Sony Pictures acquires Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the dine-in movie theater chain

This drawing shows a rendering of a new cinema building that was submitted with plans for an upcoming development on the former 112 Drive-In property in Fayetteville. (Hodges Architecture/Alamo Drafthouse)

Sony Pictures Entertainment is getting into the exhibition business. The studio behind recent films like “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” and “The Garfield Movie” has acquired the distinctive theater chain Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the companies said Wednesday. Included in the deal is the genre film festival Fantastic Fest.

Sony said it will continue to welcome content from all studios and distributors at the dine-in theaters.

For many years, Hollywood studios were banned from owning movie theaters, but that changed in 2020 when the Paramount Consent Decrees were terminated. Netflix owns several theaters in New York and Los Angeles, and the Walt Disney Co. owns and operates the El Capitan in Los Angeles.

Alamo Drafthouse was founded in 1997 as a single screen, family-owned repertory theater in Austin, Texas and has grown to 35 locations in North America. It distinguished itself in the exhibition landscape with drinks, dine-in food service and a cool vibe that became a favorite of cinephiles.

“We are beyond thrilled to join forces with Sony Pictures Entertainment to expand our company vision to be the best damn cinema that has ever, or will ever, exist now in ways we could only ever dream of,” Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League said in a statement. “They have a deep respect and understanding of cinema’s ability to both drive growth and create lasting cultural impact which aligns perfectly with everything Alamo Drafthouse stands for.”

For Sony, the Drafthouse acquisition is also tied into its experiences initiatives, including its Wheel of Fortune Live! Traveling tour and the Wonderverse space in Chicago. Ravi Ahuja, the president and chief operating officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment also noted that the studio’s Crunchyroll films are particularly aligned with the interests of Drafthouse fans.

Alamo Drafthouse has seen its ups and downs over the years. In March 2021, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, closed some locations and canceled plans to open new ones. Alamo emerged from bankruptcy at the end of May 2021, under the ownership of League, Altamont Capital Partners and Fortress Investment Group. Michael Kusterman, a former executive at Caveman Foods, was named Alamo CEO. He will remain, heading the newly established Sony Pictures Experiences division and reporting to Ahuja, the statement said.

Last year following the frenzy of Barbenheimer, employees at the Alamo Drafthouse in Manhattan and Brooklyn voted to unionize. Similar efforts were attempted at locations in San Francisco and Austin and were met with resistance from the leadership.