Alamo Drafthouse Theaters to Implement a 'No Latecomers' Policy

November 6, 2012

Amy Poehler in Mean Girls

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?

Find more posts: Cool Stuff, Movie News



Frankly, I don't see an issue if anyone arrives during the trailers, but once the actual movie has started, no one should be allowed in the theater who doesn't already have a seat.

Ethan Anderton on Nov 6, 2012


Yep. This.

BenPears on Nov 6, 2012


Can't stand when people show up late to a's a huge distraction, and the fact that nobody's getting ripped off here is a great thing,too. I mean people run happens...but I'm a huge fan of cinema and I'm always on time and I don't wish to be distracted by a bunch of late people.

dale on Nov 6, 2012


I always make it to the theaters before it starts so I can enjoy the trailers. And I do hate it when they arrive late like 15 minutes after the film begins.

The Truth on Nov 6, 2012


I do like watching the trailers beforehand, but with the movies I go to see, there's usually about 3 other people in the cinema so it doesn't bother me when someone comes in late. Sometimes, people are late, that's just life. There's a cinema in Edinburgh that is a lot more snobbish than that. they won't let you in depending on what class they decide you might be, never mind if you turn up on time. Whatever next?

Carpola on Nov 6, 2012


Which cinema is that?

Flamenx01 on Nov 7, 2012


What would be the policy if someone arrives on time, leaves the theater (e.g. bathroom break, soda refills) and then attempts to re-enter? Or are people just going to be expected suck it up?

Moosenlawyer on Nov 6, 2012


Just piss yer pants, it's warm for about a minute.

Carpola on Nov 6, 2012


If you know where you're sitting it's ok, you just make a b line for it, but people walking in late to a dark theatre tend to stand around til their eyes adjust. makes a kind of sense

Richie G on Nov 7, 2012


It's totally up to Alomo to decide on their own terms and conditions. As long as it's legal. If you don't like it, go spend your money elsewhere. As it appears Alamo had decided that if you buy a ticket, you have the right to a certain experience. And that experience includes seeing a movie from start to finish without being disturbed by folks who are not very well in planning or don't care much about a true movie experience. To make, that makes a lot of sense.

Nash on Nov 7, 2012


Totally agree, its a good policy. Fed up of other people ruining the film with their 'I can do what I like attitude'. In london cinema, once a family of 2 adults and 5 kids arrived 20 minutes late for the film and they had 8 bags of food shopping with them and made noise through out the whole film. People like that should not be allowed to sit with decent respectable people

killitwithfire on Nov 7, 2012


Mean Girls! <3

Davide Coppola on Nov 7, 2012


Now, if there were more ushers like Bruce Campbell...

Isildur_of_Numenor on Nov 7, 2012


When was the last time you went to a Broadway show, or any play for that matter? Standard theatre policy across North America these days is to have one, if not multiple, 'late calls' in which ushers escort patrons to available, and easily accessible, seats. It is an absolute rarity to have to wait until intermission. While the sentiment behind draughthouse's new policy is attractive, it is absolutely backwards thinking. And while that might be nice for luddites and octogenarians, its people on the go(I.e. the ones most likely to arrive late) who are going to be any theatres primary source of revenue.

n on Nov 7, 2012


I approve of this policy

Tester on Nov 7, 2012


I work for Alamo and can tell you that all of the questions and concerns, both for and against the new policy, have been addressed by staff and customers trying out the new seating system. Ushers will now be part of the Alamo experience, keeping people from stumbling in the dark or helping them to& from the restrooms, but no one is being turned away yet. For the time being we are working through the logistics of our new system and developing ways to better serve our patrons. All of the points brought up are valid, but remember that the Alamo is a unique experience and offers more than just Movies and popcorn!

Andy B on Nov 8, 2012


Good! Now no one will arrive late for the next Adam Sandler movie!!

Alan Trehern on Nov 8, 2012

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