With very little fanfare, Alamo Drafthouse got the keys to AMC’s Mainstreet movie kingdom Thursday…
And to those who may have been anticipating a seamless transition, think again. Rather than rocking it right out of the gate, the Alamo opted to quietly shut things down for a spell. No press releases, no ads in the newspaper, just a brief statement on its new Facebook page:
"Phase one is complete. Old logos are down and the keys are in our hands! We’ll be closed for a few days, but not long at all."
Add to that a blog entry from an Alamoan grousing about the 12 hour drive to KC from Austin for a first-ever visit and plan for staffers to reside here two to three months while taking on the "crazy and daunting task" of converting the Mainstreet and implementing a new food and drink menu.
Remember what I told you about Alamo having to retrofit 80 percent of the Mainstreet’s downstairs (431 seats) to food and beverage service readiness? Apparently that’s the "daunting" part, the Alamo blogger notes.
And it won’t happen anytime soon, not before September anyway.
"Adding full food service to all screens – there’s food and beverage service in three of the six theaters already – is going to require some renovations, and we’d hate to shut down for that right when one of the greatest films of the year almost certainly (The Dark Knight Rises), is about to hit movie screens."
The $64 million question: How much will it cost and how many seats will be lost adding tables and service aisles?
"When you have an outlay of $30 million, there’s just no way AMC or anybody can make money with only 500 seats, even if you sell a shitload of booze," says KCC movie guy Jack Poessiger.
Can Alamo strike black ink with so few seats with its cache and fierce no talking / no texting policies?
"I don’t think it can," Poessiger says.
That said, AMC’s recent redo of its Ward Parkway has sent ticket sales soaring, Poessiger says.
"They lost half of their seats when AMC converted it recently to nicer seats and more legroom and they still don’t have tables and room for serving food in the theater," he says. "But their grosses have been going up since they did that. So they have less seats and are doing more business."
The jury’s out on how many seats the Mainstreet will lose but, "I just can’t imagine them giving up more than 100 seats to do all that," Poessiger says. "Because that would dig them in even deeper in terms of the theater’s financial situation."
The bottom line on the Alamo retrofit:
"They’ll have to find a way to do it to keep the most seats, because they’re already down below the minimum seating for a typical sixplex," Poessiger says. "It’s just not economically feasible. They must know something we don’t know, but it won’t be easy if they take anymore seats out of that complex. But they’ve done so well in their other locations, they must know something. They must know the secret to success."