Filmgoers in downtown New Haven will have a brand new movie theater to visit by Labor Day 2004.
Bow Tie Partners — a Manhattan-based real estate investment and development company — has unveiled its plans for a first-run, five screen art theater called Criterion Cinemas. It will be the centerpiece of the renovated United Illuminating building complex at 80 Temple St. — which will now be called Temple Square.
In addition to Criterion Cinemas, the renovated building will also contain 44 luxury apartments, a 5,000-square-foot fine dining restaurant, and a 2,000-square-foot casual dining restaurant and lounge.
Criterion Cinemas will feature a large glass marquee, luxurious lobby and comfortable theater seating. It will mainly show independent and foreign films, such as “Fog of War,” “Swimming Pool” and “Station Agent.”
“Our goal is to bring high style and elegance back to the experience of going to the movies,” Bow Tie partner Charley Moss said at a presentation to various city officials and residents on March 18.
City officials have been discussing the possibility of bringing a movie theater to downtown for several years, New Haven Economic Development Officer Craig Russell said. He said Bow Tie Partners’ plans for Temple Square would have a positive influence on downtown because they would add cultural diversity and provide another venue for more family-friendly activities.
“I think they are going to bring basically a lot of class to the project,” Russell said.
The Temple Square renovations will preserve many of the historic components of the 1930s-era building, he said.
Russell said he did not think Criterion would adversely affect York Square Cinema, located at 55 Broadway Ave. Rather, he said studies have shown that a city the size of New Haven should be able to support up to 12 individual art house theaters, which is still less than York Square and Criterion combined. He said Criterion Cinemas would probably attract people both from within the growing downtown community as well as from elsewhere in the Greater New Haven Area, possibly allowing York Square to attain even greater commercial success.
New Haven was appealing to Bow Tie Partners originally because it provides a market favorable to the kinds of projects the firm generally focuses on, Ben Moss, a partner at Bow Tie and the son of Charley Moss, said.
“[We came] because of the vibrancy and excitement we saw in the arts community and the city as a whole,” he said.
Russell said although a more traditional movie theater that showed blockbuster films, rather than just foreign and independent films, would be nice for downtown New Haven, such a theater would probably not come anytime in the near future.
“I think we’d like to have one,” Russell said. “It’s just a matter of having the space.”
Michael Rohrbaugh ’04 said although he thinks there is a strong demand — especially among Yale students — for a theater in New Haven that plays blockbuster pictures, he appreciates the kinds of art films Criterion would show for their ability to innovate and take greater risks.
“I think that in general most of the interesting stuff that’s done in film right now is in the independent world,” he said.
Rohrbaugh said he generally goes to York Square to see new movies, but would definitely take advantage of Criterion if it plays films different from the ones at York.
Past Bow Tie development projects have included the Toys “R” Us and The Swatch Watch Company world flagship stores in Times Square. The company generally aims to take on projects that have an architectural or historical significance.