Leading Lady

Visionary founder of Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse steps down as CEO

Visionary founder of Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse steps down as CEO

Tim League Alamo Drafthouse CROP
Tim League — Alamo's first-ever CEO — is stepping into a new role. Photo by Jessica Pages

Tim League, the visionary founder of the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse, has stepped down as CEO. And his replacement — a corporate executive with major business bonafides — may offer a hint to the company's future. 

League is leaving his post as the Drafthouse's top executive immediately, the company announced in a release. As of May 1, he is the new executive chairman, leading the board of directors and developing "bold new creative initiatives for Alamo Drafthouse, sister company Mondo, and genre festival Fantastic Fest." 

Taking his place as CEO is Shelli Taylor, who spent almost 20 years as an executive with Starbucks. While working for the coffee mega-chain, Taylor was instrumental in overseeing its expansion into China, the release notes. More recently, Taylor was president of United Planet Fitness Partners, where she oversaw 169 facilities across the country.

“Six months ago I began searching for a CEO who could work as a partner and collaborator, with a strong voice and battle-tested leadership skills. Shelli Taylor brings that and more,” League said in a release. “As Executive Chairman I’ll continue to lead the brand, digging hard into developing new creative and marketing initiatives at Alamo Drafthouse, Mondo and Fantastic Fest.”

Since League and his wife, Kerri, founded the first Alamo Drafthouse in 1997, the company has become one of Austin's most beloved exports, and it now operates 41 locations across Texas and the U.S. Though there have been missteps, including criticism of how the company has handled sexual harassment claims, it is also a darling of the film industry.

"I am incredibly honored and excited to assume the role of CEO at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Tim League and his talented team have built an unequaled cinema brand that is built on passion, innovation, and a local community mindset encompassing everything from food and drink to fantastic programming," Taylor said. “I am committed to Alamo Drafthouse’s vision of sharing the films we love with the widest possible audience while offering the best moviegoing experience in the industry.”

Just how wide that audience will be has yet to be revealed. Plus, there are a few other hurdles — including navigating the current pandemic — to clear before focusing on the company's longterm vision. 

After Governor Greg Abbott announced movie theaters were among the businesses that could reopen on May 1, the Alamo Drafthouse quickly countered that it would not be among those operating, citing safety concerns. Taylor's first task as the newly minted CEO is leading the reopening of theaters while ensuring the safety of employees and guests alike.