Alamo Drafthouse Theaters to Implement a 'No Latecomers' Policy
by Ben Pearson
November 6, 2012
Though I've never had the opportunity to visit an Alamo Drafthouse theater, I feel like I've spent my whole movie-going life in one because their policy to go out of their way to make the entire movie-going experience great from start to finish so closely aligns with my own beliefs on how all theaters should operate. Tim League, the theater chain's owner, has implemented a strict no talking/texting policy (it's not too late to enter their No Talking/Texting Video PSA Contest) and he's been extremely vocal in his opposition to text-friendly movie theaters. Now League says the Drafthouse will not allow any late arrivals.
This policy goes into effect January 3rd, 2013. Here's part of the announcement, via The Drafthouse's blog:
We are very excited to announce the rollout of a new solution designed to minimize distractions and make the moviegoing experience as pleasant as possible. It is an old idea, and one we have given a lot of thought to over the years, but we agree with many of our customers that its time has come. Quite simply, no one will be seated once the film has begun. If you show up after the feature starts, you have missed it. The plane has left the terminal. If you bought in advance we can apply your ticket to another show or refund your money but you will not be admitted into the theater.
There's a discussion going on in that blog post's comments right now that compares going to a movie with attending a Broadway show. You wouldn't show up late to an event like that and expect to be let in after it has already begun, would you? You'd have to wait until intermission. Arriving late is rude, disrespectful, and disruptive to those around you, and while everyone understands that sometimes things happen (traffic, family emergencies, late babysitters, etc.), that's why the Drafthouse will offer to trade your ticket for another show or give you a full refund.
Think about it: why would you even want to watch a movie after it's started anyway? The opening scenes of films are often essential to understanding the film as a whole. Can you imagine if you walked in five minutes late to Citizen Kane? You'd have no idea what the entire movie was about, and it would rob the conclusion of its meaning. The example doesn't have to be as haughty as Citizen Kane, but for example, if a movie opens and closes with the same shot and you arrived late, the ending shot would just be confusing and you wouldn't understand its significance.
If a film starts at, say, 7:30 PM, you're welcome to arrive anytime up to then, head comfortably to your waiting seat and enjoy the show, content in the knowledge that the only people you'll see drifting past you in the darkness are our stealthy, ninja-like waitstaff. No more clumsy latecomers stepping on your Reeboks and fumbling up your elbows as they squint at their menus in the dark and chat with their server about the beer specials during the movie's crucial opening scenes.
As someone who refuses to watch a movie if I can't see the whole thing, and someone who appreciates not being distracted by people who didn't organize their trip to the movies well enough, this concept makes total sense to me. I can see why it would ruffle the feathers of some of you who will argue, "Hey, I paid my money, I should be able to do what I want!" but that's why the refund or alternate time option is available to you. And before those of you who are going to freak out about this launch into the comments, remember: no one is forcing you to go to this particular theater chain. Walk in late to an AMC or Regal all you like. But I appreciate the Drafthouse's commitment to preserving the theatrical experience, and I can't wait for the day when I can attend a showing there myself. Thoughts?