Why One Movie Chain Doesn't Fear Netflix
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the Austin-based movie theater chain founded by film fanatic Tim League, saw an increase in audience in 2011, the year national attendance at the movies hit a 16-year low.
While movie theaters nationally had a 3.4 percent drop in box office sales, the Alamo Drafthouse chain had an increase of 2.6 percent over 2010. With the addition of food and drink revenues (the chain offers dinner and a movie), total sales were up 4.8 percent.
"I've long been a firm believer that despite the fact that you can watch movies on your phone, iPad or home theater, every once in a while you still want to get out of the house," League told the Austin American-Statesman.
The chain is famous for League's strict anti-texting policy, as well as the stars who show up to premiere films at the Austin location and the special posters designed for many of the screenings, which may pair cult classics with themed foods. Fandango named the cinema "Best Overall Theatrical Experience" in 2010.
The success may be particularly sweet for League, who founded the company with his wife Karrie in 1997. The pair sold the brand in 2004 to a group of investors but retained licensing and ownership of three locations. Financial terms were not disclosed. Tim League returned as CEO in 2010, the outcome of a dispute that led to a 2009 lawsuit.
In February 2009 the Leagues filed a lawsuit against the company as well as its then-CEO John Martin and other officers in the company. The suit alleged that Martin and other investors misled the Leagues–the investors had planned for 200 Alamo Drafthouse franchises that never happened (there are currently 10), among other things. The lawsuit was settled amicably on both sides without going to court.
League, who is 50 percent co-owner with his partner, has big plans for expansion.
"We remain bullish on the cinema industry and are investing in new theaters in 2012," said League, who also is the founder of the Fantastic Fest film festival.
The company will open another Austin location, and is looking to set up shop in Denver and Washington, D.C.
Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.