After five years of anticipation and various delays, the famed Alamo Drafthouse is finally ready to swing open the doors of its downtown location for Los Angeles cinephiles. Located at The Bloc on Flower St., the cinema chain will soft launch on July 20th to acclimate staff, before fully opening on Friday, July 26th. Immersed was on hand for a recent press tour to find out just what the Alamo Drafthouse has in store for anxious Angelenos.
One of the most unique features of the brand new 12-screen theater is undoubtedly the Video Vortex, a specialty video store where moviegoers will be able to rent DVDs and Blu-rays for free from a library of around 40,000 titles. “Whenever a specialty video store somewhere in North America closes out, we rescue the collections and repurpose them into Video Vortexes,” said Creative Advisor Bret Berg of the concept, which already exists at the chain’s Brooklyn, Raleigh and San Francisco locations. “This is actually the first specialty video store to open in Los Angeles since 2003, and as someone who has been a manager at video stores before, it actually warms my heart that this is here.”
If video stores were more ubiquitous in 2019, they would look like the Video Vortex. Instead of bulky VHS boxes or even slimmer DVD cases, the deceptively small shelves and drawers are filled with countless flattened out and laminated boxes, packing as much of the immense library into as little space as is feasibly possible. Adorning the walls of the store, which also maintains a curatorial partnership with the non-profit Vidiots Foundation, are limited edition t-shirts, tiki mugs and other assorted merchandise from both Vidiots as well as Alamo’s own Mondo line.
Elsewhere in the Video Vortex – underneath a spinning disco ball and amidst the beeps and boops of classic arcade cabinets – is an area meant for not only dining on food available at the bar, but also specifically designed for tabletop gaming, as well. “We plan on having close ties with the entire tabletop community,” said Rachel Walker, Head of Programming for the new theater. “Ash Minnick is coming over to us from Geek & Sundry, where she was a producer for years […] and she’s kind of in charge of programming the space, and in charge of the gaming initiative.”
“In this space, we’re planning on having game launch events, gaming tournaments, podcast recordings,” Walker continued, segueing into the live entertainment component of Video Vortex, which will also be open for rentals. “We can do variety shows, so we’ll have a whole bunch of different events that are in here, as well.”
The final component of the Video Vortex is an impressive bar, over which looms a tiled menu of 50 different beers, curated specifically for the Los Angeles market. Guests can peruse a menu of cocktails printed, naturally, on the front and back of an old-school VHS case, including everything from the Big Lebowski-inspired White Russian (on the “Rewind” menu for drinks inspired by classic films) or the spicy tequila-infused L.A. Confidential (from the “Fast Forward” menu, for more modern fare).
“For me, the whole essence of the Video Vortex bar is nostalgia,” said bartender Matt Blackburn. “It’s something that’s somehow comforting, somehow familiar, but it feels like it’s still happening today.”
In addition to the countless IPAs, craft beers and specialty cocktails available, the Video Vortex bar will also occasionally include special drinks inspired by new releases, such as Yesterday‘s cold brew-based “Hey, Brewed,” or Detective Pikachu‘s “Jigglystuff.”
“It’s about the theme, it’s about having a good time,” Blackburn continued. “It’s not just a great cocktail, but it makes sense, it’s there for a reason. It’s intentional.”
Upstairs from the box office and the Video Vortex is where the Alamo Drafthouse comes to life, connecting hallways lined with classic posters and billboard-sized banners. Every single detail has been thought out and themed, from the wallpaper (adorned with diagrams of the inner workings of 35mm cameras) to an ominous display of the twin girls from The Shining, ankle-deep in blood (the dresses of which were sourced from CEO Tim League’s own twin daughters). Even the posters decorating the hallways themselves are themed by section, with a section for classic exploitation cinema like Blacula and Trouble Man to more sci-fi/horror-tinged selections, like a French version of The Blob.
There is so much to see and do before even venturing upstairs to where the auditoriums themselves are, it’s easy to forget that this is still a movie theater, but the actual moviegoing experience is no joke. The 12 auditoriums (one of which will be dedicated to screening exclusively 35mm prints) are spacious, but with each reclining seat featuring full food-and-drink service, seating is admittedly somewhat limited (even the biggest auditorium features only 63 seats).
And, of course, as anyone who has been to an Alamo Drafthouse location knows, the theaters are strict about becoming “quiet zones” once the lights go down; talkers and texters get a single warning before being ejected without a refund. Even latecomers don’t get much slack, as entry will not be allowed later than 15 minutes after showtime (in this case, however, refunds and swapping of showtimes will be permitted).
It may be tough to beckon traffic-averse Angelenos to the heart of downtown to enjoy a movie, especially at a premium price point, but if anyone is up to the challenge, Alamo Drafthouse definitely fits the bill. Even with streaming services on the rise, this brand new location proves that the dedicated moviegoing experience isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The Alamo Drafthouse is located at The Bloc, 700 W 7th St Unit U240. It soft launches on July 20th, and launches officially on July 26th. For more information on the Alamo Drafthouse, visit www.drafthouse.com. Follow our Event Guide for more immersive entertainment throughout the year.