Tim League (@TimAlamo) took a lifelong love of movies and built a wildly popular independent movie theater chain. This former Shell Oil engineer spoke today about creating and maintaining one of the coolest Art Houses in the world with good food, adult beverages, terrific films, Fantastic Fest and the Rolling Roadshow. The infamous Anti-Texting short: Don’t Talk – Angry Voicemail made the Drafthouse as famous as any programming. Watch it here and crack up!
The core business of Drafthouse is its movie theaters of which there are 10 today, in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Winchester VA, Denver Co and Washington D.C. It
Drafthouse, like other art house theaters, is mission based and community focused. Their mission is to ensure that every guest has an awesome experiences and wants to come back. This mission pertains to everyone’s role in the company.
In 1996 Tim and his wife built out their first theater in Austin. Actually he previously worked at Shell Oil in Bakersfield and saved enough money to open the old Tehon Theater in Bakersfield when he was 24 years old. The theater was definitely on the wrong side of tracks, and it failed as a traditional art house. “Arrogance and ignorance” is what he’s got to say about that 1,000 seat theater. However they did rock shows which included the Ramones and 12 other such concerts to make some money…
Then they started anew in Austin with the Tehon seats, speakers and projectors. They found a second story parking garage and with the $250,000 they had saved and a $50.000 loan from B of A’s Invest in America. They built a single screen theater for second run commercial fare, repertory and some art house films. They now have 10 theaters, some are art houses in cities, some are commercial theaters in suburbs with repertory product thrown in.
Five core values
1. Fun experts. They develop audiences by having passionate programmers.
2. Inclusive. The audience must feel comfortable no matter what the age mix is.
3. Always improving. Staff generated ideas and training are key. One idea was to serve booze and food.
4. Part of the community. They part in every film festival in the city, programming staff commitment and staff participates visibly in other city events.
5. Credible…They pay attention to details.
Other points made during this very entertaining address were that
Be sure when spending, to know how money will come back as a result.
Technical presentation must be great.
Trailers for indies should have certain particular traits which are being elaborated upon at the Convergence by his marketing director.
They have also created Mondo, a new company to design and market for studios, indies, and rep films with prized winning silkscreen posters, tees, etc. Mondo makes good money, in fact, it makes more than the bottom 1/3 of their theaters.
Average per capita spend at the theater is $14.89. That includes food and beverage. The average ticket price is $8
Seat fill rate is 38%
Audience recommend to friend is 79%
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They also have a 35mm film library of 2,000 titles that they will lend out.