Alamo Drafthouse film club is a haven for local movie buffs

By Chris Wadsworth

Early on, Bryan Loy had an affair of the heart – but it wasn’t a romantic dalliance. 

The Sterling native was working at a local movie theater, but after work he would sneak off to the competition – namely the Alamo Drafthouse in Ashburn. There, he would take in the many classic films and cult favorites the theater shows in and around its schedule of current movies. 

“The experience that made me fall in love with Alamo was a screening of the original ‘House of Wax’ with Vincent Price that was shown in 3-D the way it was originally presented [in 1953],” Loy said. “I thought, where in the world other than Alamo would I get to see ‘House of Wax’ in 3-D?” 

Alamo Ashburn Film Club maven Brian Loy (Photo by Hannah Tallant)

Today, Loy is the marketing and social media manager for four Alamo Drafthouse theaters in the Washington area, including the one at One Loudoun. In that role, he also oversees the local theater’s film club – a weekly gathering of area movie buffs who watch a film together and discuss it afterward. 

“The fact that I get to do that as my job is the greatest joy in my life,” Loy said. 

The Alamo Drafthouse opened at One Loudoun in 2013. The Austin, Texas-based company has several dozen locations around the United States – all well-known for their line-up of movies. 

One of the theaters at the Alamo Drafthouse in Ashburn.

Sure, they will have the latest hits from the big studios. But they also show foreign films, independent films, plus classic (and not-so-classic) films from decades past. It’s a movie lover’s dream.

“We’ve shown everything from ‘Seven Samurai’ to ‘Samurai Cop,’” Loy said. 

Michael Levy lives in Brambleton and has been part of the local Alamo’s film club since 2016 when he first attended and saw “The Red Shoes,” a 1948 British drama. 

“It’s nice to be able to see classic films on the big screen in the way they were shown when they were originally released,” Levy said. 

While Levy says his taste in movies runs toward more conventional fare, he enjoys the diversity of movies presented during the film club’s weekly get-togethers on Wednesday evenings.

In recent months, members have watched films such as Oscar winner “The Sting” from 1973, the controversial “Showgirls” from 1995, 1934’s classic “The Thin Man,” and an independent film from 1991 called “Daughters of the Dust.”

“There is a Ugandan director named Nabwana I.G.G. who makes low-budget action films,” Levy said. “After we watched one of his films a few years back, he called in during the middle of the night for him and answered questions via videoconference.” 

Loy says a typical Alamo film club showing can draw roughly 75 people, with bigger events pulling 100 to 150 or more. He said a showing of David Lynch’s 1984 version of “Dune” nearly sold out. There’s no formal membership roll, no registration and no fees. 

“I always say you are a member just by showing up,” Loy said. “If you buy a ticket, you are a film club member.” 

There’s also no requirement to stay and discuss the film afterward, although many members find this to be their favorite part of the night. 

“We talk about films, but we also catch up and enjoy each other’s company,” said Janice Woodward. 

The lobby at the Alamo Drafthouse in Ashburn.

The Sterling resident tries to attend a film club showing at least a couple of times a month. She gravitates to indie and arthouse films but enjoys everything from “camp to classics.” She’s even become a fan of some horror movies thanks to the eclectic schedule Loy puts together. 

“It’s my favorite part of the week,” Woodward said. “I have made some amazing friends.” 

Loy says it’s great to see those same smiling faces week after week – and he counts many of them among his friends. But there’s always room for growth.

“There is always an opportunity for new blood and new members,” Loy said. “New perspectives from different people from different walks of life is integral to the success of the club.”

Film club chief Brian Loy speaks to the audience before a showing of the original “Godzilla.”

And there’s plenty to discuss and debate. The club members stress there are no wrong opinions and say you don’t need to be an expert to be part of the group – just bring your love of movies.

That’s what Michael Levy does each week. 

During a five-week stretch last summer, Levy recalled, the group watched:

  • “Shin Ultraman” – a Japanese superhero/kaiju film
  • “Pink Flamingos” – John Waters’ pioneering outsider-art provocation
  • “Sullivan’s Travels” – a classic 1941 Hollywood satirical comedy
  • “Miami Vice” –  a gritty 2006 crime drama based on the TV show
  • “The Triplets of Belleville” –  a surreal French animated musical

“Thinking back,” he said, “that was a great five weeks.”

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