Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Alamo Drafthouse brings beer and community to Boston cinemas

Drea Xili Catalano

Since Mesopotamia, there has been beer. And since Eadweard Muybridge, there has been cinema. No one had ever thought to combine the two—until 1997, when beloved Texas theater chain Alamo Drafthouse was founded. Their theaters provide moviegoers with in-house food and drinks, combining the disciplines of entertainment and dining for a singular cinema experience.

Alamo is opening its first Boston venue in Seaport on Nov. 17. This marks a big step for the company: it faced a bankruptcy scare in 2021 and barely survived the pandemic. However, Alamo has since flourished and is beginning an eastward expansion across the continental U.S.—it started with a Chicago location in January, and after Boston, there are plans to open in Florida.

Leading the expansion effort is Alex Shebar, Alamo’s first marketing manager. He was hired to oversee the theater’s opening in his hometown of Boston in January, and the company liked him so much he now manages marketing across the entire East Coast. With the opening of the Seaport location, Shebar intends to contribute to the existing Boston film scene rather than disrupt it.

“We want it to feel like Boston,” Shebar said in an interview with the Beacon. “We’re working with local brands to screen movies, our beers are Boston-brewed, and we’ve got a giant Iron Giant in the lobby because it’s a New England–based movie.”

Independent cinemas like the Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Brattle Theatre have kept Boston’s film scene thriving. Alamo’s new Seaport location plans not to compete but collaborate by providing repertory programming and helping host some of Boston’s film festivals in the future.

Alamo’s mission statement is to give moviegoers a viewing experience that is all their own: food and drinks are served straight to audience seats, and the cinema enforces a strict no-talking-or-texting rule during screenings. But while the viewing experience is sacred, Shebar wants the enthusiasm to be shared.

“You can walk out of a movie surrounded by people and feel a little lonely,” Shebar said. “Especially if you love that movie and want to share it with people. You can hop on X and find others, but there should be a physical space to connect with people who feel the same way.”

The theater will host board game nights, trivia nights, karaoke, and even Dungeons and Dragons sessions. There will also be a full-fledged bar, dubbed the “Press Room,” with 50 seats and a functional letterpress printer—audience members can socialize over beers, which are all sourced from Dorchester breweries. These events and amenities allow audiences to have a good time before, during, and after a screening and help facilitate a community centered around a love of movies.

“You can go to any gathering, and if you don’t know what to ask, you can ask: ‘What’s a film you’ve seen recently?’” Shebar said. “Not everybody loves movies, but most people tend to enjoy movies—and more importantly, everyone’s opinionated about movies. It’s an experience we can connect over.”

In a streaming age of media, many casual movie fans have become disillusioned with the idea of going to the cinema. Shebar hopes these community events will make the experience of cinema-going as just as important as the movie itself.

“Our founder, Tim League, likes to talk about this comparison: ‘You’ve got a kitchen at home. Why ever go out to a restaurant?’” Shebar said. “You could watch films at home, but if you want to be with other people, to see it without distractions, to have an experience—that’s what Alamo Drafthouse does.”

The Seaport location will have ten screens, with a total capacity of 800 people. Shebar wants to make the most of its technology—viewers can expect a mix of first-run movies and repertory hits in their programming. In the past year, Alamo has hosted an Al Pacino marathon, a Stanley Kubrick retrospective, and a screening of Shrek at Fenway Park.

Shebar also hopes the Alamo Season Pass will be an attractive value proposition for movie fans who want to be back in theaters—for $30 a month. Moviegoers can watch one movie a day (3D, 70mm, and Dolby Atmos screenings will require a $2 fee).

“If you see two movies, it pays for itself—if you see more than two movies, it’s absolutely worth it,” Shebar said. “I’ve been a season pass member since 2018. I refuse to live in a city that doesn’t have an Alamo Drafthouse.”

The opening of the Seaport location and Alamo’s success past the pandemic is a testament to the strength of the cinema’s supporters. Historically, moviegoers are conditioned to eating overpriced nonsense during screenings—Alamo provided the niche service of high-quality dining during movies, and that resonated with audiences enough to keep the theater chain afloat.

“We were a cinema chain in the pandemic; that’s a very scary thing to be,” Shebar said. “But our community rallied, and we did some cool at-home stuff. Since then, we have committed to expanding to make sure that people can experience Alamo across this country.”

Going to the cinema was once the only way for people to engage with movies. Today’s greater accessibility is a net positive, but something magical about the experience has been undeniably lost. So while Boston’s active film scene is strong, it remains niche: Shebar hopes creating a community around moviegoing—and the allure of beer—may help casual audiences in Boston go to theaters for more than just event movies or blockbusters.

“Boston has incredible cinemas, and I still feel it’s underserved,” Shebar said. “There could be more cinemas, more movies, more joy that brings people together. The fact that we’re coming in and adding more movies to Boston can just unequivocally be good.”

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About the Contributor
Ryan Yau
Ryan Yau, Living Arts Co-Editor
Ryan Yau (he/him) is a first-year journalism major from Hong Kong. He writes and edits for the Living Arts section, normally feature stories on artists and arts events in Boston, usually film-related. Occasionally he has an opinion. He recreationally play saxophone.

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