If you’d like to shop local even when you’re renting a movie on the couch, this might be for you.
Alamo Drafthouse on Thursday launched Alamo On Demand, its own video-on-demand platform. Film lovers can take it for a spin at ondemand.drafthouse.com, with apps for iOS and Android on the way, according to a news release. The service joins a growing number of streaming and on-demand platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and more, competing for homebound consumers’ entertainment budgets during the coronavirus pandemic.
The films available to rent or buy through the Alamo Drafthouse’s service are curated by the company’s programming team. Alamo On Demand’s offerings are already robust, including critically acclaimed films like "Parasite" and "Portrait of a Lady on Fire"; new and recent releases like "Spaceship Earth" and "Arkansas"; and obscure cult favorites like "Rock ’N’ Roll High School" and "Black Christmas."
Rentals through Alamo On Demand run as low as $2.99; buying films through the platform runs as high as $14.99 for some new releases.
Expect personal recommendations on the platform, including genre picks from Weird Wednesday programmer Laird Jimenez; female-driven films selected by Champagne Cinema and Afternoon Tea creator Sarah Pitre; and past Fantastic Fest favorites from fest programmer Evrim Ersoy. Even Alamo Drafthouse co-founder and executive chairman Tim League, who recently stepped down as CEO to focus on creative endeavors with the company, has a slate of movie picks available.
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"Every title on the platform has a champion on the Alamo programming team," Sarah Pitre, Alamo Drafthouse’s senior director of programming and promotions, said in a statement. "Alamo On Demand is a curated library, with each film nominated and personally recommended by a programmer."
Down the line, the company also plans to use Alamo On Demand to offer video rental packages that tie in with major new releases from studios, like bundles of a director’s past films or "a collection of films that specifically influenced the upcoming movie," according to the news release. On tap for the future, too, the company says: team-ups with studios like Sony Pictures Classics to screen Drafthouse-recommended titles such as "Call Me by Your Name," "Pain and Glory" and "A Fantastic Woman."
Alamo On Demand was created in collaboration with Vista Cinema, Drafthouse’s longtime cinema management software partner, using its ScreenPlus platform. The new VOD service integrates the company’s existing film scheduling, email, online ticketing and Victory loyalty program systems, according to the news relase: "In the future, rentals and purchases on Alamo On Demand will provide loyalty program credit, and, as an example, immediately after theatrical screenings, guests may receive a discount on the future purchase of the movie they just watched."
In a statement, League offered up an example to illustrate why the company is launching Alamo On Demand.
"Alamo Drafthouse had been promoting ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ to our guests for months," League said. "We love people to see films in the cinema first and foremost, but the reality is not everyone can always make the time for every movie they want to see. This platform allows us to give folks who missed ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ in cinemas another chance to see it, which is simply an extension of our enthusiasm and support for the film. ... And in these shuttered days and beyond, these rentals and purchases help support your neighborhood theater."
Alamo Drafthouse’s physical theaters, like all cinemas, have been closed for weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic and shelter-in-place orders around the country. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott allowed the state’s movie theaters to reopen at 25% capacity beginning May 1. Few in the Austin area have decided to start their screens up, citing safety or a lack of new movies from major studios, most of which pushed their release schedules back because of the pandemic.
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A spokesperson for Drafthouse, which famously also offers in-screening dining service, said in an April 27 statement that reopening theaters would be a "complex" project entailing new equipment and training on updated safety procedures.
"This is something we cannot and will not do casually or quickly," the statement read.
Shelli Taylor took League’s place as CEO on May 1 and will lead reopening efforts for Drafthouse theaters, according to the company.
Alamo On Demand is not the chain’s first foray into home entertainment during the pandemic. Soon after the cancellation of South by Southwest in March, the chain launched an Alamo-At-Home initiative, including virtual cinema versions of Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday, its longest-running programming series. Other Austin theaters also offer virtual cinema options, including AFS Cinema and Violet Crown Cinema.
League and his wife, Karrie, opened the first Drafthouse in 1997 as a single-screen repertory theater on Colorado Street in Austin. The company now has 41 locations across the country, including 21 in Texas and six in the Austin area.
Current and upcoming highlights from Alamo On Demand include:
• Lionsgate’s "Knives Out," "Arkansas," "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum," "La La Land," "A Simple Favor," "Apocalypse Now: Final Cut" and "Dirty Dancing"
• Alamo Drafthouse-affiliated Neon’s "Parasite," "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" and "Spaceship Earth"
• Sony Pictures Classics’ "Call Me by Your Name," "Pain and Glory" and "A Fantastic Woman"
• An exclusive premiere of the new documentary "Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl," with a livestream Q&A and performance by Nash
• Magnolia Pictures’ "RBG," "Skate Kitchen" and "Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins"
• Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s music documentary "Junun"
• Severin Films and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s "Santa Sangre"
• Well Go USA’s "Burning"
• Drafthouse Films’ entire catalog, including "The Act of Killing," "The Look of Silence," "Bullhead" and "Four Lions"
• A "movie riffing" screening of the "rediscovered cult classic" "Roar" from comedy collective Master Pancake Theater
• Shout! Factory’s Ramones-starring "Rock ’N’ Roll High School"
• Restored genre films from American Genre Film Archive like "Ninja Zombie" and Ed Wood's "Take It Out in Trade"
• Family programming including kid-friendly festival films and the 50th-anniversary restoration of Harry Nilsson’s "The Point"