Tim League Stepping Down as Drafthouse CEO

Founder now executive chairman, replaced by former Disney exec

After 20 years, Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League is shifting from CEO to executive chairman of the Austin-based cinema chain. Former Starbucks and Disney executive Shelli Taylor will become the new CEO, and oversee the chain's return to operations after the coronavirus pandemic. (photo by John Anderson)

A major change at the Alamo Drafthouse has just been announced, as founder Tim League steps down as CEO to become executive chairman, and Shelli Taylor – a former executive at Disney, Starbucks, and United Planet Fitness Partners – becomes the new CEO.

The change in leadership comes as the theatre chain, with 41 locations nationally and six in the Austin area, is effectively shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is currently only offering virtual cinema screenings nationally and curbside food pickup at limited locations. However, in announcing Taylor's arrival, League stressed that the CEO search actually began six months ago, and that he was looking for someone "who could work as a partner and collaborator, with a strong voice and battle-tested leadership skills. Shelli Taylor brings that and more."

Taylor comes from a major corporate background, including 20 years at Starbucks overseeing the coffee chain's expansion in China, and two years as vice president of Disney English China, the company's English-language learning division. In 2018, she moved to Austin to become president and COO of United PF Partners, the largest group of Planet Fitness franchisees.

Shelli Taylor, the new CEO at the Alamo Drafthouse
Accepting the position, Taylor said, “I am incredibly honored and excited to assume the role of CEO at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Tim League and his talented team have built an unequaled cinema brand that is built on passion, innovation, and a local community mindset encompassing everything from food and drink to fantastic programming. I am committed to Alamo Drafthouse’s vision of sharing the films we love with the widest possible audience while offering the best moviegoing experience in the industry.”

Founded in 1997, the Drafthouse has become synonymous with League, with his fingerprints all over it (in the case of the original location in Austin on Colorado, quite literally, as he and his wife and co-founder Karrie did much of the construction work). This is League's second big shift in responsibilities in that time. In 2017, after allegations that Drafthouse management had mishandled sexual harassment allegations made by staff against customers, League moved away from day-to-day decision making, and took a more strategic role in the direction of the theatre chain. His new position as executive chairman will emphasize his board leadership position, as well as developing new creative initiatives for the Drafthouse, print company Mondo, and annual genre festival Fantastic Fest. He will also continue to take the lead on the Drafthouse's distinctive and signature programming and booking.

Commenting on his new post, League added, “Alamo Drafthouse is the only leadership role I’ve ever known. I am in awe of the depth and breadth of Shelli’s leadership and brand growth experience. I am excited to partner with her to rise from the current challenges that our industry faces and continue to drive towards our company vision, to be the best damn cinema that has ever or will ever exist.”

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