I’d spent all afternoon in the stacks. It was a Saturday, and I was fast approaching the one-month mark of my time at Yale. I couldn’t have felt more stressed, lonely or desperate for a moment of quiet familiarity. I turned to Bow Tie Criterion, the movie theater at 86 Temple St.
That evening, I went to watch “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” on my own. Already, it would be the fourth movie I’d seen at the theater, but it would be my first solo. It was one of the best film experiences I’ve ever had. I curled up in my seat in the middle of the screening room, laughing louder and crying harder than anyone else in the theater. Bow Tie was there, exactly as I needed it. And I hope it always will be.
I’ve seen 29 movies at Bow Tie. I’ve taken advantage of many a half-off Tuesday. I’ve done matinees and late-night showings. I’ve gone on opening night, and I’ve gone on the last night of a film’s run. I’ve seen blockbusters and indies, comedies and horrors, in packed crowds and completely empty theaters.
Movies take up over half of my heart, so you can imagine that as I did research on colleges my senior year of high school, proximity to a movie theater was high up on my list of must-haves. After my acceptance and before I even stepped into New Haven, I made a playlist for the walks I expected to take from my residential college to Bow Tie. I knew I wouldn’t be home unless I had a theater to call mine. And, thankfully, 86 Temple St. is only a 12-minute walk from Davenport’s front gate (11, if I’m really booking it).
It’s eight minutes from Davenport when you’re running in the rain after a showing of “The French Dispatch,” wearing high-heeled boots that are part of a “fancy outfit” you and your friend agreed to wear to the showing just for the fun of it. It’s 15 if you’re walking from Morse after picking up a friend who’s dying to watch “Dear Evan Hansen.” It’s 20 from Audubon Street after a thrift pop-up, and you’re wishing it was 10 because “No Hard Feelings” starts in five and you’re half-regretting scouring the clothing racks for more clothes you don’t really need.
But reading about Bow Tie’s dark future broke me. I feel utterly lost imagining a future where there is no theater in the entire city of New Haven showing new releases, a future where the city’s downtown loses a center for art. Because what movie theaters do — what Bow Tie Criterion at 86 Temple St. does — is allow access to art on-screen. Bow Tie Criterion removes you from your surroundings only to place you within the world of its film. You live another life for an hour or two. Bow Tie’s love language is fresh popcorn with extra butter, a cherry Coke and a pack of Reese’s Pieces (that you only tip into your hand at the loud moments of the movie).
Bow Tie is the first place I talk about when I’m asked what there is to do in New Haven because it holds so many of my favorite memories. The theater is an influence on projects in my classes, an inspiration for my playlists and a place to spend time with friends and strangers such that the city feels more like home than ever. It’s a landmark on my map of the city. I’m lost imagining a future where New Haven doesn’t have Bow Tie.