First Look: Inside the New Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Tempe

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Tempe is gearing up for its official grand opening on Thursday, May 24.

The dine-in cinema, which is located at 1140 East Baseline Road, is part of a mixed-use complex called The Collective, situated between South Rural Road and South Lakeshore Drive.

The cinema will occupy 32,300 square feet of space. It's a $3.8 million project, built by Phoenix-based LGE Design Build, which also worked on Barrio Queen, El Hefe, and Steak 44. 

The upscale movie house includes seven screens, with more than 750 seats. But it also has a full-service kitchen, bar with five TV screens, and outdoor patio dining area.

When you want a TV screen instead of a movie screen.EXPAND
When you want a TV screen instead of a movie screen.
Lynn Trimble

“We’re one of the biggest restaurants in Tempe, when you consider our number of seats,” says co-owner Craig Paschich.

Paschich and Derek Dodd own both the Tempe location, and the Chandler location that opened in December 2016. The Chandler location has nine theaters that seat a total of 975 patrons. Both men live in Chandler.

“This is number 34,” Paschich says of the Tempe cinema. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is based in Austin, Texas, where it was founded in 1997 by Tim and Karrie League.

“We own the rights for Arizona,” Paschich says. “We plan to open 10 more in the next 10 years.”

For now, they’re focused on opening the Tempe location.

Alamo Tempe will launch with a soft opening and discounts during staff training days that run from Friday, May 18, to Wednesday, May 23. Alamo and Chandler-based SanTan Brewing Company are hosting a launch party May 18 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Up close with part of Joe Pagac's new mural for Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Tempe.EXPAND
Up close with part of Joe Pagac's new mural for Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Tempe.
Lynn Trimble

The soft opening is a chance for locals to check out the dining and movie options, plus a new Joe Pagac mural with a movie theme.

The cinema welcomes people to come and eat or hang out at the bar, even if they’re not seeing a film. “We want people to come and enjoy all the other things we have,” Dodd says.

The full-service kitchen will serve lunch and dinner. There’s also a brunch and children’s menu. Sometimes the chef creates menu items that pair with particular movie themes. All food is made to order, and about 80 percent will be made from scratch.

The in-lobby bar features 32 craft beers on tap, including 25 from Arizona breweries. Other offerings include craft cocktails, wines, and liquor. There's even a Charity on Tap handle, which helps raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.

One of seven cinemas filled with rocking seats (and recliners down front).EXPAND
One of seven cinemas filled with rocking seats (and recliners down front).
Lynn Trimble

Theater size varies at Alamo Tempe, from 61 to 172 seats. One theater is equipped to show 3-D films, and another features 35 mm projection for old school reel-to-reel films. Front rows have reclining seats, and the rest are rockers.

Patrons choose seats when they purchase tickets, which are usually $11 for adults. Weekend tickets are $11.50, and matinee tickets for weekday shows before 5 p.m. are $6.

Alamo Tempe will show first-run, independent, and re-release films. The first lineup will include Solo: A Star Wars Story, which explores the early adventures of Han Solo and his sidekick Chewbacca.

But the cinema also will present special events, such as movie parties, and tea or Champagne screenings. Sometimes the cinema will show films with memorable songs or quotes, encouraging patrons to sing along or shout out the famous quotes as they occur.

More often, Alamo Drafthouse requires its moviegoers to follow a strict no-talking and no-texting policy. Patrons get one warning if they talk or text during a film. If it happens again, they’re asked to leave — without getting a refund. Latecomers get admitted during previews, but not once the feature film has started.

Servers check in with moviegoers once they’re seated, but patrons can also order food or drinks during films using a paper system that preserves the no-talking environment.

Co-owners Derek Dodd (left) and Craig Paschich at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Tempe.EXPAND
Co-owners Derek Dodd (left) and Craig Paschich at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Tempe.
Lynn Trimble

There’s a final element worth noting.

Kids under age 6 can’t attend Alamo Drafthouse, unless the cinema is showing something offered specifically for young audiences. And patrons under age 18 always must be accompanied by an adult.

Alamo Drafthouse is part of a lifestyle entertainment brand that also presents an eight-day festival of offbeat films, and has an online art boutique with screen-printed posters, clothing, and toys inspired by classic and contemporary films, TV shows, and comics.

For more details and to buy tickets, see the Alamo Drafthouse website.

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