Movie moguls

GSD&M’s Roy Spence and Judy Trabulsi want D.C. to remember the Alamo Drafthouse

GSD&M’s Roy Spence and Judy Trabulsi want D.C. to remember the Alamo Drafthouse

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Austin advertising gurus Roy Spence and Judy Trabulsi are going to the movies.

Spence and Trabulsi, co-founders of Austin advertising powerhouse GSD&M, are partners in a business venture that’s introducing the Austin-born Alamo Drafthouse Cinema concept to the Washington, D.C., metro area. Spence’s and Trabulsi’s involvement lends clout to Alamo Drafthouse’s expansion to D.C., New York, Los Angeles and other U.S. markets.

The first theater in the D.C. expansion of the film-and-food phenomenon is scheduled to premiere in early 2013 in Ashburn, Va., not far from Dulles International Airport. Construction on the 34,000-square-foot, eight-screen theater is set to start this spring.

Last August, Alamo Drafthouse LLC inked a deal with Spence and Trabulsi’s franchise outfit, Cojeaux Cinemas LLC, to develop theaters in the District of Columbia and neighboring Maryland and Virginia over a five-year span.

 Spence’s and Trabulsi’s involvement lends clout to Alamo Drafthouse’s expansion to D.C., New York, Los Angeles and other U.S. markets.

Aside from the Ashburn location, two more Alamo Drafthouse theaters are in the works for the D.C. area; sites for the additional theaters haven’t been announced. (Through a GSD&M spokeswoman, Spence and Trabulsi declined to comment.)

In Austin, Alamo Drafthouse has four theaters. Another local theater is scheduled to open March 22 on West Slaughter Lane near MoPac Expressway in Southwest Austin. Alamo Drafthouse also has three theaters in the Houston area, three theaters in the San Antonio area and one theater in the northwestern Virginia city of Winchester. An Alamo Drafthouse is slated to open in late 2012 in the Denver suburb of Littleton.

Leading the D.C. venture are Anthony Coco, who is president of Cojeaux Cinemas, and Joseph Edwards, who is executive vice president. Spence’s wife, Mary, and son, Shay, also are part of Cojeaux Cinemas.

“All the partners of Cojeaux Cinemas have either lived or spent significant time in the Austin area, where Alamo originated. Our mind-set has always been that if we are going see a film, we are going to the Alamo Drafthouse,” Coco and Edwards say via email. “The concept has a cult-like following, and the experience is unrivaled in the industry.”

Will Cojeaux Cinemas ever expand beyond the D.C. region? In the short term, no. In the long term, it’s not out of the question.

“At this point, our main focus is growth in the Washington, D.C., area. We feel that steady, successful growth is the smart development decision,” Coco and Edwards say.

Coco and Edwards helped grow the Beaumont, Texas-based Jason’s Deli chain to about 230 locations in 29 states, including six restaurants in Austin. In 2011, revenue for Jason’s Deli topped $500 million. Now, Coco and Edwards — along with the three Spences and Trabulsi — are concentrating on Alamo Drafthouse.

“We could not possibly have better partners than Roy Spence and Judy Trabulsi,” Coco and Edwards say. “They have a true passion for great experiences and have fantastic vision. Both of them have led successful lives building brands through purpose, and we feel that our partnership with them has been and will continue to be successful.”