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Minnesota's Alamo Drafthouse Cinema embraces luxury

The theater on Hudson Road, which features nine screens, bills itself as a luxury movie and food experience. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press 1 / 2
The main theater of the new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Woodbury. Tables were still being installed in the main theater Tuesday. A “soft opening” is planned for Sunday. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press 2 / 2

WOODBURY, Minn.—Billed as Minnesota's most luxurious movie theater, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has arrived in Woodbury.

"This is a temple for film and cinema," said Bill DiGaetano, chief operating officer of the Texas-based theater chain, as he gave reporters a tour Tuesday, July 17.

The nine-screen theater is at the west edge of the Woodbury Lakes mall and opens to the public Sunday, July 22.

Twin Cities theaters have recently rushed into the luxury-movie market, installing features such as reclining seats. Some also have added restaurant service inside the theaters. But the Alamo has so many new elements that officials talk about the need to "educate" customers. Those features, believed to be unique in the state, are:

  • A policy of no unaccompanied children under the age of 18.
  • No concessions stand. All food orders are made from the theater seats.
  • Popcorn served in metal bowls, not in bags or tubs. "There is no crinkly wrapping," said Creative Director Tim Holly.
  • Full bar and restaurant menus for all seats in all screens at all times.
  • No pre-movie commercials.
  • No late seating, even for customers who have already bought tickets.

In addition, the theater strictly enforces a no-talking, no-texting rule.

"Guests get one warning," said DiGaetano — then they are kicked out.

Customers are encouraged to use the order cards to write down complaints about texting or talking.

"We want you to rat people out," said DiGaetano.

People arriving early will not see commercials, but a 30-minute feature about the movie they came to see. When "Kong: Skull Island" debuted last year, the pre-movie segment looked at the history of King Kong in movies.

But perhaps the Alamo's most distinctive feature is its approach to food. With no concession stand, every morsel must be ordered from a theater seat. Customers consult a menu, write down their order and wait-staff deliver it.

Customers can order courses of movie-appropriate meals to be served during appropriate times. For example, during a scene in "The Godfather" in which gangsters eat spaghetti, spaghetti would be served in the theater.

The theater adjusts menus so the food fits the film.

The 2017 movie "The Big Sick" involved an immigrant from Pakistan, so Alamo added Pakistani food to the menu, for the duration of the showing.

Sometimes, food appears spontaneously.

During 2016's "Ghostbusters," when the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man gets torched, every table in the theater got a s'more, a dessert that features toasted marshmallows.

The menu is full of customary bar fare, ranging from burgers to tacos. One exotic item from Alamo's brunch menu is the Caramel Crème Brulee French Toast for $13.

Before or after the movies, customers may lounge in the 76-capacity restaurant and bar area, with two garage-style doors that open up in good weather. The "Vetted Well" bar offers 32 beers on tap, all local brews. Mixed drinks are available, the most expensive being a type of tequila for $14.50. All drinks can be served inside the theaters.

For special events, such as birthdays, the theater supplies props for movies — foam shark's mouths for the movie "Jaws," or inflatable swords for "The Princess Bride." At other times, the theater will stage sing-along events during old movies.

The Alamo will have a "soft opening" Sunday, as newly hired staff are trained in, with all tickets selling for $5. Normal pricing — $8 days and $11 in evenings — starts on July 27.

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