Movie Theater Showdown
Sneaky Studio Movie Grill opens new theater suspiciously close to future AlamoDrafthouse
The stretch of Central Expressway between LBJ Freeway and the George Bush Turnpike has been a dead zone for movie lovers since 2010. But all of that is about to change.
Studio Movie Grill opened its newest location October 12, at Spring Valley Road and Central Expressway in North Dallas, taking over the location previously occupied by the Regal Keystone Park 16, which closed in October 2010.
Meanwhile, Alamo Drafthouse is set to break ground on its new branch in Richardson, just a mile north of the new Studio Movie Grill. Alamo Drafthouse hopes to open by spring 2013.
Studio Movie Grill has proclaimed the Spring Valley location its “flagship.” All seats in its 12 auditoriums are reserved.
It’s quite the abrupt turnaround for area residents, whose closest options had been the Studio Movie Grill at Royal Lane and 75 or AMC Valley View. Studio Movie Grill’s Lynne McQuaker says that because the Royal Lane location “has been working at capacity” and there was no possibility of expansion, SMG had been looking for options to add more nearby theaters for the past 18 months or so.
SMG made no official announcement of its intention to take over the Spring Valley theaters until July 18, 2012 — just a little more than two months after the City of Richardson approved Alamo Drafthouse to take over an old Pep Boys location on Belt Line Road at 75. It appears that SMG felt some urgency to stake a claim to the area, especially because the period from announcement to opening was less than three months.
Alamo Drafthouse’s Bill DiGaetano also had a sense of urgency when he spoke to the Richardson planning commission meeting preceding the approval of the new location. According to the minutes of that meeting, the prospect of someone taking over the then-vacant Spring Valley theaters was very much on DiGaetano’s mind.
“Mr. DeGaetano (sic) explained that the request was very urgent because if another theater group came into the old theater on the south side of Spring Valley before Alamo announced their intentions, it would make it impossible for another theater to open within three miles of it and show first-run movies.”
Alamo Drafthouse offers a more intimate viewing experience, and the theater has a zero-tolerance policy on cell phone usage.
Because Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley has opened and Alamo Drafthouse is moving forward full steam, whether or not there’s actually a 3-mile rule appears to be a moot point. The two multiplexes share a similar concept — dining while movie-watching — but there are some distinct differences.
SMG has proclaimed the Spring Valley location its “flagship store.” With 12 auditoriums, it is the largest SMG location to date. Each auditorium has fixed stadium seating and 3D film capabilities. All seats are reserved — a first for SMG in the area — meaning you don’t have to rush into the theater or show up early to get a good spot.
Alamo Drafthouse, on the other hand, offers a more intimate viewing experience. While SMG Spring Valley has 2,500 seats spread out over 12 auditoriums, Alamo will have only seven auditoriums with smaller capacities.
Alamo is famous for its zero-tolerance policy for cell phone usage during a movie; just watch this pre-screening announcement. The Austin-based chain is also known for its series of retrospective screenings, something that can only be found locally on a consistent basis at Texas Theatre.
Can both multiplexes survive in such proximity to each other? That remains to be seen. But the real winners are the neighborhood movie fans. Once Alamo opens up next year, there will no shortage of quality movie options in North Dallas and Richardson.