Alamo Drafthouse is set to open Oct. 24 in Crystal City, making it the second for the chain in the D.C. area and the third in Virginia.
Set in-between the Crystal City Metro and VRE stations, Alamo Drafthouse would be the closest movie theater Arlington residents can access by transit.
But, the theater is opening less than two years after the closing of Regal Theaters in Potomac Yards, and at a time when fewer people are going to the movie theater. About 67% of Americans 18-29 said they can access the content they want online, according to the Pew Research Center.
During 2021, Americans saw an average of 1.4 movies in theater, compared to a 4.8 average between 2001-2007, according to a Gallup poll.
National Landing Business Improvement District President Tracy Gabriel sees Alamo Drafthouse as an “exciting addition” to National Landing.
“The opening of Alamo Drafthouse on Crystal Drive this fall marks an exciting addition to National Landing as we look to grow our entertainment and experiential offerings across the neighborhood,” Gabriel said in an email. “One of our goals at the BID is to continue bringing exciting new businesses to National Landing and Alamo Drafthouse offers the perfect blend of food, drinks and film for residents, office workers and visitors to enjoy.”
Just last year, Alamo Drafthouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Two months later, Alamo Drafthouse re-emerged from bankruptcy, reopening 31 of their 36 sites.
But, just this month, an Alamo Drafthouse in Omaha, Neb. shut its doors.
“It is with a heavy heart that we officially announce that today was the final day of screenings at Alamo Midtown due to the lasting impact related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Alamo Drafthouse Omaha said in a Facebook post Oct.10.
American University Film & Media Professor John Douglass’s theory is that small and large movie theaters will not survive. Movie theaters need to find a way to connect to their communities, according to Douglass.
The movie theater “needs to find its level in that community, whatever it is,” Douglass said. “If it’s a small town and the only way to get out for an evening is to go to a restaurant, and there’s a movie theater attached then that sounds like a good evening. Other communities are going to be different.”
Douglass said Alamo Drafthouse’s business model of serving food and drinks during the movie fits the D.C. area well.
“It looks fun,” Arlington resident Avery Austin said about Alamo Drafthouse.
Austin said she doesn’t go to theaters as much since COVID-19. One of the two movies she saw recently in theaters was ‘Spider-Man No Way Home’ at the end of 2021. Three days later, she got COVID for the first time.
Austin said she will continue to go to movie theaters, just not as much.
“It’s really fun that a movie theater is going to open up so close,” Austin said. “I kind of miss going to the movies.”
Austin said her plans are to invite her friends to the opening night of the theater.
Alamo Drafthouse waiters serve customers while they are watching the movie. Then will bring the check 30 minutes before the movie ends, according to the Alamo Drafthouse site.
The new Crystal City location will have nine auditoriums, totaling to 915 seats all in Alamo Drafthouse’s “Big Show” format.
“The Big Show is our attempt to create the best film-watching experience possible,” Director of Presentation Mark Louis said in a quote on the company’s site.
“The Big Show format” uses 4k projection systems, Dolby Atmos technology, and 100% recliner seats, according to the company site.
Even with such luxury, Arlington residents like Matilde Jacobson still prefers to stay home to watch movies.
“I got out of the habit of going to the movie theater after COVID,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson said she’ll check out Alamo Drafthouse at least once but watching movies at home is “just cheaper.”
Last year, 61% of Americans didn’t go to the movies, according to a Gallup poll.
The recent dual release of the movie Halloween Kills in theaters and streaming on Peacock is one of many films that are now having dual releases.
Even though streaming changed the movie theater industry, Douglass said movie theaters are not going anywhere any time soon.
“We may find movie theaters in different places than we have traditionally, ” Douglass said. “We may find fewer theaters, we may find theaters that are tied in with combinations like bars, restaurants. But I think that group experience is something that people like.”
Alamo Drafthouse public relations team FONS PR declined to comment in time.