- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

AUSTIN, Texas - A fledgling theater chain with national aspirations is giving “dinner and a movie” a whole new meaning.

Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas Ltd. is a movie house and restaurant under one roof. Customers can order beer, wine, burgers, sandwiches and pizza (with names such as “Porky’s” pepperoni and “Poultrygeist” chicken pesto) at their seats as they watch new releases, independent films or older movies.

The chain, which has three Austin locations and one in Houston, also has special promotions, such as showing a kung fu movie and offering a full Asian menu, or dishing up spaghetti with “spaghetti” Westerns.

The company hopes to eventually grow to 200 U.S. franchises. It’s an ambitious project for a small chain founded in 1996 with one screen that showed second-run films and hosted eccentric events — such as a showing of “Jaws” at a lake, for instance, during which moviegoers watched from inner tubes while underwater swimmers pinched their legs.

“They love cinema more than just about any theater that exists in the country,” said Harry Knowles, creator of the Ain’t It Cool News film Web site.

One of the most popular events is Mr. Sinus Theater — three comedians sitting at the front of the movie house with microphones, making quips and heckling movies such as “Dirty Dancing,” “Pretty in Pink” and “The Karate Kid.”

Director Quentin Tarantino has hosted film festivals at the original downtown Austin location, and the Alamo Drafthouse showed a premiere of his “Kill Bill: Vol. 1.” In December, Mel Gibson attended a screening of an unedited cut of “The Passion of The Christ” that Mr. Knowles hosted as part of his Butt-Numb-a-Thon film festival.

A side project of the Alamo Drafthouse is a traveling giant inflatable movie screen. The Rolling Roadshow, as it’s known, aired “Caddyshack” on a golf course, “Deliverance” along the Guadalupe River and “Goonies” at Longhorn Caverns. It recently was used to show Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” in Crawford, near President Bush’s Texas ranch.

CEO Terrell Braley said most people who see movies go out to eat before the show, and the chain gives customers a place to do both.

“Rather than two irritations, two looking for seats, two bad services, you have one enjoyable, wonderful experience without irritation,” Mr. Braley said.

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