The boozy, boutique movie theater is actually a chain of 40 theaters nationwide that has declared bankruptcy, but for now, the Mission Street location is not on the chopping block.
It’s a big day for movie theaters in San Francisco, as they can theoretically reopen at 25% capacity under our newly reattained "Red" tier status. But pretty much everyone’s favorite San Francisco movie theater, the luxe Alamo Drafthouse on Mission Street with the cocktail table service, artisan concessions, and art deco decor, still shows a “Sorry, We’re (Temporarily) Closed message on their website. The theater has a much bigger problem to worry about, though, as Variety reports that Alamo Drafthouse has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Alamo Drafthouse is more than just one theater on Mission Street, it’s a chain with some 40 locations nationwide, based in Texas. While three theaters in that chain are closing permanently on the news, the San Francisco location is currently expected to continue operating under the same name and iconic, neon New Mission marquee, as the bankruptcy is a complex (reportedly $20 million) restructuring and sale of assets to investors from which the theaters may eventually reemerge in decent financial health — once, you know, people are going to movie theaters again.
"Because of the increase in vaccination availability, a very exciting slate of new releases, and pent-up audience demand, we're extremely confident that by the end of 2021, the cinema industry – and our theaters specifically – will be thriving,” the theaters’ founder and executive chairman Tim League said in a statement picked up by SFGate.
In a separate statement to Variety, Alamo Drafthouse CEO Shelli Taylor pointed out that “Alamo Drafthouse had one of its most successful years in the company’s history in 2019 with the launch of its first Los Angeles theater and box office revenue that outperformed the rest of the industry.” Their movie-buff, boutique model may indeed still work with a trimmed-down number of better-performing theaters operating at the pre-COVID capacities.
But sadly, one of the casualties is their flagship theater in Austin, Texas, which is shuttering for good. The New York Times notes the interesting angle that Alamo Drafthouse has other theaters in Texas, which are subject to Governor Greg Abbott’s certifiably bonkers decision to fully reopen Texas and end the mask mandate. Alamo Drafthouse put out the statement above that they are keeping all previous restrictions in place, saying “We are only following the guidance of the C.D.C. and medical experts, not politicians.”
SFist was there on Alamo Drafthouse’s opening night in December 2015, a Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere that of course inspired cosmic cosplay. Since then, Alamo Drafthouse built its local cinephile cred by taking in the Lost Weekend Video library and becoming a host venue for the San Francisco International Film Festival (now SFFILM). They lost those hosting privileges after a 2017 sexual harassment scandal at the Austin flagship theater, but the local Mission Street location has remained in relatively good graces, and their $20 monthly pass initiated in 2019 was a genius move. Few movie houses have adapted as well as Alamo Drafthouse, and we do hope to pass the popcorn again.
Image: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema New Mission via Yelp