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Over $5,000 raised to support former Alamo Drafthouse Denton employees

Juan Betancourt

Former Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Denton employees have set up a GoFundMe virtual fundraiser for individuals affected by the movie theater’s sudden closure last week.

Former employees Hannah Stalnaker, Christee Helus and Oma Lesley have raised about $5,000 to account for about 70 Denton employees affected by the closure.

The former employees told the Denton Record-Chronicle on Sunday evening that employees would not receive their final paychecks, and there was a not an attempt to notify the employees of the sudden closure.

The Denton location, at 3220 Town Center Trail, opened in 2018 and was the third Alamo Drafthouse to open in the North Texas area.

Stalnaker said unemployment checks will be far from the amount former employees made.

“All of that money is just going to go towards people who are having the hardest times finding jobs or are getting the lowest amount of unemployment,” Helus said.

Two Is One, One Is None LLC, the company that franchised the theaters, filed for bankruptcy this past week, closing its local cinemas.

The franchise claimed ticket sales hadn’t rebounded after the COVID-19 pandemic and the writers and actors guild strikes, according to its news release.

The former employees said the bankruptcy was filed on the last day of their pay period, meaning employees were unknowingly providing free labor.

They said getting the unpaid wages, including personal time off hours, may take months or even years.

Most of the former employees were already living paycheck to paycheck, they said, which has made the sudden closure even more uncertain.

“All of us believe that it was intentionally done that way because the bankruptcy was filed on the last day of our pay period,” Helus said. “So we were just working those last two weeks there, unknowingly, for free.”

In its release, the company also claimed that an attempt was made to contact all 600-plus employees before the announcement and the closures.

The former employees said franchise owner Bill DiGaetano and his father filed for bankruptcy and closed every location under their ownership without proper notice.

According to the former employees, one message was sent out to their employee scheduling app two hours after every employee was terminated.

“They said that they attempted, or an attempt was made, to contact all affected employees, which is not true,” Helus said.

The former employees said they have been in touch with former DFW Alamo Drafthouse management employees, as well as the Woodbury, Minnesota, location that also closed.

“We’re just trying to make sure everyone has access to the information they need to file as a creditor, to file for unemployment, and if, like references, job searches,” Helus said.

The former employees said they bonded with each other at the Denton location and with the guests who came to watch movies.

“It was like a family,” Helus said. “That’s why so many people are so heartbroken, most of all. … It wasn’t just the co-workers that we bonded with. It was the people that we served, too. I mean, we have deep connections to everyone that worked there and who came there and talked to us and enjoyed cinema with us.”

The former employees have thanked the Denton community for supporting them in a time of need.

The early stages of a benefit concert are in the works to raise additional money for the former employees, with Tom’s Daiquiri Place, 1212 W. Mulberry St., reaching out to set up a potential show.

The Record-Chronicle reached out to DiGaetano and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s parent company in Austin for comment regarding the employee claims of unpaid wages with no response.