The city which has provided the cinematic landscape for films starring Robert Redford, Gary Cooper, Jean Harlow and an underdog horse turned American hero named Seabiscuit, is getting an 11-screen movie theater.
Criterion Cinemas 11 is slated to open in late spring 2013. It will be located just west of Broadway, on Railroad Place, and on the site of a former Price Chopper supermarket, which will be reconfigured to house the 11-screen theater.
Bow-Tie Cinemas, which operates Movieland in Schenectady, will operate the Spa City cinema on a 20-year-lease, city developer Sonny Bonacio announced Tuesday. The theater, which will have a total capacity of 1,800 seats, is part of an $18 million construction project and will include retail rental space.
“Saratoga Springs is so many things to so many people. This was a missing piece of the puzzle and now we have a more complete Saratoga experience,” said city Mayor Scott Johnson at Tuesday’s press conference, which was staged inside the former supermarket and attended by regional business owners and politicians, including state Sen. Roy McDonald.
Criterion Cinemas 11 will be the first large-scale multiplex theater of its size in the city. It will also be the first large-scale theater since the closing of the Community Theater in 1979.
The Community Theater - which began screening films in the late 1930s - currently serves as the offices for Roohan Realty and is fronted by a nostalgic ticket window that stood in front of The Bijou Theatre, a cinema which was housed in the Collamer Building. Earlier in the 20th century, residents were without a major theater for 15 years after the Saratoga Theatre, located in the Arcade Building, was destroyed by fire. The subsequent opening of The Congress Theater in 1919 was welcomed with much local fanfare and featured a wide marble staircase with ornate handrails and a decorative balcony that displayed ram-heads.
Today, the Saratoga Film Forum - a not-for-profit arts organization located adjacent to the Saratoga Arts Center - screens “non-mall” programs and an 8-screen cinema operated by the Regal Entertainment Group sits just beyond the city line in Wilton. The Malta Drive-In Theatre, just south of the city, operates seasonally. A movie and dinner theater on Congress Street closed approximately a decade ago.
Criterion 11 Cinemas will feature a “Bow Tie X-treme” auditorium with a giant 2,000 square-foot screen and state-of-the-art sound. A wine and beer café will be stationed in the lobby.
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