While work on the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema comes to a close and the multi-screen theater opens, work on the rest of Westminster Downtown continues.
Nurmela, the city’s real estate and development manager, said the Eaton Street Apartments on the east side of the development are also ready to open and the nearby Ascent development should be ready to open by October. Those two feature 118 and 225 apartments respectively, with ground floor retail shops that should begin opening around Christmas. Ascent retail tenants include a Two Rivers Coffee Shop, physical fitness studio Epic Ryde, Pokey Concepts and the Bacon Social House.
The 125 room Origin Hotel Westminster is on target to open in March 2020, she said. That 125-room Origin Westminster will offer corner suites overlooking the Westminster Downtown’s central plaza, a fully-equipped fitness center, a new, an independent concept restaurant, retail space and 3,000 square feet of meeting space.
In an email, Nurmella said designs for a third housing development, Westminster Peak by Grand Peaks are being reviewed by city staff. That project will bring another 283 residential units to the area and should include another 16,000 square feet of retail.
“With all of the great residential development and retail coming our way, we are focusing on bringing office development to the Downtown in our next phase of building,” Nurmella said in the email.
There are movie buffs.
And then, there are Alamo Drafthouse Cinema movie buffs.
That’s a distinction Westminster residents should get quite familiar with this summer as the newest version of the San Antonio-based chain opens in Downtown Westminster.
The new theater, featuring reclining seats, gourmet meals, adult beverages and a strict no talking policy, opened its doors for its first showings June 30.
Alamo managers and staff opened their doors June 25 to the media as well as members of their “Top Brass” — their biggest fans from Alamo’s two other Colorado locations in Littleton and Sloans Lake.
Those fans drove to the preview from all over the metro area — and beyond.
“It took me an hour to get here, but I don’t care,” said Ian Howard of Pine. “It’s worth it.”
And while reporters took notes and pictures, the Top Brass fans conducted the interviews, peppering managers about the drink options in Pandora’s Box — the cinema’s attached bar — Alamo watch parties, what kind of movies will be shown, and especially the menu.
Beyond the snack bar
The chain is famous for serving meals and drinks to movie watchers in comfortable, reclining chairs. Kitchen Manager Rick Schulenberg told the group he’s working hard to make sure this fare keeps pace with what Alamo fans expect.
“We’re changing the game up, having it available to all the guests that come in the door,” Schulenberg said. “We’ll have grilled burritos, tortas, a beer-bacoa mac and cheese. We’re being very innovative to find how I can get the best food available to every person in this theater.”
Thomas Dunlap, of Westminster, said he’s one of those Top Brass fans. A native of San Antonio, Dunlap said he’s eager to see more southwest fare in Alamo’s Colorado offerings, especially for breakfast. Schulenberg said he’s ready to oblige.
“We are changing our breakfast tacos from the other locations, going with a bacon-egg-cheese green chili, instead of sausage,” Schulenberg said. “I will say, the french toast is one of my favorite things on the menu. It was developed, like, seven years ago and it’s the one thing on the menu that’s never changed.”
But Dunlap said it’s the cinema’s zero-tolerance policy for distractions and interruptions that keeps him coming back. Cell phones must be turned off in the theater and movie-goers are warned not to talk during the show. They’ll get one warning if there are complaints and will be ejected without a refund if the problem continues.
“The fact that I know I can reserve a seat weeks in advance for a showing and I know that if somebody disturbs my experience, they will be ejected. That’s huge,” Dunlap said. “I was at a Drafthouse two days ago where that happened, and not only did they eject the people, they follow up with you afterward.”
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will be the first new destination in Downtown Westminster, the city’s multi-year effort to replace the old Westminster Mall since it was demolished in 2011. The city has been working to redevelop the 10- acre site since, leaving the JC Penney’s, Olive Garden restaurant, a bowling alley and dental offices. Construction on a parking garage and a park are complete, but work continues on two apartment buildings and a new hotel.
Work on the cinema kicked off in Aug. 2018.
“We are all here at the groundbreaking, and this was just a pile of dirt,” General Manager Patrick Russell said.
The cinema features nine theaters of varying sizes — ranging from 69 seat theaters to the special 245 seat Big Show at the front of the building.
Every seat in the cinema features the Alamo’s thickly-padded recliners facing a massive 4K Digital-powered. The big show includes a 3D capable projector and special Dolby Atmos audio system. That’s a special system where the audio comes not just from the right, the left and the back and front of the theater but from the ceiling as well.
“We sat in a screening and it felt like I was being swooped down upon by everything in the film,” Russell said. “It’s coming from a fifth dimension, if you will — all the sides and the top.”
The smaller theaters all feature 4K Digital projection and Dolby 7.1 surround sound.
Every seat in the theater comes with the seat side-service with a full food and drink menu — appetizers, entrees and desserts as well as wine, beer and cocktails. All patron has to do during a movie is raise a ticket in front of their seat for a server to collect and bring the food back when it’s ready.
With nine screens, its bigger than the eight-screen Sloans Lake cinema, which was larger than the seven-screen Littleton cinema. The lobby has been designed around the 1926 Fritz Lang science fiction classic “Metropolis”. A life-sized version of the film’s iconic android “Maria” hovers over the entrance lobby while the entrance to the Big Show is the mouth of the film’s demonic, worker-gobbling machine Moloch.
The entire cinema is decorated in an art deco style and the hallway is lined with movie posters dating back to the 1920-1950 period.
The cinema’s standalone bar is also decorated an art deco style theme around the women of the early movie industry.
The tables are all decorated with lobby cards celebrating female actors. “It’s the first concept bar in Alamo Drafthouse history,” Bar Manager Brittney Metheny said. “The menu was created by an all-female team, the training team is all female, so that’s really exciting. Of the 32 taps, about half of them will be constantly rotating changing and about 95 percent of what we serve will be Colorado beers.”
Although the bar opens with 32 beers on taps, there is room for up to 48, she said.
The theater officially opened June 30, with special screenings through July 4 while the staff gets trained. Russell said they’ll continue Alamo brand of hosting special showings — old movies, special creations, children’s matinee programs and different programs like a late night cereal party.
“What we do is up to this community at large as well,” Russell said. “Part of our job is to listen to people because every day I see things people are trying in different markets. Part of the fun is to design a menu around a movie, but it’s really up to feedback from the community and what people want up here.”
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