The effort to transform the area around Wrigley Field, one that was once full of sports bars and dives, kicked off right after the Ricketts family took ownership of the Chicago Cubs in 2009 and a movie theater has long been part of that vision.
Now, 14 years later, Alamo Drafthouse — an Austin, Texas theater chain loved by film buffs known for special screenings with the occasional celebrity appearance — has opened its first Chicago location, seamlessly integrating with the new restaurants and hotels that have overtaken the corner of Addison and Clark over the last few years; there’s even $10 parking in the attached garage with an entrance off Clark. The theater is decorated with vintage and foreign film posters, plus a large set of VHS cassettes that are available for rental.
Cinemark, which counts more than 300 locations in America, built the 30,426-square-foot space that debuted over the weekend, but canceled its plans for Wrigleyville during the pandemic’s economic downturn and left an opportunity for Alamo’s new six-screen theater. On Thursday, Alamo dedicated the theater to filmmaker John Hughes. Though a Michigan native, many of Hughes’s comedies, like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Home Alone, took place around Chicago and its suburbs.
Alamo lured two actors, Alison Brie and husband Dave Franco, to make appearances on Friday while promoting their Amazon Studios movie, Somebody I Used to Know. Alamo co-founder Tim League says Alamo is fired up with having a Chicago location and typically open more than one theater in a market. So look for future expansion.
League is confident movie theaters will rebound after pandemic challenges and called the notion that the industry is dead “utter bullshit.”
“You have a kitchen in your house, yet you continue to go out to restaurants,” League said at a preview event on Thursday, January 26.
Alamo theaters also have full kitchens for in-movie dining while seated in leather chairs with power recline. Customers write down their orders on the paper forms provided. A button push will alert a “ninja-trained” staffer — dressed in black, a way to keep their distraction to a minimum — to pick up the order. The menu includes flavored popcorn (the churro popcorn comes with bits of the Mexican pastry mixed in) mozzarella sticks, and other finger foods. Burgers, pizzas, and salads round out the menu. The chain is also known for its shakes.
Video Vortex is a bar that’s open to the public with cocktails and 32 beer taps. League tells Eater that he’s developed a few drink recipes using Jeppson’s Malört (he’s not a huge fan of drinking it straight). One of his favorites is a malört old fashioned. None of League’s recipes appear on the drink menu, but at the bar, there’s a drink called “Save Ferris” with malört and an orange slice. Walk through the space below.
Alamo Drafthouse Chicago and Video Vortex, 3519 N. Clark Street, Video Vortex open 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; noon to 2 a.m. Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.