Ever since it opened a Richardson location in 2013, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has almost seemed to be teasing Tarrant County, as locations of the offbeat movie-theater chain have opened near downtown Dallas and, just this month, in Lake Highlands (grand opening is Wednesday night), with plans announced for Las Colinas and Denton.
But not in Tarrant. Till now.
On Wednesday, Alamo announced that its first Tarrant location will be in North Richland Hills. The Austin-based chain plans to open an eight-screen movie theater in 2019 at 8380 Davis Blvd. in the Northeast Tarrant city.
While this might still seem a little out of the way if you live in, say, southwest Fort Worth, it actually makes a certain amount of sense for Northeast Tarrant: The location is very close to the city limits of both Keller and Colleyville and not far from Southlake, Grapevine, Watauga or part of far north Fort Worth, near the busy intersection of Davis Boulevard and North Tarrant Parkway, two of the area's most-used thoroughfares.
And according to Bill DiGaetano, Alamo Drafthouse DFW's chief operations officer, the opening fits in with Alamo's usual plan of attack — and it is a production, as a movie trailer might say, that has been years in the making.
"It's similar to what we did over in Dallas County, where we put our first location in Richardson, being a suburb of Dallas," DiGaetano says in a phone interview. "We like to kind of start on the outskirts and then work our way into central. But the thing about north Tarrant County is you've got great density, you've got a lot of families, which is something we like to look for for our suburban theaters."
DiGaetano knows of what he speaks: He is a Colleyville resident. The new location will be five minutes from his house. "I'm going to say that didn't have anything to do with the choice of location," he says with a chuckle, "but I'm sure it did somewhere or the other."
Although there are several movie theaters within a short drive from North Richland Hills, the city itself does not currently have a movie theater within its town limits.
“A movie theater is among the most desired additions to the city by our residents and having an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is even better,” Oscar Trevino, North Richland Hills' mayor, says in a release.
Even before the Richardson location opened, DiGaetano and Alamo were in discussions with the city of North Richland Hills about an Alamo location, a process that started nearly six years ago. DiGaetano says that's not unusual.
"Our downtown Dallas location had been in the works for about five years before it came out of the ground," he says. "Sometimes we get 'em real quick; sometimes it takes a little time. Those are usually the fun ones."
Unlike the Richardson location, the North Richland Hills one won't be adjacent to a freeway, so it won't have that kind of drive-by presence, although Davis Boulevard is used heavily by Keller and Southlake residents who commute to and from downtown Fort Worth. But being freeway-adjacent is not important to the Alamo chain.
"We don't really depend on drive-by traffic," DiGaetano says. "We depend on the films that are coming out and the Hollywood budgets putting the advertising out. That's really what drives a movie theater's traffic. The way most people are looking at movie times now, they're going to Google the movie they want to see, and the closest movie theater to them pops up.
"But prototypically, in the Metroplex, we pull about a 20- to 23-minute drive time to our theaters," he continues. "So we pull a lot of people past other theaters to come to Alamo, and I think that has to do with the uniqueness of the brand and the cult following we have."
One of Alamo's more offbeat touches is the "pre-show entertainment," which might include featurettes related to the main feature — which could mean, say, some old "Star Wars" product commercials from the '70s preceding a screening of a new "Star Wars" movie.
And then there are the specialty screenings: On Wednesday night, the Richardson location will screen the 1984 cult classic "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension" as part of a retrospective series called "Press Start to Continue: The World of 'Ready Player One.'" The series was curated by Ernie Cline, author of the novel that inspired the upcoming Steven Spielberg movie.
Ground has already been broken on the NRH location, which is expected to open in April 2019. The eight-screen theater will have more than 950 reclining seats and will feature a location of its bar and restaurant, Vetted Well, with 32 craft beers on tap. It will also have an outdoor play area for children. The NRH location will also feature an auditorium called "The Big Show," which will feature one of the largest screens in the Alamo Drafthouse chain.
Alamo Drafthouse North Richland Hills will be hiring for approximately 120 positions, largely from the surrounding neighborhoods, according to a release. For info, click on https://drafthouse.com/dfw/careers.
Alamo plans to add more locations in Tarrant County, but it could take some time. For now, DiGaetano is happy to have at least part of a void filled.
"It's always been a sore spot with our fans that live in Tarrant County," DiGaetano says. "And with us, too, because we've wanted to open there for quite some time and we haven't located in Fort Worth proper yet. But it's just a mechanism of finding the right real estate. And that's not always easy with a concept the size of ours."