Alamo Drafthouse Cinema co-founder, CEO talks entrepreneurship successes, failures

Amanda Figueroa-Nieves

The co-founder of Alamo Drafthouse discussed his career Tuesday as part of the Entrepreneurship Live! series hosted by the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship.

Tim League, the co-founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, discussed how to succeed in entrepreneurship during his presentation, which was followed by a question and answer session and a reception.

League said he opened his first movie theatre, the Tejon Theater, without much experience. He said the theater failed miserably and closed in 1995. He and his wife later founded Alamo Drafthouse in Austin in 1997. He said the theater was successful because the community embraced them.

“It worked here in Austin because of the great location and the great community,” League said. “The only qualification I had for opening up a movie theater is that I loved movies.”

He also co-founded the film distribution company NEON, which produced and distributed the critically acclaimed films “Ingrid Goes West,” “Parasite” and “I, Tonya.”

“I am extraordinarily proud of (NEON) because sharing movies with as many people as possible is why we opened up the theater,” League said.

He said his biggest fear when staring Alamo Drafthouse was inexperience, and that most of the advice he was given was to not do it.

“I really like entrepreneurship at a young age because I like that bankruptcy is not that bad,” League said. “Be comfortable with abject failure, and if that doesn’t sound so bad then go for it.”  

Amanda Golden, the event’s organizer, said she encourages students to attend the events and connect with the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship website if they have any interest in the field.

“The most important reason to host these (events) is to show students that these entrepreneurial ideas they have, they can make them a reality,” Golden said. “By attending, … they’re hearing a real story of someone who had an idea and then were able to build it and launch it and scale it into a brand that is recognizable.”

Biomedical engineering freshman Shruti Sahu attended the event after seeing it in the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship newsletter.

“If your passions align with what you want to do in life, I think you’ll find that you’ll be pretty successful and happy by the end of it,” Sahu said.