Earlier this week, Alamo Drafthouse was the subject of a deeply disturbing expose about its problematic work culture. Many current and former employees accused the company of a variety of issues including sexism, racism, sexual harassment, ripping off movie studios by voiding legitimate tickets and a laundry list of additional problems. The report wasn’t the first time the company has been the subject of complaints, and it is now asking all who have been around the organization to reach out with stories to [email protected] so they can hold those who violate the Code Of Conduct accountable.
The official company response from Alamo took two forms. CEO Shelli Taylor reportedly emailed all employees prior to the most recent expose to talk through concerns and action items, and a statement was also released as a response to scathing expose that ran in The Pitch. You can read an excerpt of the CEO’s statement below that was published on IndieWire…
“…Over the past few weeks we’ve seen some current, furloughed, and former teammates discussing their experiences at the company publicly, via social media, and it is deeply disturbing and troubling. We don’t know the details or timeline of many of these allegations – some appear to be recent, while others seem to date back many years. Regardless, they are painful stories of disappointment, frustration, and failings within our culture. We may have been unaware of some of these accounts, some of them may not have been handled properly, but regardless, we want to hear your story and urge you to come forward and report any misconduct…”
Most of the stories that recently went public focused on the company’s Kansas City location, and there is a lot of clear anger from those who spoke both on and off the record. There are far too many allegations to recount here, but there are some central themes that do emerge. “Every time” it rained, the sewage system reportedly overflowed, and employees were allegedly ordered to put on rubber boots and clean it up. Employees were forced to climb up multiple flights of stairs in order to deliver food and were not allowed to use elevators, even if they had injuries. A revolving door of general managers came through, some of whom reportedly belittled employees publicly until they cried. One higher end manager reportedly asked several female employees if they would participate in threesomes with him and his wife.
In addition, there are accusations that employees joked about and disproportionately enforced no talking rules during movies geared toward Black audiences. One particular disturbing story claims police showed up and informed management that one of Alamo’s employees was wanted for rape. He was allegedly scheduled to work that day, but management reportedly lied to the police and later let the employee continue working shifts, sometimes allegedly alone with female employees, until he was apprehended.
We’re in the middle of the most disruptive period to the theatrical industry since its inception. An overwhelming majority of locations in the United States are closed, and the future is more uncertain than it has ever been. That should create a unique opportunity for Alamo to address these disturbing issues. The company has hired a workplace culture consultant. The CEO is reportedly meeting with all employees 1 on 1 who wish to participate, and surveys to check for additional problems have been sent out to all who work there.
No one should ever feel unsafe at work. Alamo Drafthouse has long prided itself on its independent spirit and unique approach to the theatrical business. That direction has earned it plenty of devoted fans, but something inside the corporate culture clearly needs to change. Here’s to hoping this is a major step in helping that to happen.