On The Alamo Drafthouse Season Pass

It seems I can’t get enough of movies passes. The Alamo Drafthouse Season Pass is my third try at making a movie pass part of my monthly outgoings, and my third failure.

But, let me start with this: The Alamo Drafthouse (AD) pass is by far the most positive experience I’ve had so far. I got the pass with the option of a +1, because I’m not cool enough to go to the movies alone. This comes to a little over $40. So, go to the movies with a partner twice a month and you’ve basically broken even

The app works. It’s great. The pass integrates into the AD app – you choose the location, the movie, the day, the time…the app tells you if this showing can be covered by the pass (you can’t pre-order more than 7 days ahead) and then it gives you your ticket inside the app.

$40 is a reasonable monthly charge for two people. There doesn’t feel like too much pressure to go see a movie – any movie – just so the pass is being used.

There’s an Alamo at the end of my road. That’s maybe a very niche benefit, but it means a lot to me.

Alamos are cool – so getting to go there regularly is also cool – in theory. I love the pre-show videos, love the serving staff. A visit to the Alamo never suffers from the experience provided by the people who work there.

Mostly, of course, the benefit of a movie pass is that you get to see more movies. And movies are great. But also great is – or can be – the chance to be around other people, briefly. The first movie I went to see with the pass was It: Chapter 2. As we left, an older lady in jean shorts and a crop top pushed by us and shouted back to her companion: “That was the best fucking movie I have ever seen!” He agreed, “It was something.”

As she disappeared out of the door and into the parking lot, she shouted: “I need to buy that!”

For The Irishman, I would normally have waited for it to arrive on Netflix – but with a pass, why not see it on the big screen? One thing I tried not to do beforehand was to know too much about it, which proved to be tricky. So, I knew the stars, I knew the special de-aging-effects controversy. What I did not know was the run time. “Take your time ordering,” our waitress said. “We’re all here together for the next 4 hours.”

“WHAT?” said the old couple in unison beside me. It’s so cute when couples have been together so long that they express their horror at exactly the same time. Marriage is great. I would say it did not feel like a 3.5 hours movie – but my sitting muscles would disagree.

My son and I went to see Joker. We both enjoyed it; it had elements of classic Scorsese (as has been said), Fight Club, and a feel of classic 70s US cinema. Maybe not as good as its influences, but an interesting story that adds a superhero movie to another American genre, just as Wolverine did.

For the few months I had the pass, I saw a lot of good movies and saw a lot more of the people of Austin than I would normally have been able to. That’s good value for $40 a month.

The Alamo is a chain that serves food and drink to you right where you’re sitting. It’s quite the innovation to a simple man from the north-east of England. But, not to sound spoiled, the menu is limited if you go often enough.

Eating a large meal while watching a movie in the dark has never felt that natural to me. You get the worst of both worlds: you’re not really concentrating on the movie, but you’re also not fully appreciating the food. Something potentially messy like a burger or a pizza has to be eaten with extreme care or extreme speed…and you’re paying the same as in a standard restaurant, but the food-eating experience is less satisfying. Eating in the dark also takes away some of the pleasure of the meal. And eating crunchy thin-crust pizza during a quiet, intense scene is a very uncomfortable, self-conscious experience.

And spending $50 on snacks and drinks at every performance is not sustainable. So we stopped getting full meals there. But we still snacked. Just going to a movie theater with table service was too much temptation to me.

Repetition is also an issue when it comes to the trailers. I have seen the same 4 or 5 trailers more times than I’ve seen episodes of The Mandalorian at this point. I seemed to see the Uncut Gems trailer at every screening – and then the movie itself didn’t seem to make it this far north.

The biggest issue with this or any other pass is being tied to one chain. The thing is – once you invest in a pass – you’re now stuck with going to the Alamo Drafthouse for all your movie-going needs. And while that’s not intrinsically a bad thing – after all, there’s a reason why they’re a popular, ever-expanding chain – it is limiting. The seating isn’t always as comfortable as some of their competitors (see The Irishman, above). Some of the other chains now have recliners, and they are awesome. In some Alamo theaters, it seems to be mostly the ones near me, the chairs are small and uncomfortable. And in days past, I’d put up with it, but there are other options out there. Their chairs recline, their menus are more interesting, and the movies – funnily enough – are exactly the same.

Paying $40 a month is reasonable – adding food and drinks to every visit (which I totally admit is a personal failing on my part) makes it too expensive. Then, for every ticket sold via the app, I still have to pay the service charge, adding $3 or so dollars to each trip. So, the more you use your card, the more it costs you in service fees. I believe the legal term for that is “bullshit”.

So, that’s my experience with the AD Season Pass. If it works for you, it’s a great thing. It’s very well organized and the Alamo gives above-excellent service. If you occasionally want to get out and see other chains, then it might feel a little restrictive. Pay money, make choice.

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