Criterion Cinemas at Blue Back Square

42 South Main Street,
West Hartford, CT 06107

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Opened on November 2, 2007. The theater features custom-designed seating, Dolby Digital sound in every auditorium, fresh popcorn served with real butter, and an assortment of baked goods served with fresh brewed coffee.

Decorations in the Criterion Cinemas were by designer Michael Mahaffey.

Contributed by Joe Masher

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on January 20, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Tomas Kent wrote: “Mr. Masher, your invitation sounds more like a threat that a tour, so I’ll pass for the time being.”

I’m not sure how an invitation to “happily meet and engage you in a personal tour” sounds like a threat. I have met Joe Masher personally and he is a very nice gentleman and his offer is genuine. It seems that you have some sort of grudge against the Bow Tie chain as you speak negatively about all their theatres. Why not meet with him and maybe you can see the theatre from a different point of view as well as make some suggestions?

joemasher on January 26, 2008 at 7:43 am

My invitation is sincere…

longislandmovies on January 26, 2008 at 9:22 am

Thomas kent….90% of people under 40 like stadium seating …..Older art crowd hate it . I have a 3 screen 1 stadium 2 traditional and patrons hate the stadium……

longislandmovies on January 26, 2008 at 9:24 am

I take his invite as sincere and rare in todays movie operations ..I would jump on the invite with the same sincere way THOMAS…

Taxi on February 7, 2008 at 10:02 pm

I am still curious, so could you or anyone just answer the questions?

What is the most expensive theater in Hartford County? To be fair let’s leave out 3-d movies and the director’s cinemas at Buckland.

What makes the custom seats at the criterion better than those at the Buckland hills theater?

What discounts does the criterion offer to its Patrons? I mean like a Super Tuesday or parking validation.

For about the same money (plus parking) what are the reasons to choose the criterion over Buckland Hills?

I ask the above questions sincerely, because I would rather not travel to Manchester. I think the Criterion is a very nice theater, if this was 1998, it would be the state of the art cinema we were promised.

a little story.
Once upon a time, there was a theater in East Hartford; it was a very busy theater always selling out. Then one day a cinema st Buckland Hills opened, only 10 miles away the main difference being at the time, was it had stadium seating. They showed the same movies for about the same price. All of the sudden, East Hartford was a ghost town; people just stopped going there. After sitting in a sold out show in Manchester, we would drive past East Hartford and wonder, if it was still open. And finally it did clos because people like me, drove across the river past East Hartford to go to Manchester, a lot of people did. If enough people really liked the seating on the floor, the East Hartford Theater would still be open today and doing good business, because when the Palace and the Loews in Plainville opened with stadium seating, it put the final nails in East Hartford’s coffin. If this doesn’t prove the average Joe who goes to the movies prefers stadium seating I don’t know what would. The End!


longislandmovies on February 7, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Thomas stadium seating is great for the under 50 age..
If you have a theater with older patrons they HATE it!
I own a theater with stadium and traditional seating in the same complex.

Taxi on February 23, 2008 at 4:24 pm

longislandmovies – recently I saw the “the Bucket list” in a theater with stadium seating. The crowd was mostly older with many seniors; NOBODY was sitting in the seats without stadium. Maybe they didn’t want to sit close to the screen, but are many theatres in the area without stadium seating, they choose to go to a theater with stadium seating.

I don’t think you give seniors enough credit. My mother-in-law, recently purchased airline tickets on line and last year got herself a cell phone. I don’t think seniors in there 60s or 70s care if a theater is stadium or not.

The point was nobody builds a theater without stadium seating except this little cinema in West Hartford Ct. If you were building a theater from the ground up in 2008, would you have stadium seating?


e1337n00b on March 3, 2008 at 6:13 pm

I personally don’t mind the lack of stadium seating, I can go to Plainville or the Palace to get that. The crowd here is better. Wish the seats rocked back, but other than that if a movie I want to see is here instead of Plainville, I’d have no problem coming here for a movie.

John Fink
John Fink on April 13, 2009 at 8:01 pm

While I personally prefer some form of stadium seating, preferably without any dizzying effect (I liked the large theaters at the now closed National Amusements Showcase East Windsor, which didn’t have the height of a new construction) – I wouldn’t mind sloped floor seating if properly spaced. The best example of this is the IFC Center in New York City.

I can’t comment on Blue Back, but I have been to the Criterion Cinemas in New Haven and found it to be a first rate theater, but did find it a little odd that it didn’t have stadium seating, being that it was a new venue. Perhaps, the best would be a hybrid like Real Art Ways, which has sloped floor seating with a sharper slope towards the back of the auditorium. That’s sort of the best of both worlds – and I still think that’s the best theater in Greater Hartford in terms of sound, projection, film selection and atmosphere.

I suppose with East Hartford now closed the decision was made to keep both this and Cinema City open, with this serving as a smaller downtown type of theater, playing often times day and date with the Palace. Cinema City I haven’t visited in a while, so I don’t know if its been upgraded, Crown certainly never did anything to it (aside from painting the lobby). I suppose I understand Tomas' outrage – I, like him thought this theater was going to be Hartford’s version of the Angelika, and would replace Cinema City. Regardless, the formula for playing more upscale Hollywood films here as the 18-23rd screens of the Palace seems to work for West Hartford in that you can make a night of it here downtown, whereas in Manchester you could make a night of it, but that means you’d have to have dinner at Chatters or at the food court of Cinema De Lux.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 8, 2011 at 12:12 pm

What do mean the over 50 crowd hates stadium seating, remember GCC’s famous seats,you would get paralyzed butt after after 20 minutes.I hated them and i worked for them in two different cities,same blasted seats.

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