Saratoga Springs’ run of nearly four decades without a traditional downtown movie theater will end this week.
The 11-screen Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas, located at 19 Railroad Place, the former site of a Price Chopper, will be open to the public on Friday.
One week later, Bow Tie will open up at Wilton Mall, which formerly was home to a Regal Cinemas.
Ticket prices for the new Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas (surcharges apply for 3-D and BTX screenings):
Matinee: Adult $9; children (11 and younger) $7; seniors (62 and older) $7; college student with ID $9.
Evening: Adult $12; children (11 and younger) $8; seniors (62 and older) $8; college student with ID $10.
Bow Tie Cinemas Chief Operating Officer Joe Masher said the Saratoga Springs project fit perfectly with his company’s efforts to bring movie theaters back to downtown areas. These theaters
have been slowly dying off around the country since the migration to the suburbs, but Bow Tie has been working to reverse this trend since 2004, when it opened a theater in New Haven, Conn. Bow Tie also has a theater in downtown Schenectady.
“Downtown Saratoga has a very vibrant arts and entertainment community. It really has become the year-round place to be, not just the August place to be,” Masher said. “So we’re very excited about being in downtown Saratoga.”
The Saratoga Springs location is designed to complement the Wilton location, with different experiences offered at each spot.
“The Wilton Mall theater is primarily going to be for all the latest hits and action movies. The Criterion downtown is really going to be more of an upscale, sophisticated type of film product,” he said.
There will be some crossover between the two theaters, but Saratoga Springs will feature more arthouse and independent films. The Saratoga Springs offerings will include Cine Classics on Saturday and Sunday mornings, including Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” this weekend. Masher noted that they’ll have more adult films like “Enough Said” and “Fifth Estate.”
But this won’t just be an arthouse theater, as it does have all of the latest bells and whistles, like stadium seating, leather rocking chairs, wall-to-wall screens and Dolby Digital Surround Sound. There will also be a Bow Tie Xtreme theater, which offers a 2,000-square-foot screen and 30,000 watts of Dolby Digital 7.1 surround sound.
Other amenities and features include hot food like chicken fingers, sliders and French fries, freshly made popcorn with real butter and the ability to have your movie ticket on your phone. The theater is in the process of securing a license to sell alcohol. Also, there will be a space for families to have private parties.
Work on the theater for Friday’s opening was still feverishly underway on Wednesday afternoon, with workers still painting and making adjustments to the seats. In order to make sure all of the seats were working properly, Masher said, an employee had to sit in all 1,825 of them.
Plans for a theater were first announced in June of 2012 by Sonny Bonacio of Bonacio Construction. It was announced last October that Bow Tie would operate the theater.
The completed project reminds Bonacio of his childhood in the city.
“Thirty-nine years ago, we used to have a movie theater downtown, and it was a great amenity for families and kids,” he said. “I remember being a kid and my mother used to drop us off.”
Bonacio, who is probably the city’s most prominent builder, said the theater project will probably be his most used building. “We do have a lot of recognizable properties, but this will probably be the most visited one,” he said.
Masher was confident that visitors to the theater wouldn’t have an issue finding parking, noting that there are more than 700 spots in nearby parking garages. He also said that a lot of downtown theaters attract a walking crowd.
The development of the theater didn’t include any additional parking, as city officials waved the requirement because they felt the project was providing a city benefit.
The $18 million project received about $850,000 in tax exemptions from the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency, which made the theater fully tax-exempt for five years before phasing in the full tax burden during the next five years.
There is about 12,500 square feet of office space on each of the second and third floors, with the entire third floor already leased out.
A soft opening benefiting the Saratoga Hospital Community Health Center will be held tonight for $75 per person.