Thursday, June 21, marks the final day for the Alamo Drafthouse at its Mason Park location. Mason Park has been their home in Katy for 13 years, and the only Houston Drafthouse location since the Vintage Park location closed about 18 months back. Local movie fans who consider the Drafthouse their home away from home are going to have to go without it for about a week and a half; their new location at LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch enters a soft opening phase on July 2, with a grand opening set for July 20. The big releases that weekend will be the sequel to Mamma Mia and The Equalizer 2; listen, not every weekend can have an Infinity War.
I had the opportunity to take the tour of the new establishment, but before I talk about what’s on the inside, let’s address the elephant on the outside: yes, LaCenterra is even further west than the Mason Park location. I headed out that way on a weekday morning, and the additional drive time wasn’t awful, maybe an extra 10 minutes, not counting the time spent finding the theater itself; warning, if your GPS leads you to the library, you’re on the wrong side of the street. So, yeah, if you’re heading out to LaCenterra for a day showing or something on the weekend, the drive is likely not to be that much of an extra hassle; if you’re thinking about seeing something at 7 p.m. on a weeknight, maybe ask your boss if you can leave work early. Until they open up another location, it is what it is.
Rumors are always swirling about new Drafthouse locations in the Houston area, and film purists will likely have their ear to the ground more than ever. See, the new Drafthouse location is outfitted with some really impressive, state of the art projection systems. Half of the theaters will feature Sony 4K laser projectors, which mean all the pixels in your favorite blockbusters are going to look incredible. What you won’t be seeing on any of the new screens are movies in their original screen prints; the new Drafthouse has no film projectors, which means everything they’ll be screening will be digital. That’s a bummer for those who like the more random and weird films that Drafthouse books, but I was assured there are plenty of genre films being digitized that the Drafthouse can pull from.
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What will be good news for film fans is the new 50-seat theater this Drafthouse holds to go along with their multi-hundred seating rooms. As Programming Direction Robert Saucedo explained, this new, smaller theater will allow the Drafthouse the chance to book smaller independent, arthouse, and international films that would die a death in a 300 seat room, and thus not get booked. The weekly rotation at the Drafthouse should be a lot more interesting in the coming months.
There’s still plenty of work to go before the Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra is ready for business, but from what I saw things are off to a good start. Horror nerds will love the carpet in the lobby. Beer fans will be enthused about the 46 taps, including 20 brews for local breweries. There are plans for an expanded whiskey program as well. The new kitchen is truly impressive, even in its construction state, which is good because at their most busy the kitchen team puts out 700 entrees an hour.
Even during their soft opening they’re planning on hosting some special movie events. The current lineup includes an Animal House movie party on July 3, a Jaws movie party on July 8, and a Wizard of Oz movie party on July 14, in addition to some as yet to be announced events. It’s pretty much the Drafthouse you know and love, just further west and with less a chance of a screening going sideways if a thunderstorm rolls in.
Oh, the best news of all: they finally gave up the ghost on the long tables in front of the seats, swapping to a new "every seat gets its own little table" model. No more awkwardly ducking under a table or smushing yourself against someone if you need to go to the restroom mid-movie. It's a movie-going miracle.