360° Coverage : Entrepreneurs Of Austin: Alamo Drafthouse

2 Updates
Entrepreneurs Of Austin: Alamo Drafthouse
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

Entrepreneurs Of Austin: Alamo Drafthouse

Apr 16 2014, 1:56pm CDT | by

Sometimes things don’t turn out how we expect them to. Just ask Alamo Drafthouse owner, Tim League. The now film-famous Austin resident started his career with Shell Oil after graduating from Rice...

Filed under: news


26 weeks ago

Entrepreneurs Of Austin: Alamo Drafthouse

Apr 16 2014, 1:56pm CDT | by

Sometimes things don’t turn out how we expect them to. Just ask Alamo Drafthouse owner, Tim League. The now film-famous Austin resident started his career with Shell Oil after graduating from Rice University with a degree in mechanical engineering and quickly started to seek exit strategies for a more long-term occupation.

It wasn’t until he saw a for sale sign in an old movie theater in the city of Bakersfield, California that a light bulb switched on for him. One failed attempt and a move to Austin later, the Alamo Drafthouse has now taken Tim everywhere from Austin’s multiple locations to film distribution and most recently, to the Oscars. Tim took the time to talk about his career journey with the Alamo Drafthouse – where it all began, what he has learned along the way, and where he sees it going.

The Alamo Drafthouse wasn’t your first step into theaters, was it?

No.  A lot of people don’t realize that I had tried to run a theater originally in Bakersfield, California. I was working there for Shell Oil and was trying to find a way out. One day, I saw a for sale sign on an old theater. I talked it over with my friends at a bar, bought a book about business, and decided to go for it. The theater was called the Tejon and was a big failure. I was learning as I went and it wasn’t the right market at the time. It’s funny looking back because if I would have gotten approved for my beer and wine license in Bakersfield, it may have been different. Instead, we packed up and decided to try again in Austin.

Why Austin?

There were a lot of factors. For one, it was cheap. I was trying to start a business again and so low risk was my focus. We (my wife and I) had also gone to Rice University in Houston so we felt a connection to Texas. Having family close by finally sold us on the decision.

I feel like that’s many people’s initial reactions to Austin. What did you bring with you?

It’s funny what you can live off of when you’re young and don’t have children. We didn’t have much. In terms of the business, I had a projector that I had bought off of a guy for $2,500 when I had started the Tejon, we also had chairs and other materials. In terms of a structure, we found a parking garage on 4th and Colorado. We actually looked at several options (including unfortunately, an old porn theater), but the second floor of a parking garage seemed like the right idea.

What is your ideal situation in owning your own business?

When everything works. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly testing out new ideas. If it doesn’t work, change it. But sometimes, it works and it feels great. Seeing success with movies [like recent film, The Act of Killing] is great too.

You recently attended the Oscars for The Act of Killing‘s nomination for best documentary. Want to talk about that experience a little bit?

It was great. This was our second nomination, but I was really excited about 2014 because a lot of people actually thought we were going to win. We had worked hard for a year and a half on [The Act of Killing] and it was great to hear the responses from people in such a tough category. The Oscars is a networking business. Think of it as politics, but in film. With 6000 people in the Academy, you have to make it a long-term game to impact each one of them. But, a lot of people have seen The Act of Killing and the government in Indonesia is now talking about the genocide for the first time since 1965. For me, that is a win.

Would you want to continue finding more humanitarian efforts in the future?

Definitely. I like finding a purpose behind everything. My newest venture is finding impact through movies by fundraising and raising awareness. The first test is with one of my local passions — affordable housing and homeless charities, especially around 6th Street (Alamo Drafthouse Headquarters). We just acquired a film at Sundance called The Overnighters and will be donating a percentage of the box office revenues to affordable housing in the local markets where tickets are sold. There are ways to make an impact with film distribution than just the message in the movie. This is just our first venture, but we hope to do more.

With the Alamo Drafthouse now managing theaters, distribution, and producing, how do you find balance?

I don’t do everything myself anymore. I have a tendency to work too much, but with my twin daughters being born, I had to cut back. The thing that helped me is the realization that when you get to a certain point, you need to see that it is impossible to touch everything, every day. When that time comes, the best thing you can do is hire people that love what they do just as much as you do. We weren’t always lucky with recruiting, but now we are very rigorous when we hire someone on. Gary Keller from Keller William Realty helped me to develop a structure for our search./>/>

Does it ever get old?

Never. But I do have a low tolerance for bad movies. I won’t name names, but we all know they exist.

Do you have any favorites?

It changes. Every year I put together my Alamo 100 list. They always rotate depending on my mood, but this year my #1 is Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. I also really enjoy watching There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

What is the most valuable thing you learned as an entrepreneur?

Looking back, there are two things I found especially valuable.

First, I realized early on that I knew nothing about the industry I became involved with, but it didn’t stop me from continuing. I bought a book about business when I first leased the theater in California. I majored in engineering instead of film. But I was excited about my venture and I got really good at faking it because I believed that I could break down big problems into a series of smaller, solvable ones. I didn’t know the lingo, but I didn’t let that drop my confidence. The very nature of engineering is problem solving. Where most people saw engineering as a hindrance, I saw it as a perk.

The second was not being arrogant about success. My wife and I were very levelheaded when we started. The way that we coped with business vs. real life was by asking ourselves, “If we lost everything in this venture would we still be okay?” We kept going because we knew we would be. We were content with what could happen and that kept things in focus. As an entrepreneur, you have to become very comfortable in that “worst-case” scenario and realize it could happen.

Do you have any final advice for people aspiring to get involved in business? 

Try to outsmart the situations that you cannot change. This is especially true for discrimination. Whether age, gender, ethnicity, or political views – It stills exists. When I was 23, I looked 16 or 17 and was trying to get a beer and wine license for the Alamo Drafthouse. It didn’t work in California, so when I came to Austin I hired a middle-aged lawyer in a suit and received the license easily.

Find what areas are worth investing in and outsmart the situation every time. It puts you one step closer to success.


7 weeks ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (NewCo) and slashing the workfor ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore


7 weeks ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of the double ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore


Don't miss ...


<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Clashes between locals, Ebola team in Sierra Leone, curfew imposed
Freetown, Oct 22 (IANS) A mid-day curfew was imposed in the city of Kono in eastern Sierra Leone after two people were killed in a conflict between local residents and an Ebola team which tried to take a suspected patient for testing, media reported.
Indians in Gambia contribute to fight against Ebola (Lead, superseding earlier story)
Dakar (Senegal), Oct 22 (IANS) The Indian community in the West African nation of Gambia, has provided 865,000 dalasis ($20,567) to that country's government to boost preparatory strategy against the Ebola virus disease, a gesture that has been highly appreciated.
Nepal ministries monitor 'third worst airport'
Kathmandu, Oct 22 (IANS) Five Nepalese ministries Wednesday decided to monitor the country's only international airport after it was ranked as the world's third worst airport by a famous travel website, saying the airport resembled a "bus station in an impoverished neighbourhood".
Indians in Gambia contribute to Ebola fight
Dakar (Senegal), Oct 22 (IANS) The Indian community in neighbouring Gambia, one of the three countries in West

Latest from the Network

European Champions League standings
Paris, Oct 22 (IANS) Following are the European Champions League standings for Groups E to H after Tuesday's matches (tabulated under matches played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, against, points), according to Xinhua...
Read more on Sport Balla
Rogerio set to break Giggs world record
Rio de Janeiro, Oct 22 (IANS) Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni is one victory away from earning his fourth Guinness World Record by eclipsing a mark held by Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs. The 41-year-old will...
Read more on Sport Balla
Ryan Reynolds can't keep his hands off Blake Lively
Ryan Reynolds was ''really sweet'' to Blake Lively at the Angel City Ball. The couple, who got married in September 2012, made their first red carpet appearance together in New York City on Monday night (10.20.14) since...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Kris Jenner doesn't know who Bruce Jenner is dating
Kris Jenner has ''no idea'' whether Bruce Jenner is dating her best friend. The 58-year-old reality TV star, who split from the Olympic gold medallist last October after 23 years of marriage, claims she doesn't know if...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
When Rihanna dressed like 'Harry Potter'
New York, Oct 22 (IANS) Singer Rihanna was spotted here in a Harry Potter style costume. She wore the wizard-like get-up while heading for a business meal here Monday, reports mirror.co.uk. The 26-year-old combined a...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Germany raises humanitarian aid to Iraq
Berlin, Oct 22 (IANS) Germany has pledged a further 20 million euros (about 25.5 million dollars) in humanitarian aid to Iraq, the foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday. The additional funds are immediately...
Read more on Politics Balla
India calls on Israel, Palestine to resume peace process
United Nations, Oct 22 (IANS) India has called upon Israelis and Palestinians to resume the peace process as "dialogue remains the only viable option" to address the issues confronting the region. In a brief statement...
Read more on Politics Balla
Airstrikes help ground forces fight IS: Pentagon
Washington, Oct 22 (IANS) Kurdish forces are in control of the majority of the Syrian city of Kobane despite efforts by the Islamic State (IS) to take the town, a spokesperson for US defence department said Tuesday....
Read more on Politics Balla
Palestine, Israel urged at UN to halt unilateral initiatives
United Nations, Oct 22 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon Tuesday called on Palestine and Israel to overcome differences and halt unilateral initiatives that fuel mistrust, so as to pursue long-term stability in...
Read more on Politics Balla
China urges Israel to create conditions for peace
United Nations, Oct 22 (IANS) Chinese government has called on Israel to create necessary conditions for the resumption of peace talks with Palestine. At an open debate of the Security Council on the situation of the...
Read more on Politics Balla