Thursday, December 22, 2016

Alamo Drafthouse lets me down

UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST: The Alamo Drafthouse comes through! Read all about the happy ending here!

I never thought I'd say this, but Alamo Drafthouse has failed me. The cinema chain legendary for great customer service and fun promotions royally screwed the pooch tonight, and I'm deeply disappointed by the experience.

Follow: I'm a big Gremlins fan. Not the world's biggest fan, but I've got a soft spot for those little green mayhem-making agents of chaos. Gremlins was the movie playing when I first started working at the Oaks Theater in Columbus, Texas, back in the summer of 1982. Bit of trivia: That film proved to be the most profitable in that ancient, single-screen, reel-to-reel theater's history. Not because of the box office (although a lot of people did pay to see the film) but because the snack bar sales were out of this world. I chalk it up to the infamous theater scene in the film, where the Gremlins gorge themselves. In any event, I loved the film's deft mix of laughs and scares. Gremlins 2 came out when I was in college, and I eagerly read up on it in the months leading up to release. I was highly amused that Sir Christopher Lee appeared in the film because--despite all the horror films he'd made over the decades--he'd never gotten a chance to play a genuine "mad scientist" until Dr. Catheter. Then I read an interview in Starlog with director Joe Dante raving about the original Gremlins 2 treatment/script written by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, titled "The Forgotten Rule." Apparently, the script was insanely funny, and the finale involved King Kong-sized Gizmo and Gremlins battling atop the Empire State Building, or something to that effect. Despite everyone loving the script, it was shelved because it was far beyond the means of the budget at the time. It's been a minor mission of my life to get ahold of a copy of this, but despite a few false alarms, I've thus far failed. Suffice to say, I'm a Gremlins fan.

Imagine my delight back on November 7 when the email (below) pops up in my inbox, forwarded to me by The Wife. Mondo was creating Gremlins-themed tiki mugs! Limited edition mugs for the Alamo Drafthouse! And the only way to get one was to purchase a ticket to one of the listed films. One of those films just happened to be--you guessed it--Gremlins. My actual response: "That. Is. Amazing." Knowing that I built a tiki bar with my own two hands this past summer, and that I really, really, liked Gremlins, The Wife set about trying to secure me a set of these tiki mugs. After an hour or so of wrestling with the Drafthouse website, she came to the conclusion that the only way to get a mug was to purchase tickets to a showing. So she did, via the link at the bottom of the email, although no option to purchase a tiki mug presented itself during this purchase. We naturally assumed they'd be available for purchase at the showing. Why? Because of this verbiage from the email solicitation:

Available with ticket purchase to the following films at Alamo Drafthouse this season while supplies last!

And, when you pick up your mug at the theater, you can also pick up a fruity, delicious tiki drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic, up to you), which comes included with your mug!*

*One drink per mug, thems the rules. And please note that this mug is in post-production and may not be available for pick-up at the theater by the date of your selected screening.
So, imagine our utter disappointment when we arrive at the Alamo Drafthouse New Braunfels, place our order with the waitress, and are told there are no tiki mugs. Seems their shipment of mugs arrived back on December 14, and they immediately started selling them in the bar. They sold out the first day, and now those same mugs may be found on Ebay for prices ranging from $60-160. The waitress goes to get a manager, and we hear the people behind us and to either side talking about how they're supposed to get a special Gremlins cup at the showing. So, you know, it wasn't just us.

After the show, the manager finds us and is apologetic. We show him the email (below) that ties the Gremlins tiki promotion to the actual showing of the Gremlins movie. He runs his hand through his hair and says, "Well, that would make sense, wouldn't it?" Then he shows us an email he received from corporate Drafthouse headquarters that says to start selling the tiki mugs in the bar starting December 14. They'd sold out of the tikis the week before. There were none left. He couldn't do anything to help us, other than give us some vouchers for future shows.

This is total "First World Problem" territory, I know. That we made assumptions that we probably shouldn't have. But geeze Louise, in-theatre promotions aren't supposed to be so convoluted one needs a secret decoder ring to figure them out. Had we gotten an email saying, "Oopsie, our bad. We're selling these at the bar starting December 14," we'd have hied our way over to the Drafthouse and picked up a couple. No big deal. But apparently the only folks let in on that were those Ebay sharks looking to make a quick buck. I mean, why say a limited edition promotion is only available with a ticket purchase when it actually isn't? I felt so put out by the bait-and-switch that I didn't even enjoy the film, despite the fact that I'd forgotten just how well it presents on the big screen (my Blu Ray edition is fantastic, but really, size does matter). I'm still out of sorts. I know, it's just a little thing, but going to the movies should result in an evening of joyful entertainment, not frustration and angst. Or am I asking too much of the universe?

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1 comment:

  1. A total screw up on their part.