There are some businesses I just don’t get.
Take, for example, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which recently opened in Yonkers, NY after an apparently successful rollout across Texas.
It’s a fairly typical multiplex except, instead of a concession stand, there’s a fully-stocked bar. Oh, and tickets are $12.50. And that’s for a normal movie. If you want to watch something in 3D, you have to pay more for the extra dimensions.
The theaters themselves are very nice, with comfy seats, lots of leg room, superior projection and great sound. So far, so good. Instead of the usual trivia-and-ad-packed slide shows some theaters display before the film, Alamo shows vintage (and often creepy) song and dance numbers from the 50’s…or possibly from another planet. That’s fun, too.
But then you start noticing some anomalies. The shelf in front of you, for instance, that is holding slips of paper and a pen, as if you’re there to play keno. And the fact that every other row has no seats. And the gentleman standing in the seatless row in front of you, ready to take your order.
Fortunately, my wife and I were there with our daughter Casey, who was at the Alamo in Austin and remembered it. She acted as our guide, pointing out the house rules (no late arrivals; absolutely no cell phones or texting), and showing us the little shelf underneath the main shelf.
The little shelf had menus.
You see, the big idea behind Alamo is waiter service. You can have, say, a pizza and a beer delivered right to your seat while you watch a movie, thus simulating as much as possible the experience of having a pizza delivered to your house while you watch a movie on your big screen TV. Except doing it this way costs a lot more money.
“They have really good milkshakes,” Casey tells us as she writes down our order even though the movie hasn’t started yet so we could just tell the guy what we want. “We can have them for dessert.”
“You mean after the movie?” I ask.
“No, during. If you want something during the film, you write it down and wave the paper and they come over and get it.”
Frankly, there’s only one thing I ever need during a movie, and I didn’t think writing “I need to pee” on the piece of paper was going to be helpful. But I didn’t mention that.
So the movie starts, and sometime later, the food comes. I’d hate to be a waiter in this place because you have to carry the food while hunched over so as not to block the view. I hope they have a health plan with chiropractic coverage. Fortunately, the theater wasn’t crowded that evening; when they have a full house, I imagine the waiters are like ducks in the old shooting galleries, sliding back and forth in their tracks while you take pot shots with your popcorn.
And now I have a confession to make: I don’t like eating in the dark. Call me crazy, but I like to see what I’m eating. I like to know where the ketchup’s going. I want to easily find ingredients–like tomatoes–which I would like to remove from my burger. I don’t like having to feel around under the fries for my pickle, especially since I already put ketchup on the fries, or, at least, some of the fries, the rest of the ketchup having missed its mark and ended up on the shelf…or below the shelf on my knee.
So I was not really enjoying this experience. It also maybe didn’t help that one of the main characters in the movie was undergoing chemotherapy and vomiting green goop while I was eating. This did not make it likely that I would order a milkshake.
Besides, any attempt I might have made to read the menu and write an order in the dark would have resulted in an illegible scrawl, at least some of which would have been rendered in ketchup.
I’ll tell you what I was really glad about: that we weren’t seeing a 3D movie. If I was trying to eat in the dark while wearing those glasses, I would have been reenacting the regurgitation scene.
At some point, our waiter, Quasimodo, delivered a check which, of course, I couldn’t read, which was just as well, as I couldn’t tell Andrew Jackson from Abe Lincoln in my wallet. I would have used the flashlight function on my iPhone, but the house rules would have gotten me kicked out.
But let me go back to the very first line of this post. I actually do get this business. With tickets, dinner and tip, it cost over $100 for three of us to go to the movies, so big profits for Alamo.
See you soon.
P.S. However, if they ever re-release Animal House, this is the place to see it. FOOD FIGHT!