Alamo Drafthouse Goes Into the VOD Business

Alamo on Demand to offer curated selection of films

Alamo on Demand, the new VOD service from the Alamo Drafthouse

Austin-based theater chain the Alamo Drafthouse has just announced it is launching its own curated video on-demand platform, Alamo on Demand, as a new and integrated part of the overall Alamo experience.

Alamo founder and executive chairman Tim League said, "Alamo On Demand helps us to continue the conversation past the theatrical window and recommend movies we love to our community. And in these shuttered days and beyond, these rentals and purchases help support your neighborhood theater.”

The service has initially launched online at ondemand.drafthouse.com, with both iOS and Android apps being developed.

It is not, like the current virtual cinema experiment, a stop gap during the coronavirus pandemic, but a long-term addition to the chain's product line. The Drafthouse is partnering with entertainment IT experts Vista Cinema (currently also making headlines with a Cinema Reopening Kit, offering best practices for when theaters do finally reopen) to provide the service, which will be integrated long-term into their products. Vista CEO Leo Newnham said his team is “thrilled to have Alamo Drafthouse on board, and looking to seeing the reaction from fans and the community."

League went on to explain that it was the process of promoting French drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire (released by Neon, the distribution label he cofounded) before its February release that spurred the decision to launch the platform: "We love people to see films in the cinema first and foremost, but the reality is not everyone can always make the time for every movie they want to see. This platform allows us to give folks who missed Portrait of a Lady on Fire in cinemas another chance to see it, which is simply an extension of our enthusiasm and support for the film.

However, this isn't about one film. Alamo on Demand will include films from several distributors, including mainstream names like Lionsgate, Magnolia, Neon, and Sony Pictures Classic; specialist imprints like cult/exploitation label Severin, and Asian cinema experts Well Go; and the entire back catalog of the Alamo's own label, Drafthouse Films.

What the Drafthouse sees as distinguishing Alamo on Demand from other VOD services is a combination of curation and the ability to build the service into its broader portfolio.

On the curation side, all titles have been selected and championed by members of the booking team including Weird Wednesday programmer Laird Jimenez, Champagne Cinema and Afternoon Tea creator Sarah Pitre, and Fantastic Fest programming director Evrim Ersoy, all highlighting films in their individual wheelhouses and aimed at their existing target audiences. That includes a large number of Fantastic Fest and former Alamo Recommends titles, including the Oscar-winning Parasite, the Oscar-nominated Bullhead, modern Korean masterpiece Burning, and last year's FF closing night film, Knives Out.

The service will also include the ability to program around a film - effectively, cinematic crash courses. For example, audiences will be able to rent a package of films from a director of an upcoming movie, or ones that are thematically linked. One of the first examples is Enter the Clones of Bruce Lee, to be released later this year. Severin will be releasing this history of the Brucesploitation phenomenon, where studios tried to pass actors off as the martial arts original by calling them names like Bruce Li, Bruce Lai, Bruce Lei, Bruce Ly, and so on. At the same time as the documentary hits, Alamo on Demand will offer several of the films mentioned in the movie for rental, either individually or as a binge-watching bundle.

On the community side, the service is planned to become part of the Alamo's Victory loyalty program. Once the Drafthouse reopens its physical theaters after the coronavirus pandemic, customers who buy a ticket may also be able to get a discount if they buy that title later on VOD through Alamo on Demand.

This launch continues a major period of change at the Drafthouse, coming very quickly after League stepped down as CEO, to be replaced by former Starbucks and Disney executive Shelli Taylor, and the sale of in-house magazine and film news website Birth.Movies.Death. to the Dallas-based Cinestate production and publishing house.

Alamo on Demand has released this list of initial and "coming soon" titles and partners:

• Lionsgate (Knives Out, Arkansas, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, La La Land, A Simple Favor, Apocalypse Now: Final Cut, Dirty Dancing)

• Neon (Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Spaceship Earth)

• Sony Pictures Classic (Call Me By Your Name, Pain and Glory, A Fantastic Woman)

• Magnolia (RBG, Skate Kitchen, Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins)

• Severin (Santa Sangre)

• Well Go USA (Burning)

• Drafthouse Films (the entire catalog, including Bullhead and The Act of Killing)

• Shout! Factory (Rock’N’Roll High School).

The roster will also include Master Pancake’s movie riff of bizarro animal adventure Roar, family programming from the New York International Children’s Film Festival, restored titles from the American Genre Film Archive, and two titles for music lovers: Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2015 documentary on Indian music, Junun, and the U.S. premiere of Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl, with livestream performance and Q&A from the British singer-songwriter. The Drafthouse is also working with other studios and distributors to confirm additional content.

Find the full list of opening titles at ondemand.drafthouse.com.

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