Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Yonkers NY
All the fussing is done ahead of time. Seats are picked when you buy your tickets. Food is ordered before the trailers start. Popcorn is bottomless, and served in a real bowl instead of cardboard. Drinks are in huge cups to avoid the need for refills. Food is everything from salads and burgers to pasta, sandwiches, wraps, omelettes with goat cheese, and fish & chips. There’s dessert, too. Drinks go beyond soda to include milkshakes (regular and spiked), wine, beer, and even a pot of Twinings tea. How civilized.
They avoid all the landmines of a dinner+movie undertaking with a smart system for taking orders, adding to them, and delivering them with minimum distraction—no easy feat, but they’ve got it down. I think it’s because of the super strict rules about noise and cell phones (as well as the fact that nothing comes in a crinkly package) but in my half a dozen visits there, I’ve never had to deal with my lifelong nemesis, loud eaters. For some reason, everyone behaves, probably because the theater works that into their policies. Their message: don’t ruin anyone else’s good time. It works.
They know how to stand out in a crowd, too. We took the kids to see the latest Star Wars movie there and instead of trailers or commercials, they showed vintage 1970s films and toy ads from the original movie. Someone even had a remote-controlled Millennium Falcon zooming overhead, which was promptly grounded when the lights went down. After that I realized I’d never seen any commercials there, and when I checked their website, I found out why: it’s one of their policies. And they actually care about movies.
They always show new hits, but they’ve got an ongoing schedule of classics, sometimes with events. There are Quote-Along nights, singalongs, and prop nights—the props come with the price of your ticket. You’ll be able to find The Princess Bride screenings on their schedule along with Batman v Superman and the like, and all that while eating warm chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream and salted popcorn, even if you didn’t finish your mini banh mi hot dogs. (But you will.)
Look, I’ll always think going to the movies is fun. But what makes it less fun is having to arrive early just to get seats together and snacked up before the trailers start, watching ten minutes of commercials for a movie you paid $15 to get into, and cringing at nachos glazed with chemically-created “cheese” get devoured perilously close to your elbows. The Alamo Drafthouse solves all of those problems, and turns movie-going into a special event again. The chain is named after its original location in Austin, Texas, but we’re lucky enough to have one in Yonkers, a quick drive from our house. (We hear there’s one in Brooklyn, too.) A night out when you have kids, whether or not they’re with you, is special, and the Drafthouse knows it.