Thursday, May 3, 2012 , Updated 1:34 p.m., May 4, 2012
UPDATED: Alamo Drafthouse gets thumbs-up from Richardson planning commission
Looks like Austin cult theater chain will finally come to North Texas.
RICHARDSON The City of Richardson's planning commission gave the go-ahead to a plan from Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse to open its first branch in Dallas-Fort Worth in the Richardson Heights Shopping Center.
The commission voted unanimously in favor of the theater; the Richardson city council will vote on May 14. The theater would go into an old Pep Boys store.
Residents and commission members spoke of feeling "euphoric" about the prospect of an Alamo coming in to a cherished but faded center that's been pining desperately for national tenants.
Bill DiGaetano of Alamo Drafthouse said that Alamo was excited about its potential first theater in DFW and its proximity to the University of Texas at Dallas.
The theater-restaurant would have 740 seats with a full kitchen and 40 beers on tap. Two neighbors who live nearby expressed their concern about "noise pollution," but DiGaetano said that no event would exceed movie sound levels.
"Our big season is holidays and summers, but Alamo has filled in the other times with special events, and that's what separates us from what you might see in this area," he said. "The special events are based on movies, like a Caddyshack quote-along or a Princess Bride feature, where we pair menu items. We might do a beer fest where we do a local brew paired with menu items. It's almost always related to the theater and what's on the screen. We've never had a concert since 1997, and never had an event so noisy that it would disturb the other movies in the theater."
In response to questions about the bar, DiGaetano said that its primary use was for customers to come before and stay after a movie. "But we run happy hour specials, and you don’t have to see a movie to come -- we want people to come there," he said.
Alamo Drafthouse expressed its intent to expand to Dallas in 2008. Last year, the chain, which observes a strict no-talking no-texting policy, made national news when it kicked out a patron for texting in the theater; they subsequently used the patron's angry voicemail as a PSA.
The commission devoted nearly an hour to discussions about signage and the theater marquee, with some requesting that the theater observe a mid-century modern design that would match the values of the neighborhood, and others protesting the theater's request for a large sign. It seemed like it might get stalled until DiGaetano made clear that there was a sense of urgency -- one that also explained why news of the theater had been kept on the downlow.
"It is urgent -- the reason is that old theater on Spring Valley," he said. "It's an existing theater, and if a theater group comes in there before we announce, [then] we're not coming into Richardson nor will any theater come back into Richardson. Because in order to show first-run Hollywood movies, you have to be three miles from an existing theater. So once you plant your flag, nobody can come within three miles of you simply because they won't get the same films as you. Delaying this causes us to delay announcing it, and delaying announcing it could be detrimental to the whole process. We have contingencies in our lease that if something like that happens, we’re out."
Assuming the city council gives its approval, construction would begin almost immediately; DiGaetano said that Alamo's lease was for 15 years.UPDATE: Official release is here.
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