October 22, 2020

A national movie theater chain is rolling out a wild plan to let you rent your own private cinema, starting at $300 plus the cost of tickets



Alamo Drafthouse


© Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse

  • Alamo Drafthouse theaters, a national movie chain based in Texas, now offers customers the opportunity to rent out an entire theater.
  • Having an auditorium to yourself costs $150, plus a ticket for each guest and at least $150 in concessions.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has roiled the movie theater industry, with a recent poll showing that only 22% of US adults feel comfortable going to a theater.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In a bid to bring viewers back to cinemas, a chain of US movie theaters is now allowing customers to rent out entire theaters starting at $150. Family members and podmates can view releases like Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and classics like “Jaws” at Alamo Drafthouse theaters, without worrying about contracting COVID-19 from a stranger two seats over.

The private theater program has shown early promise. After being piloted in Texas, the company is now rolling out theater rentals to locations across the country.  

“It was big. Really big. In just the first few weeks we booked over 700 groups of families and coworkers at just a handful of theaters,” said Kristen Wheaten, Senior Director of Venue Experience at Alamo Drafthouse, in a press release.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, movie theaters across the country have seen revenues plummet. Only 22% of US adults said they would feel comfortable going to the movies right now, according to a recent poll by the Morning Consult. And 38% said that it would be more than six months before they felt comfortable returning to theaters.

Alamo Drafthouse is one of many theaters hoping to persuade customers to return, with the hopes that offerings like private theater rentals or drive-in movies could make up for plummeting ticket revenues. Meanwhile, a group of over 3,000 theaters, that includes chains like Cinemark, Regal Entertainment, AMC, and IMAX, have adopted “CinemaSafe” guidelines such as theater capacity, mandates masks, and pivots to mobile ticketing, to promote a “safe return to movie theaters.” 

Alamo Drafthouse operates 41 theaters across the country, with locations from Austin, Texas to New York City. At some of its 20 open locations (about half have temporarily closed), viewers can pay a $150 fee to rent out an entire theater. Alongside the reservation fee, customers also must purchase individual tickets and buy a minimum of $150 in concessions.

Movies available for private showings at Alamo Drafthouse include new releases such as “Tenet” and heist movie “Kajillionaire,” as well as classics like “Casablanca,” “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Matrix,” and “Jaws.” Come October, the cinemas will also provide Halloween favorites like “The Addams Family.”

“Our guests have been asking how their friends, family, and fellow podmates can book their own safe and relaxing screening, and we’re proud to be able to deliver this to them at such an affordable rate,” Alamo Drafthouse CEO Shelli Taylor said in a company press release.

Alamo Drafthouse is a luxury movie theater, with amenities like bars and servers who deliver food to customers’ seats. But while these features were considered amenities pre-COVID, they have become a source of contention. In June, some employees told Business Insider that they were uncomfortable returning to work, since they generally interact with guests who are eating and drinking, and rely on a steady stream of tips for wages.

The theater chain later announced safety guidelines, which include disinfecting auditoriums, requiring masks, instituting two-seat buffers between parties, and pre-ordering food rather than ordering from inside a theater. 

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