It’s a movie lover’s dream; renting out a whole theater for you and your closest friends, not having to worry about tall people sitting in front of you, getting the best spot in the house and — above all — doing it as safely as possible.
This is what Bow Tie Cinemas has been offering since December in the Capital Region with its Private Movie Parties at its Saratoga Springs Criterion location and Schenectady Movieland 6 location. While its Wilton location remains closed and is no longer mentioned on the company’s website, Bow Tie Chief Operating Officer Joe Masher said the private screenings at their other two Capital Region locations are driving business at the other 518 theaters. He did not comment on if the Wilton location is permanently closed.
“When we were shut down, it was becoming obvious that if we did get permission to reopen, we wouldn’t have product to play on all screens,” Masher said. “Schenectady is a bit different since there’s six screens, but we have some theaters where there’s 21 screens. We also felt that people would feel safer when we reopened if they could watch movies with just their friends and family. That’s why we reworked our website a little bit to book the private parties directly on the site. It’s proven so successful that I don’t ever see it going away, to be honest.”
To purchase a private screening, audiences can head to Bow Tie’s website and select a date. Each date has between three and four movies available, with most weekends selling out once they go on sale. When they land a showing, audiences are able to pick between newer movies, which are $149 on weekdays and $199 on weekends, and a handful of classic movies, which are $99 at all times. Viewers can attend with up to 20 family members and friends, but are still required to wear masks at all times, except for when they’re eating.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Masher said. “The Capital Region has always been a good market for us. Both theaters are doing well enough to hold their own and stay open. We put them on sale a couple weeks in advance and people buy them out right away.”
The standard movies Bow Tie shows include “Shrek,” “Back to the Future” and “Despicable Me.” Those tend to be relatively popular, Masher said, while holidays get special showings. On Valentine’s Day, Bow Tie offered “When Harry Met Sally,” “The Bodyguard” and “The Notebook.”
“It’s exciting to see people coming back to movies for the private shows and the regular shows. People are excited to feel normal again,” Masher said. “It provides some normalcy and escape from the tentacles of the pandemic.”
Local film critic Jackson Murphy, who reviews films on lights-camera-jackson.com and on Youtube, said he hasn’t yet tried a private viewing at Bow Tie but was hopeful about the experience.
“I think it’s great that these Bow Tie Cinemas locations in the Capital Region are open. These private rental parties allow you to see a classic/older movie for only $99 and a new release for $149. It’s a good deal,” Murphy wrote. “And every time I’ve gone on their website and Fandango to see what new movies they’re playing each week, many of the ‘Private Movie Party’ showtimes are usually sold out. People are definitely taking advantage of these.”
While Bow Tie’s website said these experiences were a limited-time offer, Masher insisted that will not be the case, and will likely need an update online.
“I think it’s gonna be here for a while,” Masher said. “I don’t see it going away.”