In a holiday rut? A good laugh—or a good scare—may be just what it takes to shake it.
Throughout December, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Ashburn is screening holiday favorites (and cult classics) from the wholesome to the quirky and everything in between. So, whether your tradition is “It’s a Wonderful Life” with the kids or “Die Hard” with friends, there’s something for just about everyone on the big screens.
“What we have the opportunity to do around the Christmas season is to present the classic Christmas movies that everyone loves, and we put our own Alamo Drafthouse spin on it,” said Bryan Loy, the new creative manager for the Alamo Drafthouse at One Loudoun.
Alamo’s signature style combines new releases with fun repertory fare, allowing patrons to re-watch their favorites on the big screen, which is usually a very different experience from watching at home, Loy said. The theater’s December calendar doesn’t disappoint—with everything from Jimmy Stewart to Bruce Willis.
If you haven’t seen “Die Hard” lately, you may have forgotten that the film’s Christmas in Los Angeles setting makes it a holiday classic for fans (it’s showing at Alamo on Dec. 5). And ’80s kids may recall that the 1984 comedy/horror favorite “Gremlins” also has a Christmas setting. You can catch it at Alamo on Dec. 8 or 9. For a little something unexpected, Loy plans to add the somewhat obscure 1974 cult classic “Black Christmas,” a slasher film set in a sorority house, to the calendar.
“We try to have something for everyone,” Loy said. “I wanted to show those standards that our guests have come to expect and anticipate all year and throw in a couple of other films for variety.”
“Love, Actually,” which Loy describes as “one of the best romantic comedies ever made,” is another fan favorite, and Alamo’s Dec. 12 movie party is a perfect girls night for ladies who’ve already done the “Bad Moms” thing.
Part of the fun, Loy said, is that that the theater often makes repertory screenings a party, with creative and humorous props or food specials. This year, audience members can recreate the snowball fight scene from the 2003 hit comedy “Elf” at several screening parties or watch the 1990 John Hughes classic “Home Alone” while munching on cheese pizza, in a nod to the movie’s famed pizza delivery scene.
“I think that’s what sets the Alamo apart is that we try to make it a memorable experience for the guests—not only with the different types of movies we show but also with that sense of interactivity we bring to it and making it more of an experience,” Loy said. “The audience is part of the film instead of just watching it.”
The cherry on the sundae of Alamo’s holiday programming may be the annual screening of “A Christmas Story” on Christmas Eve. The 1983 classic is still a family favorite after nearly 35 years, the story of Ralphie Parker’s 1940s childhood and Christmas adventures including avoiding school bully and pining for a Red Ryder BB gun.
Alamo’s “A Christmas Story” party has launched a new tradition for Jeanette Herndon of Leesburg and her multi-generational family. The Herndons went to last year’s Christmas Eve screening and already have tickets for this year’s party.
“We had so much fun that when they announced they were doing it again this year we were there like jackrabbits,” Herndon said.
Herndon and her husband, Gordon, their adult children, daughter-in-law and granddaughter will head to the Alamo on Dec. 24 ready to laugh and enjoy each other’s company.
For the Herndons, Christmas Eve at the Alamo means a fun, stress-free, laughter-filled evening. And a big part of the fun is the props Alamo offers, including bunny ears (a nod to the bunny pajamas Ralphie gets from his Aunt Clara), broken glasses and a bar of soap (to be taken out when Ralphie’s mom washes his mouth out with soap).
“It strikes such a chord,” Herndon said. “It’s just a feel-good movie. It’s the way Christmas should be—the excitement of Christmas, the innocence of Christmas. We just love it.”
Loy, 24, has been the creative manager at One Loudoun since September, and said introducing holiday classics to younger viewers like himself is especially fun. Even though he wasn’t alive when it was released in 1989, for Loy the holy grail of holiday kitsch is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” the gut-bustingly funny story of the Griswold family’s holiday disasters.
Every year, Loy makes it a personal challenge to see how many times he can watch the comedy before Christmas.
“When I’ve lost count, that’s when I know that the game is done,” he said.
Audiences seem to agree that “Christmas Vacation” is a must see. Screenings of that show sold out so quickly before Thanksgiving that Loy is scheduling a second run. Tickets for all of the holiday repertory movies are selling fast, so Loy recommends getting tickets online soon.
Alamo Drafthouse’s Holiday Movie Parties:
Dec. 2 “The Polar Express”
Dec. 4 “Elf”
Dec. 5 “Die Hard”
Dec. 8 “Gremlins”
Dec. 11 “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
Dec. 12 “Love, Actually”
Dec. 14 “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
Dec. 19 “Home Alone”
Dc. 21 “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Dec. 24 “A Christmas Story”
Find tickets and a full calendar of Alamo’s holiday repertory schedule at drafthouse.com/northern-virginia.