A theater chain’s unusual pivot: launching a streaming service of its own

The Alamo Drafthouse chain’s on-demand service wants to bring Weird Wednesdays right to your couch.


May 11, 2020

Photo: eng1ne / Flickr

In a world where movie theaters and streaming services are supposed to be bitter rivals, one theater chain did something unexpected last week: The Alamo Drafthouse chain unveiled a streaming service of its own.

Someday we’ll say, Remember the Alamo on Demand?

The coronavirus pandemic has meant lights out for movie houses. Hollywood studios began pushing releases straight to streaming, and that strategy sent industry observers reaching for the popcorn.

AMC, the world’s largest theater chain, threatened to stop playing Universal Pictures releases after Universal touted the blockbuster success of Trolls World Tour in its first few weeks of on-demand streaming.

Rather than run from streaming platforms, Alamo is embracing them. 

Its new service aims to extend the chain’s unique approach to the cinematic experience (Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday are back, baby!) right to the couch you can’t peel yourself off of.

One of the first films to debut on the new service was Spaceship Earth, a documentary about 8 people who isolated themselves inside a biosphere back in 1991.

This spaceship flew into a whole new universe

The film was distributed by Neon, the same company that distributed the Best Picture-winning Parasite

With communal moviegoing experiences now reserved for flashback scenes, Neon had to get creative with Spaceship Earth’s launch. 

It rolled out a “virtual cinema” that allows independent theaters, bookstores, and other small businesses to screen its films — and keep a portion of the ticket sales.

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