stop it, Alamo

Normally I am one of the Alamo Drafthouse’s biggest fans. Austin currently has three Alamo Drafthouse theaters and I like them all, even the one waaay up north, which is a bit of a drive for me but the sound and picture quality are better than the Alamo Village right by my house. And then Alamo Downtown shows all these groovy movies and they have special events and Dollar Night …
Well, Alamo Downtown doesn’t quite have Dollar Night anymore, and the story behind how I found out will explain why I am rather cranky with the Alamo folks this week.

My boyfriend and I decided to see American Splendor at Alamo Downtown on Monday night. We are on a budget these days, but we had missed this movie in the theaters and really wanted to see it. And when I found out it was playing on a Monday night, which is Dollar Night at Alamo Downtown, we were very pleased indeed. I mean, I checked the Alamo Web site, and it said “Dollar Night” on the page for the movie, plain as day.
I used to go to Dollar Night quite a lot, and you have to get there early because many people want to take advantage of the $1 admission, $1 popcorn, and $1 soft drink special, and the movies quite often sell out.
So I left work fairly early and my boyfriend fought rush-hour traffic to get us downtown nice and early. We figured we could use the money we saved on admission to eat dinner at Alamo (they serve food and beer before and during the movie). We had a little trouble finding street parking, but we still managed to get to the theater in very good time for the movie, even if it was going to be crowded. I didn’t see any crowds outside, but sometimes the line clusters inside the theater itself.
We got to the box office to learn a nasty little surprise: $6 admission.
“But it said Dollar Night on the Web site,” I protested.
The box-office guy explained it to me, very clearly, and I got the impression this is hardly the first time he’s had to explain. Alamo was losing money on Dollar Night, so they couldn’t charge $1 admission anymore. However, drinks and popcorn were still $1, so they were still calling it Dollar Night. He had asked if they please would change the Web site because obviously this confused people, but the owners (or whomever makes this type of decision) didn’t agree and wouldn’t change it.
We decided that $6 apiece was more money than we wanted to pay for a movie that would probably not lose very much of its impact on home video, especially since we had to buy dinner, too. So we left (to get pizza at Frank and Angie’s, which turned out to be closed for a private party … we ended up leaving downtown since it was obviously not meant for us to enjoy anything there that evening, and had dinner at EZ’s by Central Market followed by a trip to Fry’s … but I digress).
I am not cranky because Alamo Downtown discontinued Dollar Night. I am cranky because they are doing a shitty and borderline sneaky job of not telling anyone about it.
If you click on a Monday night film on their Web site, it says: “$1 night= $1 sodas, $1 popcorn.” It doesn’t say “$1 admission” but if you’ve been going there and paying $1 admission on Monday nights, that’s awfully misleading.
All that the Alamo would have to do would be to amend the line to read “$1 sodas, $1 popcorn, regular admission applies.” That doesn’t sound negative to me.
In fact, if you click the Info link on the Alamo Downtown Web page, it still says that admission is $1 on Monday nights. Ooops. They must have missed that when they changed the policy.
I had tried to buy the tickets for Monday’s movie in advance on the Web and admittedly, the online purchase page displayed a regular admission price of $6. However, I figured that the Web interface was faulty, because there have been bugs and problems with it in the past. I figured if they had discontinued the cheap admission on Monday nights, there would be a small announcement somewhere. However, I am on their mailing list and I read the Web site regularly and I have seen no such announcement.
The other two Alamo theaters offer discounted admission on Monday nights. They both have $5 Night because they show first-run movies, but the point is that an Alamo regular would expect a discounted admission on Monday night.
I think it would be great for Alamo to make Monday $5 Night at all three theaters. Maybe at Alamo Downtown, $5 would give you admission plus a free soda or popcorn. This would provide a consistent promotion for all the theaters, and by removing Dollar Night entirely, the longtime regulars for Alamo Downtown would not be confused. Or cranky.
I would wonder if Alamo was being a bit sneaky and underhanded in the way they removed $1 admission on Monday nights, but my guess is that they’re trying not to say anything negative, and trying not to annoy people. However, it didn’t work. People have been annoyed, and when you annoy people who have driven downtown and had to find parking and so forth, they’re more annoyed than if you just sent them an email telling them about the change.
(The situation with Alamo Downtown has also become worse in recent months because of the parking situation, which is not Alamo’s fault at all. The city parking garage that used to be free is now $5, and street parking is so limited that I personally have been a lot less motivated to go to Alamo Downtown movies.)
In fact, I was so annoyed and cranky by the borderline bait-and-switch on Monday night that I decided not to get tickets for Alamo’s annual Mr. Sinus Christmas show. I went last year with friends and it was a lot of fun, but $13 each for online tickets is really more than my boyfriend and I ought to spend (and unlike last year, they did not offer an Austin Film Society member discount). I didn’t feel like giving Alamo any of my money this week, although I am sure that is very temporary. I like their theaters too much to stay away.
Still … Tim League, if you’re reading this, would you please rethink the way you guys are advertising Dollar Night at Alamo Downtown? Or at least make the change clearer on the Web site? If it’ll keep more film geeks from getting irritated with you, I am sure it would be worthwhile.

One thought on “stop it, Alamo”

  1. If you’re really cranky, call the Texas Attorney General’s office — there must be a consumer fraud division. I’ll be anything this violates some kind of Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

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