The Alamo Drafthouse Goes Bankrupt

And it’s all your fault

Panic and rage set in this morning as people starting sending me the news that the Alamo Drafthouse had gone bankrupt. The Alamo Drafthouse is literally the only place I’ve gone the last 12 months, other than the parking lot of the food pantry where I volunteer, and Costco, where I spend my money. And now the Alamo was bankrupt!

As it turns out, bankruptcy in this case is just a fancy term for corporate restructuring. The Alamo chain is losing three theaters, and ceasing construction on new properties. I can’t speak for the now-dead Alamos in New Braunfels, Texas, and Kansas City. But the Alamo Ritz in downtown Austin, while iconic and the host to many historically memorable events and screenings, is also pretty long in the tooth, and located on a block of valuable real estate that’s soon to undergo some sort of massive urban renewal. So, as it turns out, this isn’t an extinction-level event for the company.

Alamo
At the Alamo, all alone.

My initial rage evolved into a low-hanging grumpiness. All the people Tweeting their laments for the Alamo were, 12 hours earlier, tweeting praise at the Alamo for maintaining its masking and distancing policies in the face of Texas’ controversial reopening plan. Maybe not the exact same people, but certainly the same types of people. And these were the same types of people who, this summer, when the Alamo announced it was reopening, were screaming at the theater chain online, saying that their decision would equal murdering thousands of people. As it turns out, thousands of people did die, but not because they went to the movies.

People love the Alamo Drafthouse and hate that it’s having financial problems. But they refuse to go to the movies there, or anywhere. In fact, they don’t even think there should be movies right now.

Has anyone who spent today lamenting the late, great Alamo Drafthouse actually been to an Alamo Drafthouse in the last 12 months? Well, then, how do they expect a movie theater company to stay in business? I have said this over and over on this site until I’m pink in the face: It’s relatively safe to go to the movies. You can’t trace one single case of COVID, anywhere in the world, to movie-theater attendance.

Anyone out there saying “COVID-19 killed the Alamo” is being a moral hypocrite. The virus, as far as I know, does not cause the symptom of putting movie theaters out of business. This bankruptcy is on governments that refuse to allow the theaters to open, and on individual consumers who have made the choice not to go to the movies. My conscience is clear on this issue, and probably only on this issue. I’ve been to the Alamo at least once a month since August, and have had a couple of binge weeks where I went three times. On one occasion, I went three days in a row. This doesn’t make me morally superior, except for in one way: I can feel personal attachment to this particular bankruptcy.

I go to the Alamo, and I have the receipts to prove it. Twice, I’ve gone to the Alamo and I’ve been the only person in the theater. Not only did I not get sick, and not get anyone else sick, I also went to the movies. Man, was it nice to get out of the house for a couple of hours. If the Alamo goes out of business, well, there goes my social life of going to the movies by myself at an abandoned theater.

By reopening, and still maintaining protocols, and still offering a semblance of the kind of programming it did before, the Alamo Drafthouse has heroically tried to stay in business. The fact that it can’t, in the same way, isn’t their fault.

It’s your fault.

 

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Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 11 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. He's written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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