The creative manager for an Alamo Drafthouse location in Minnesota is making his time away from the movie theater count as he’s revisiting old creative endeavors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tim Alan Holly and one of his two cats, Drake. Photo by Colette Ricci
Seven weeks ago, Tim Alan Holly was working as the creative manager of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema located in Woodbury, Minnesota. Booking movies, developing programming, and mingling with the theater’s guests left him little time to delve into other creative pursuits.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Holly now has more free time than he’s had in a while. Cinemas are closed nationwide, Minnesota is operating under an executive stay-at-home order until at least May 4 and he has no full-time job to report to until restrictions are eased.
Fortunately, he has plenty of side projects to keep him busy.
“Since I’ve been working at the Alamo, it’s made me put all my more creative endeavors a little bit more on the back burner. I’m still creating stuff, but not nearly to the level I was,” Holly said. “Taking a little step away from the Alamo right now is like opening the floodgates.”
Holly, who lives in St. Paul, is the artist and creator behind Tim’s Monsters’ Designs! He does screen printing, poster and graphic design work, makes monster plush toys, and now he’s even producing vinyl stickers and koozies — all from his studio.
Crafting stuffed monsters has been an ongoing project of Holly’s since the early 2000s. Though he hasn’t made or sold his monster creations on a consistent basis, producing them is an ongoing pursuit when he has the time to commit. His early monsters were made with a bit of a punk rock ethos, with Holly modifying his approach as he gained experience.
“I’ve always had this kind of (do-it-yourself) approach to everything that I do,” he said. “I’ve never really sat down and tried to research how you’re supposed to sew fur, or anything like that. It’s just been one of those situations where I’ve just kind of learned more and more as I went.”
One of Holly's handmade monsters. Photo courtesy of Tim Alan Holly
What started as a weekly craft night activity led to advancements in Holly's craftsmanship as he continued learning and improving. He also got some guidance from his father, who has a career background in making custom furniture and upholstery.
“I was trying to make puppets basically — not really having any idea what I was doing — and trying to reverse-engineer it on this little crappy home domestic sewing machine that is not meant to sew that kind of material,” he said. “Trial and error — I kind of worked my way through it.”
Holly refined his approach. He utilizes high-quality materials, faux furs and upholstery stuffing — a synthetic material called polyfill. He also has an industrial sewing machine now, too.
“Kids love them. Adults love them,” Holly said of the monsters. “It’s sort of this weird thing that people either just respond to them or they don’t.”
Music is important to Holly, too. He’s crafted film scores, been in bands, and he can play the bass and guitar.
For movies, it’s too hard for Holly to identify just one favorite. Horror films, including 1981’s “The Evil Dead” directed by Sam Raimi, are high on the list. Other genre movies and film noir also appeal to him. He said he watches a movie a day, on average, but during the COVID-19 shutdown he admits to falling off that schedule as he’s invested more time into his art.
Before joining the Alamo Drafthouse team in 2018, Holly worked at a Whole Foods Market. As a life-long Minnesotan, he worked that job to pay his bills while pursuing his artistic goals. He later found his position at the Alamo ate up more time and creative energy than his Whole Foods work had, which forced him to take a step back from some of his creative activities.
He's found fulfillment in helping build a local community that can meet together in the hall or lobby to discuss what had just been watched on the big screen. He spoke of programming that’s been fun to produce, including monthly American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) secret screenings.
“The AGFA shows have been super fun, just because I get to unleash some weird stuff that if we were even to announce the title people probably wouldn’t show up,” Holly said. “People are coming because they’re starting to trust that what we’re going to play is going to be something unique and fun, and they’re going to enjoy themselves whether they’ve heard of it or not.”
Holly at GalaxyCon Minneapolis in Nov. 2019. Photo by Paul Patane
Other popular programming at the theater includes monthly Hopped Up Cinema screenings. The last Hopped Up show Holly organized was a screening of the 1982 “Conan the Barbarian” movie, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, which was paired with beer from 3 Floyds Brewing. Everyone in attendance enjoyed downing their respective flights of beer while watching the classic film.
While Holly is in many ways the public face of the Alamo in Woodbury, much of his work is done behind the scenes, going beyond programming and booking. He also has a hand in props, which enrich the theater experience. He picked out all the posters in the cinema’s main hall, loosely going with a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” theme, with him noting that most of the posters represent movies that have been riffed on at some point in the program’s illustrious history.
When “It Chapter Two” came out last fall, Holly and one of the theater’s other managers dragged a trio of doors they purchased through the parking lot via car, scuffing them up, to add detail to a prop setup they constructed in the lobby that also used paint and red balloons.
Building out a sense of community is important to Holly, as watching films in a communal setting enriches the experience, he said.
“It’s that community and shared experience,” Holly said. “There’s something special about seeing a movie big and loud in the theater.”
Though he hasn’t been able to go to the Alamo since mid-March, Holly has kept in touch with local cinephiles and he looks forward to getting back to work.
“Even since we’ve closed, I still have a ton of conversations with people online. It’s keeping that community going, even though the theater’s not there,” he said.