you won’t have a chance to in 18 months.

  11. katie s. says:

    what’s the deal?
    what’s with the hostility toward alamo drafthouse, and toward people who like movies? at this point i’m glad alamo drafthouse is coming to town so i don’t have to worry about running into you when i’m trying to catch a movie.

  12. PB says:

    Don’t Know
    If this will help the new theatre or not, but it seems like a good strategy to get more people in the building and generate added revenue. As I said earlier, this new theatre might also fail over time, but it won’t be from lack of trying. Unlike AMC, the Alamo Drafthouse cut it’s teeth on this kind of theatre/restaurant/bar concept, so yes, the overall quality of the operation will be far superior to what AMC was doing with the space and thusly will have a way better chance of succeeding.

    “This new vision for the Mainstreet also extends to the theater’s spacious interior bar, which will reemerge as The Chesterfield. The Chesterfield resurrects a slice of Kansas City’s past, harkening back to the jazz age days of Paris on The Plains, when Charlie Parker’s saxophone blared over 12th & Vine. With a list of classic cocktails and weekly music programming, the Chesterfield Club is a new destination in the Power & Light district.”

  13. the dude says:

    Good question,
    why all the hostility and axe grinding towards Alamo and the comparison to Natzis/Hitler?
    They piss in your popcorn or something?
    Poop in you hot chocolate?

  14. harley says:

    what?
    another psuedo business expert!!!! WTF? How can people with long strings of business failures and
    bankruptcies try to act like they know something about businesses. Please…save the space. This isn’t 1990 and times have changed. Get with it or move over.

  15. tiad says:

    Remember, Folks, Jr. Is A Busy Man….
    He’s always working… He needs to whip out these columns at a feverish pace on his “smart” phone, even in a movie theater. He never knows when the inspiration and muse will strike him. If Alamo throws him out of a movie, he will have a case for a “hate crime.”

  16. smartman says:

    We need a blogathon!
    Wilson, this is up your alley. Based on my calculations if we can find 2000 people to each pledge $25.00 per month to the Alamo Drafthouse we can keep the doors open so that Hearne’s sphincter can keep grinding out the nuclear sausage of not being able to go there and talk, text or finger bang. Count me in. Only 1999 more to go.

  17. Super Dave says:

    For $25.00
    Count me I as well

  18. PR says:

    I’m not a dweeb
    at least I didn’t think I was. Or a geek or a film snob. I love going to the movies. However, I don’t go much anymore because of the texting and talking. I’m looking forward to the Alamo Drafthouse coming to town. I can start going to the movies again. I hope they are everything they say they are. And I agree with some of the other posters – this could be a positive thing. Why so negative? Were you getting free admission or free popcorn from Mainstreet or something?

  19. Hearne says:

    Wilson is correct…
    AMC ran a first class operation but it’s hard to sink $25 million into a tiny downtown theater with only 500 seats and make it pay off financially.

    It’s true Alamo appears to have done a nice job in the handful of smaller theaters it runs. The Mainstreet appears to be far and away more plush than the pictures of other Alamo theaters and the downtown population base is far smaller.

    As for the Chesterfield, they’ve been trying to make that work as a jazz club since the get-go. It’s a very cool space with some acoustic challenges however. I wish ’em luck.

    The point being that when they take out enough seats to be able to serve food and booze will they have enough to sell to make it work financially?

  20. balbonis moleskine says:

    The truth of the matter is that the Main Street cinema probably should not have been saved. It wasnt super historic and it isn’t in a residential area. Because of the Midland, crossroads, folly, coda, etc there isn’t any need for downtown live performance space. So it was used exclusively for movies.

    I got the impression from my AMC friends at the time this was being built that it wasnt really ever meant to make money. It was a feather in their cap next to the corporate HQ. Now that the HQ is in Leawood we are left with a white elephant that can’t be torn down but can’t be made into a moneymaker.

    At least Cordish owns this elephant and not the people of Kansas City, MO. Cordish is making the only play they can. Attempt to attract the hipster moviegoer as the “urban” moviegoer doesn’t buy any snacks and drives away all other moviegoers.

    I just dont know how many themed Rocky Horror and themed Bloodsport nights will be necessary to make a profit. Probably more than we have hipsters in this town.

    I applaud their effort for trying but I think this one is doomed. When I shelled out $14 to see Prometheus in IMAX 3d I didnt care about refreshments (aside form the usual popcorn and cokes) and I didnt care about historic atmosphere. I had previously stated that I like the Screenland. They will probably kill the Screenland. But in my experience these interactive/specialty nights are better done at small family run movie theaters. It loses some of its fun on a larger scale.

  21. paulwilsonkc says:

    Thank you, Hearne, listen to Wilsun(?)
    he’s right ALL the time. No one can prove otherwise and libelous slander dosnt count!

    But back to the topic. The divorce, as filed in Jackson CountyFamily Court in the case AMC v. Cordish was on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. As in any divorce, one spouse always wants to blame the other. Truth is, in this one, Mr. Cordish has been divorced (allegedly) more times than Zsa Zsa, Elizabeth, and Roseanne, combined. He

  22. Hearne says:

    Not sure exactly how it went down but…
    When business partners are losing tons of money they make angry bedfellows.

    As for Cordish getting left holding the bag, I could be mistaken,but methinks the taxpayers of Kansas City are on the line ultimately. Unfortunately.

  23. the dude says:

    Yep,
    sounds like another turd sandwich that ultimately the KC taxpayers get to eat.
    Hope it tastes good going down KC, you paid for it.

  24. harley says:

    why is hasn’t/wont work
    driving downtown to see a movie isn’t going to work. Not with that overhead. I don’t know the financials
    but the numbers and the demos aren’t working to the new owners advantage.
    Probalby this new company gets a management contract so they are not out any cash. The owner needs
    someone to fill it so they have to keep it up or they lose their investment.
    Who would driv e downtown to watch a movie. Maybe the people already downtown (which probably
    is a pretty young crowd who LOVES THEIR TEXTING/EMAIL/PHONES.
    In joco we’ve got theatres within 10 minutes of anyone here. We don’t go to movies to eat…just
    hasn’t happened and the right combination of food and movies hasn’t hit.
    However in upscale markets like dallas they have look cinemas. Former kansas citian runs
    it and its pretty cool set up…but they have a great chef running the place…not some applebee operator.
    IN kc we’re essentially a wal mart town. Cheap…cheap cheap. People are lazy…don’t want to move..
    don’t want to drive…want lots of food without the qualtiy. People in this city don’t like to dress up.
    Jeans/old shirt/casual look and thats the end of it.
    So who’s going downtown to see a movie. The theatre is surroundd by young professionals but
    even they want the fun of their phones readily available. Ever been to a bar ….the kids are not
    talking…theyre texting. Watching the phone for messages.
    So this operation has to pull b ig numbers in eveyr night. Was there for a charity auction…never
    watched a movie there. But there’s no draw except the chance to watch movies and eat what
    some c onisdered average food.
    Netflix/redbox are booming…people don’t want to pay big money in this town frr movies…except for
    the young audience who love their phones. why pay money for a ticket when fo a buck you can
    get a movie for a night and spend one third what you spend at amc.
    The demos are against them in this town..an older more conservative city…with definite
    geographic lines.
    You won’t get joco people to drive down there. Indpenendence and eastern jackson
    won’t go there. North residents may but they donn’t have the big disposable income
    that the theatre will have to cater to. So you’re left with a smallo pocket to draw from,
    Since i don’t know their overhead i have to assume it pretty big to maintain that
    theatre. they need to change the concept…but the dollars/overhead and the
    demographics are working against them. Thjey’re surrounded by people who will
    not want to go to a theatre that treats people like they do.
    Its pretty obvious…this market is growing older. It’s growing more and more diverse
    (increasing black/asian/hispanic populations)….the market is spreading out (not really
    growing..just moving out)….and this market can’t handle all these businesses vying
    for the same dollar. And with the placement of the theatre …the way its situated in an
    area that needs big events for it to survive..(has anyone noticed the lack of major
    concerts at sprint this year/summer compared to other summers)….
    the area will only survive with the bars/clubs.
    It needs a serious marketig facelift…more big events geared to families. Sorry…but the
    hip hopper/rockers will scare away families. And maybe thats what they think will work.
    Cordish has a pretty deal. All the positives without the negatives that the city took over.
    It s a losing cause as it is. Someone needs to reevaluate the area…we need something
    big to come in (nba-)….because it can’t survive long enough to wait for that to happen.
    Maybe (as i suggested) the city leaders need to go see phil and tim and lay down the law
    pretty seriously to them about filling 40-60 dates a year down there. Reignite the area
    because its failing and will continue to fail.
    I don’t think thetheatre can survive as it i. I dont think the owners want to deviate from their
    current plan. But something has to be done or its just a matter of time before the
    crowds leave and its a ghosttown.
    Lots of young people are leaving this city. Headec to chicago/dallas/other large cities because
    this town lacks the essntials that young people vae looking for (jobs/entertainment/sports/other kids)
    …this city and area better wake up or we’ll be left with no young base of consumers and then
    this area will be in big trouble.

  25. Harley says:

    I may be a douchebag but at least Im a plagerizing douchebag
    sense I havent had an original thought I
    repeat 100 times
    “no
    one will…………. go downtown to see a movie” through in some diversity talk so I wont look like the racist I am
    paraphrase what the other smart
    people …………in the know…
    said…..restate it
    10 more times until it equals……….
    a big 10 inches of zig zag
    drivel
    ……………………………………………………..hit send
    walk away thinking I said something original
    Yeah I’m a major contributing douchebag on KCC and
    the rest of you are sluuuurping loooooooosers
    (I hope I can keep pulling this off Im
    so pathetic I make my own skin crawl)
    sit I hit send before I said some crap about notSOsmartMan

  26. little big man says:

    can you put me in the chair
    its two big for me to climb in. 5 feeet 3 inchus. Too small. MY head can’t
    sea over the tayble to eat. I neead to sit on fone buk to sea over thu
    stearing wheeeel.
    I’ll need glayzers hair piece two wear two my big big sayle.
    I need to have garage eyvent to pay 4 bills.
    Send muney to help to Little Big man/’p.o. box 4321/eudora, kansas
    66703. I reylly need to be getting bigger shues so i can
    be a big man.
    thanks to all my neat freinds.
    I am a nice guy. When you sea me don’t laugh. I hopped to
    wurk in da circus but the kanun wus 2 big.

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