For a county that once bemoaned how its indie movie theaters were chopped up into multiplexes with tiny auditoriums or transformed into furniture stores, our artsy film scene is certainly beefing up. Mid-July sees a major addition to our cinematic landscape: the opening of the Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers—the first of the Austin-based theater chain’s locations in New York—in the Central Avenue spot that was once UA Movieland. The Drafthouse has a reputation for presenting movies the way film fans want to see them: shown correctly on state-of-the-art equipment (in 35mm, 3D, or on Sony Digital Cinema 4K projectors); in a dark and silent theater (no phone-talkers or texters allowed); and with a pizza or a pint of local beer (the theater offers an extensive menu of food and drinks that are served at your seat). We asked Tim League, the founder and chief executive officer, what else to expect.
For non-Texans who aren’t familiar, can you explain the Alamo Drafthouse concept? Back in 1996, my wife and I set out to build a movie theater where we would want to see movies. We were movie fans, and there were things we wanted to do differently: no ads before the films, no infants, great presentation, and no talking were parts of our original idea. Over the years, our concept has expanded from that, but, at our core, we still aspire to be the movie theater for movie lovers.
Why did you choose Yonkers as your first New York area location? We plan to open several theaters in the New York area, including one in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan. Yonkers is the first for us. I spent some time in Westchester to get to know the area, and we felt that Yonkers wasn’t served by the type of neighborhood theater we offer.
What kinds of films do you plan to show in Yonkers? We show a pretty broad mix of programming at the Alamo: new releases, classics, indies, and foreign films. That mix will be the same in Yonkers. One of the coolest things about the new Yonkers location is the addition of a 30-seat theater. We’ll show the big summer blockbusters, but we’ll also support independent and foreign movies. If you put a small, critic-driven movie in the 200-seat theater and 25 people come, it’s a disaster. Put it in the 30-seat theater, and it can play for weeks and build word-of-mouth.
What about the food? What’s the overall concept behind the menu? The menu is causal: pizzas, burgers, salads—things you can easily eat in the dark. But we bake our own bread, and we make our sauces, dressings, and pizza dough from scratch. I’ve been eating the green chile/queso blanco chicken sandwich lately, and our boozy shakes—I treat myself to one when I have been good or managed to exercise. We will also craft themed menus for food-related movies like Big Night, with the courses timed to when the food hits the screen.
I know that beer is also a special focus there. On Facebook, the Texans all seem to rally behind Shiner Beer. Are you offering it? If so, can you tell us New Yorkers what the big deal is? Yes, we will be serving Shiner Bock. For Texans, it is something of a hometown favorite, our microbrew before such a term existed. It does go down easy! But I just met up with the Yonkers Brewing Co. team and really love their beers. I know we’ll have many of their brews on tap. Generally, about 75 percent of our taps are local/regional.
Are you bringing with you the strict anti-phone, anti-texting policy? How is that enforced? Absolutely. We warn people in advance, and the theaters are always monitored. If there is a problem, you are warned. If we have to come back, you are kicked out without a refund.
What movies have you seen recently that you’re personally over the moon for? I really liked Before Midnight, the Rick Linklater movie. I was a big fan of Spring Breakers, too. The theater keeps me busy, but I spend my vacations watching movies. If, after all this, I don’t get to enjoy movies in the cinema, then something has gone terribly awry.
For more information on the theater’s opening, visit drafthouse.com/nyc_area/yonkers.