Criterion Cinemas at Blue Back Square

42 South Main Street,
West Hartford, CT 06107

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Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 8, 2011 at 3:12 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.

John Fink
John Fink on April 13, 2009 at 11:01 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.

e1337n00b on March 3, 2008 at 9:13 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.

Taxi on February 23, 2008 at 7:24 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?


longislandmovies on February 8, 2008 at 2:38 am

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 8, 2008 at 1:02 am

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 January 26, 2008 at 12:24 pm

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

longislandmovies on January 26, 2008 at 12:22 pm

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……

joemasher on January 26, 2008 at 10:43 am

My invitation is sincere…

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on January 20, 2008 at 4:41 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?

Taxi on January 20, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Mr. Masher, your invitation sounds more like a threat that a tour, so I’ll pass for the time being. There is nothing really wrong with the theater, we’ve accepted it, it’s just not as nice as we expected. Believe me when I say I am not the only one disappointed in this theater. We thought we were getting a state of the art, “ART Cinema. We thought we would never have to go to cinema city again.

Please remember, I only asked if any improvements were made at cinema city. Many people including you noted that the seats are terrible and it’s been a while, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume, that the seats were replaced with the special custom seats, you are so proud of. .

Mr. Fink called the Palace a “ghetto theater” not me. I did not raise the price of a late matinee show from $4.00 to $10.00 or $11.00 in the theater with the big screen to get rid of the bad element, and the good element for that matter, you did. Can anyone remember another theater going up 250% in price in just over a year?

Mr. Katz said your theater had a terrible bleed though problem, I didn’t notice. Mr. Katz also made note of light bubs being out, I didn’t notice until he said something.

I think if you ask 100 of your customers, over 90% would prefer stadium seating. No one is going to mistake this theater for a performance theater, like the Bushnell Theater for Performing Arts. (They have free parking!) And we didn’t ask for a “performance space”. We wanted a movie theater. Up until I go married, I didn’t care about stadium seating either, now I do. Sine this is half an art cinema, why not half stadium seating.

The only theater in the area that has matinee pricing only until 2pm is yours, at least on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I cannot find a theater that is more expense in the area. What theater(s) are you talking about? Of course even if this theater is not the most expensive, it is still overpriced for what it offers compared to the deluxe theater in Manchester for the same price.

If I lived half way between theaters, what reasons would you give to me, to choose downtown West Hartford over the big theater in Manchester for about the same price?

The Loews theater in Plainville has an early morning special and there is a showcase cinema that offers a $5.00 day and for seniors a $3.50 day. Wow! What kind of discounts does your theater offer? I mean besides a club card that makes me spend as much as $157.50 before I get a free ticket. If fact your club is a copy of the one at AMC/Loews.

Also what kind of parking validation does you theater offer? I am embarrassed to say, that I forgot to ask.

Is it good theater business sense to toss your movie projectors after only a year for digital projectors, if you knew the digital revolution was coming? By the way there is an excellent article on digital theaters on this very site, I hope you took the time to read.

In the end I go to the theaters in West Hartford because they are close to me. But remember I am a paying customer and someone who voted ‘yes” for the project that put a movie theater here in the first place, YOUR WELCOME!

joemasher on January 13, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Instead of slamming my facility (that I’m very proud of and have worked very hard to establish) on this fine website, I will happily meet and engage you, Mr. Kent, in a personal tour of the theater and its workings (as well as the Palace and Cinema City, which you’ve also posted negative comments about). I would also like to take the opportunity to clear up some claims that have been posted on this site.
Our “Criterion” brand operations are built with sloped floor continental-style (no center aisle) seating. We do this because most of our valued guests that patronize the upscale product we show prefer non-stadium seating. Our auditoriums favor more of a performing arts space feel about them. We take great pride in the amenities we provide, including Dolby Digital sound, our custom-designed seats (most people love them, sorry you’re not one of them), real butter on freshly-popped popcorn served right out of the popper, agressive loyalty rewards program, and friendly and welcoming staff. For the main lobby, we’ve commissioned an original mural tying the history of our company to the history of West Hartford and Noah Webster. In the lobby there is also an original Prescott sculpture on display.
As for the outside marquee, believe me, we are more upset than anyone at the lighting problem we’re having. The wiring on the main marquee has failed, and repairs began on Friday, 1/11 and will continue tomorrow, Monday 1/14. If you look at the properly wired blade sign on the back of the building, you’ll notice the problem does not carry through to that sign.
Finally, you’ve always had to pay to park in West Hartford Center. We do not charge for parking, the town does. There is nothing we can do about that. As for being the most expensive theater in the state, there are others competitors nearby (not ours) that charge the same or more than we do. Some of those competitors feature bargain shows up to 2PM only.
The vast majority of the comments that we’ve received via our website on our newest theater have been overwhelmingly positive.
Finally, on the subject of Digital Cinema, we are a chain of sixteen locations and are currently entertaining our D-Cinema options. Our intention is to take the whole chain digital at once. It is a long and complicated process that, with all due respect, cannot be fully understood by most outside the industry.
If you, Mr. Kent, would like to speak directly to me or would like the tour(s) that I offered above, please e-mail me at: , or call me at (203)659-2604.
Joseph Masher, Chief Operating Officer, Bow Tie Cinemas

Taxi on January 13, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Roger – Please! Read any paper about movie theaters, visit any movie website and you’ll see the future of movie theaters is DIGITAL. There’s a topic on a website called film tech titled “are we the last of a dying breed?” It’s just a matter of time, exactly how much time is questioned, but it is going to happen. Many theaters and even some chains have now all digital projection in every auditorium, so the point I make is who builds a cinema in this day and age without any digital? By the way I saw “No Country for Old Men” there too. I also saw two black lines going down the middle of the screen for most of the movie! It was really annoying.

I too have no real complaints with sloped seating, but it possible that some people less than 5'5", like my wife really who appreciates stadium seating in a way I never could. She told me she used to dread going to movies, as it would be her luck to sit behind a tall person. Now she like going to the movies, and isn’t that what movie theaters want? In this day and age the average moviegoer expect stadium seating for the top dollar we pay.

The seats are ok for comfort, not great by any means. Once you get used to rocking chairs, it is hard to go back. Even the ones at Cinema city rock, although they are disgusting and many of them squeak. I did not hear any bleed through the night I was there.

It is obvious that they did not ask the West Hartford moviegoer what we wanted in a cinema and built it cheaply. That fact that light bulbs are out shows you that they can’t keep up with repairs. That is a bad sign for any business.

Roger – where did you park? The rate at the garage is $1.50 for the first hour and .75 a half hour after that. So you can add about $3.75 to the cost of a 10.50 evening ticket, making the cost of movie without their overpriced snack stand a whopping $14.25. Now get a piece of paper and compare what you get for a $10.50 ticket at the Blue Back cinema vs. what you get for the same price (with free parking) at the deluxe cinema in Manchester. Do the math. We live in West Hartford and we are very disappointed in this cinema. We expected a “state of the art” and we didn’t expect to be priced gouged because we live here, so when we can get out, we usually drive to Manchester, but I really wish we could enjoy movies right here in West Hartford. -tom

longislandmovies on January 11, 2008 at 1:33 am

Theaters charge what the market will pay.If they are to high they wont be there long or the price will come down.

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on January 10, 2008 at 11:14 pm

I don’t know why anyone would care about digital projection. I don’t think there are more than a handful of movies that come out digitally anyway. The projection when I saw No Country For Old Men here was clear and in focus with no dust or scratches on the print. I’m glad they do not have stadium seating – whoever invented that should be shot. I found the seats very comfortable even though they did not rock. I cannot stand seats with high backs, and these were the perfect size. I also parked for free nearly right across the street. My two complaints about the cinema were all the burned out bulbs in the marquee – that really irks me for some reason – and the horrible sound bleed-through from one auditorium to the next.

Taxi on January 10, 2008 at 10:45 pm

This cinema, which opened in the fall of 2007, features ALL sloped seating, you won’t find stadium seating here. They have absolutely NO digital projection. Walk in you’ll see a miniscule non-descript lobby in a cinema that has a weird mix of mainstream and art fare, with the usual boring concession stand. Their custom designed seats were custom designed without much padding, and without moveable armrests, and without high backs and most importantly WITHOUT with the ability to rock back and forth. This theatre also decided to go with out wall-to-wall screens. They do have the highest admission prices in the state and even higher when you add in the high cost of parking. But it’s not all negative, because they do have very nice cup holders. – Also across the street is a Cheesecake Factory. – tom

Taxi on December 11, 2007 at 5:18 pm

When the pedestrian mall at Blue Back square was proposed, we in West Hartford were not pleased. Then we found out ant “Art Cinema” was going to be a tenet and that helped sway my vote for the project. The project even with it’s flaws turned out pretty good, but we are very disapointed in this theater. More on that later, but here is what is being said in West Hartford, Connecticut
from the talk of Wast Hartford Blog

View link

Tuesday, November 13, 2007
$10.50 For A Movie ? !

The new movie theater at Blue Back Square has the following admission prices:

Bargain Matinees â€" All shows before 6PM Monday-Friday,and before 2PM Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays

General Admission – $7.50
Child (11 & under) – $7.00
Senior (62 & over, with valid ID) – $7.00

All Other Performances
General Admission – $10.50
Child (11 & under) – $7.50
Senior (62 & over, with valid ID) – $7.50
College Student (with valid ID) – $8.00 (Monday-Thursday only, excluding Holidays)

$7.50 for kids and $10.50 for adults? That’s just crazy!
2 kids with Mom and Dad would cost $36.00 just for admission! Then there are parking fees to tack on and of course popcorn and drinks. But, I am sure people will pay it.

Like we say here at Talk of West Hartford, “Talk is cheap, West Hartford is not”.

Tickets at Hoyt’s in Simsbury are $6.00 for matinees and $9.00 general admission with kids and seniors prices at $6.00. Berlin Showcase cinemas cost $7.00 for matinees ($5.00 for all showings on Tuesdays). General admission is $9.75, and children and seniors are $7.00. Parking is free in both of those locations.

By the way, whatever happened to the Arts films? Even Tom Condon mentioned this in his article about Blue Back Square, this past weekend.

A last note about the movie theater, because it’s important. In 2004, the developers said the movie theater would feature art, foreign and independent films. The theater opened with “American Gangster,” “Bee Movie” and “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.”

One out of three isn’t good enough (OK, “Bee” is technically an indie but not what I was expecting). I’m not saying every film has to be “Last Year At Marienbad” or that the theater should compete with Real Art Ways. But this Bow Tie theater should complement Bow Tie Cinema City, not Bow Tie Palace 17 & Odyssey. Somebody’s going to think monopolies aren’t a good thing.

Posted by West Hartford Talk at 8:00 AM

Labels: Leisure

5 WH Responses:
Anonymous said…
The Cohen Bros. “No Country for Old Men” opens there this week. That movie has been getting tons of critical buzz, and is certainly an “artsy” upgrade.

The Bow-Tie website mentions “Movies & Memosas” and “Insomnia Theater”, both of which sound fun and have a good schedule of films (playing now in the New Haven theater, but it says they’ll be bringing this to Blue-Back at some point). I went to the theater to ask about this, and they didn’t know what the heck I was taliking about. They must not read their own website???

I agree, the ticket prices are WAY too high, especially for the matinee showings, and seriouslly wonder how long they’ll stay in business charging those prices. Even a dollar or two less would make a big difference.

I’m enjoying reading the Blog, keep up the good work!

November 14, 2007 9:25 AM
Anonymous said…
Don’t forget about paying for parking .

November 14, 2007 5:59 PM
Anonymous said…
Hey, do the folks who read this blog ever think about parking the Suburban at home and either walking, riding a bike, or taking a bus to BBS?

The best way to avoid parking fees at BBS is let our Avon and Simsbury visitors pay them.

November 18, 2007 7:06 AM
Anonymous said…
it doesn’t matter how much ticket prices are, all of that goes to the film producers. Theatres make all their profits from the snack bar. that is why a small soda is 3.75!

November 18, 2007 8:33 AM
The King said…
Those of us with children will have to drive.

And who want’s to ride a bike in the winter? With ice and sand on the roads, that makes for a dangerous situation, particularly for folks who aren’t accustomed to riding bikes on city streets.

November 19, 2007 9:16 AM

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on November 20, 2007 at 11:42 pm

This listing says it has 6 screens. I had thought it had 5.