Future of Bow Tie Cinemas remains uncertain
Students and locals reflect on Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas’ place in New Haven and in their lives.
Katya Agrawal, Contributing Photographer
Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas’ future has been called into question since rumors surfaced in August of its potential closure.
The theater, which first opened in 2004, temporarily shut down during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic before reopening in August 2021. This past summer, Bow Tie sold five of its other Connecticut theaters to AMC.
The theater is located on Temple Street, and it is New Haven’s last theater open to the general public.
“I’m holding on to hope that they’re working things out and contracts are in place,” said Jessica Sanchez ’25. “It’s especially important because it’s the only theater in New Haven showing new releases. I adore Bow Tie, and its closing would crush me.”
Sanchez has been going to Bow Tie since she first came to New Haven.
She recounted going to the theater with her parents the night before move-in because it was close to the New Haven Hotel, where they were staying.
“It has so much character because it’s an older movie theater,” Sanchez said. “There’s this element of nostalgia to it, and it instantly just felt so familiar.”
Sanchez, who is originally from Dallas, Texas, said the theater was the first place where she felt comfortable upon moving to New Haven.
By her estimate, she has been going to Bow Tie at least once a month since she arrived at Yale and, more recently, every week.
“It’s breaking my heart,” she said of the theater’s potential closing. “I save all my ticket stubs, and I feel so connected to this particular theater in a way that I didn’t even connect to the theaters back home.”
For Sanchez, walks to Bow Tie were an opportunity to explore New Haven outside of the University’s bounds.
She noted that the walk from campus to Temple Street gave her the opportunity to witness downtown New Haven’s restaurants and nightlife.
“For Yale students, it’s a way to connect with the city,” she said.
New Haven locals, too, lamented Bow Tie Cinemas’ potentially bleak future. New Haven native and Yale alumna Sara Thakur ’22 has been going to the theater since she moved to the city with her family at five years old.
According to Thakur, Bow Tie is one of the only theaters in the area showing smaller indie films and Oscar-nominated shorts. She added that Bow Tie offers movies for casual and avid moviegoers alike.
Young In Kim ’27, another local, emphasized the theater’s convenient location for both students and New Haven residents. Echoing Thakur’s sentiments about Bow Tie’s long-standing presence, he recalled frequent trips there with friends during middle and high school.
“It’s nice because it’s right in downtown New Haven,” Kim said. “You watch a movie, eat dinner with friends or with family, and then you can walk back to your dorm or house or easily take the shuttle.”
Both Kim and Sanchez noted that Bow Tie’s closing would mean an Uber or bus ride to North Haven’s Cinemark, nearly five miles away.
Bow Tie opened only two decades ago, but Sanchez and Thakur mentioned the theater’s old-world feel as one source of its distinctiveness.
Kim said that the theater’s outdated technology has never hindered his time there, and Sanchez noted that Bow Tie’s sound and light projection issues give the space character.
“Its interior calls back to the golden age of cinema,” said Thakur. “The prospect of it closing down genuinely upsets me because we will be losing something so unique to the city.”
Along with Kim and Thakur, Sanchez found out about the potential end of Bow Tie through an article released by the New Haven Independent. That article suggested that the theater might close at the start of September, which, much to their relief, did not happen.
But it is not just moviegoers who have been left in the dark about the theater. Employees too, are unsure about Bow Tie’s future. The News spoke with two Bow Tie employees, both of whom expressed their uncertainty about the theater’s closing.
One employee refrained from making a comment, noting that the corporate office prohibits him from doing so.
“I was so nervous it was going to close,” Sanchez said. “ I wish they would be straightforward and say ‘these are the reasons we’re closing and this is what the space could potentially be.’”
Bow Tie is located at 86 Temple St.