The Twin Cities’ New Alamo Drafthouse Is a Full-Blown Cinema Experience

Full disclosure: I’m the friend in the friend group who doesn’t always get the appeal of going out to the movies. That’s not a negative against the industry or anything—it’s just not high on my priority list. It usually takes a special kind of movie to get me to leave the house, spring for tickets and popcorn, then settle in for two-plus hours of cinema. (But I did see Black Panther three times.)

That being said, the Alamo Drafthouse in Woodbury? It’s 110 percent a reason to go to the movies.

The outside of the theater. Photos by Madeleine Vasaly

I’d heard of the Drafthouse before from friends who live in other states—and the Internet with the whole “women only” screenings of Wonder Woman. Spoiler: I’m really jealous I couldn’t experience that. I have a Wonder Woman ball gown I would’ve worn for the occasion. But, alas, I didn’t live in the theater chain’s home of Texas, or any other state with a Drafthouse. That is, until recently, when they opened up a location here in Minnesota.

You know when people say that you go to the movies to experience cinema? I get it now. Because the Alamo Drafthouse is out of this world.

This way, please. Photos by Madeleine Vasaly

The first thing I noticed was the “old cinema” feel the theater has. There are all sorts of retro posters, and the motif reminds me of being a kid going to the movies for the first time. There’s also a full restaurant attached to the theater, taking the place of a traditional concession stand. At first, I thought that was an odd choice, but then I went to my designated theater and discovered why there’s not a display case of movie candy.

You can order your food from your seat.

Now when the words food and movie theater are said in the same sentence, I expect some nachos, maybe chicken strips if you wanna get fancy. Of course, I’m familiar with the Showplace, which has an area upstairs full of alcohol and flatbread pizzas. The Drafthouse takes it to a whole new level, offering a multiple pages menu of food options—some items added specifically for this Minnesota location. (I see you, Drafthouse, and your Juicy Lucy Burger). There was even a section for brunch, y’all, and Taco Tuesdays for those cheap movie-ticket days. If you’re just in the mood for a classic bowl of popcorn, you can get that, too—and psst, it’s bottomless. Your individual movie may also have a menu specially made for it; at the time of writing this, Crazy Rich Asians had its own food selection.

The waitstaff is spot-on with service, coming to talk to you before the movie to explain how to go about ordering food. Our server was very attentive, as well as quiet, making sure they didn’t interrupt the movie too much. And if you are worried about missing an important part of the film while trying to decide what to eat, you can dine in the theater’s full restaurant before or after the movie.

Take a seat. Photos by Madeleine Vasaly

While I treated myself to cheese curds and drinks, I was happy to learn that Drafthouse theaters are notorious for being hard-asses about their “no disruptions” policy. They won’t hesitate to kick you out for using cell phones or talking too loudly during the movie. They won’t even admit babies and small children to most screenings, and if you’re under 18 you can’t see a movie without being accompanied by an adult unless if you’re part of their Victory Vanguard program. But there’s no need to fret, parents with kids—they do offer weekly daytime “Alamo for All” screenings, which are meant for young families and guests with special needs. (I also said most screenings. Kids under three are only allowed at those Alamo for All showings, but you’re welcome to bring your kid who’s three or older to that PG movie, or six or older for PG-13.)

You’ll also notice, as you’re sitting in your reclining seats, that the Drafthouse doesn’t play any ads before the previews kick in. Instead, the theater shows clips that relate to the movie you’re about to watch. My partner and I took an afternoon to ourselves to watch The Meg—because sometimes you gotta watch Jason Statham fight a giant shark. Before the film began, we were treated to wonderfully cheesy shark clips to set the mood. Adam West’s Batman trying to kick a shark off of him, calling out to Robin to get the shark repellent spray. A man accidentally navigating his speedboat into the open mouth of a shark in 2002’s Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. It reminded me of seeing a short cartoon before a film as a kid . . . only with laughably bad CG and a high body count.

And I was eager to see that the Drafthouse, which prides itself on high-quality picture and sound, doesn’t just play current films. Occasionally, you’ll see an older film in the lineup, and chances are, there’s a special event tied to it. This can be an event designated by the entire theater chain, or just the local theater itself. There’s already been a Scott Pilgrim event at our local Drafthouse, and there are plenty more where that came from—keep your calendar open for Halloween.

Vetted Well, the Alamo’s standalone restaurant. Photos by Madeleine Vasaly

The Alamo Drafthouse is that theater you go to when you want the best of the best in your moviegoing experience. Whether it’s a group of friends sharing drinks and snacks, a Saturday-night date, or a themed event with audience participation, it’s definitely worth venturing out to Woodbury for a day.

Or several days.

Seriously, what are we doing for Aquaman? Spider-Verse? Shazam? Captain Marvel? Infinity War 2: Electric Boogaloo? Let me know!

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