Bow Tie Cinema Lights up the Night in Saratoga
Let the shows begin.
Bow Tie Cinema officially opened its doors for business Thursday night with a fund raiser gala for Saratoga Hospital. Hundreds of people turned out to show their support for the hospital, and to celebrate the start of Saratoga’s newest business – an 11 screen movie theater described as “upscale” by Bow Tie’s Chief Operating Officer, Joseph Masher.
“This theater is going to cater to everyone across the spectrum,” he said. “It’s going to show the latest Hollywood blockbuster, it’s going to show the latest and greatest independent and foreign films. It’s going to show family product. People will be able to come here and see movies that never would play in Saratoga before. You would ordinarily have to drive down to Albany 30 miles away to see upscale independent foreign films.”
Sonny Bonacio (Upper center, pink tie) receiving congratulations in the lobby of the new Criterion Cinemas in downtown Saratoga
It was a night for tuxes and evening gowns; to see, and be seen. But most of all, it was Sonny Bonacio’s night. Bonacio, whose company built the three story building housing the cinema and additional office space, was criticized by some when he announced his plans to bring movies back to downtown. But Thursday night he did it, ahead of schedule, some 39 years after the last theater closed in the city.
“I was at one of the last shows, and to be able to bring this back for my kids…” He paused for a moment to collect his thoughts. “And one of the nicest things that the Moss family (owners of Bow Tie) could have done besides moving into Saratoga and being really cool to work with, was they gave my kids passes for life to come to movies downtown. So just to see their faces light up. They couldn’t have surprised us with something nicer.”
The lobby was full with well-wishers at Thursday's fundraiser for Saratoga Hospital
The facility features 11 screens, with capacity ranging from 150 to 275 leather-covered seats. Each theater has Dolby Surround Sound, and one theater, dubbed the “Bow Tie Xtreme,” has a 2,000-square foot screen for the showing of 3D movies such as “Gravity.”
Next week Bow Tie will also be opening the Wilton Mall theaters, adding another eight screens to the market for a total of 19.
Bow Tie is the oldest theater circuit in the nation, according to Masher, having started in 1900. For the company, opening in downtown Saratoga is in a sense closing the circle of the company’s corporate history. That’s because when the business started, most of their theaters were in downtowns. But that changed some 50 years ago. “We were part of that suburban flight that happened in the 60’s. But now, since the early 2000’s, we’ve been putting movie theaters back into downtowns.”
What they look for in a town, he said, is a vibrant community – one with a strong focus on education and the arts, and a thriving medical community. In addition, he said, “Saratoga certainly has a vibrant downtown with all the restaurants down here; Skidmore College; all the wonderful condos on Railroad Place that have gone up recently. It’s really a year-round place to be now.” And that, he said, makes it a perfect place for a theater.
“We’re here to take Saratoga by storm,” he said. “We’re opening 19 screens in two weeks – we couldn’t be more thrilled.”
The theater doors open for the first time Thursday night
“There has been a lot of excitement in town about this,” said former mayor Ken Klotz, who was at the opening with his wife Karen. “I think it’s going to be a big success.”
Klotz said he’s pleased to see the building opening, and pointed out that it replaces the old Price Chopper building, which had appeared run down for years. “This is such a much better use of this property. It had been disused and grossly undervalued, just two blocks from Broadway. This is what it should be.”
Mingling near the concession stand
And as for whether the theater will be able to make a go in Saratoga, he added, “They know their business. I’ll trust them to know this is a good investment. But I know that building in Saratoga Springs is a good investment.”
Bonacio grew up some four blocks from the theater, and his mother still lives in that same 1,200-square foot home. He said that’s where he learned the value of hard work – something that remains with him today. “And one of the things my parents taught us is to be persistent, have a vision, and don’t let anyone tell you no. And it’s worked out well. It’s worked out well to be different than all the other companies, and doing things that other companies wouldn’t either think to do, or be kind of a little too afraid of the risk. But you can’t steal second with your foot on first.”
ON THE WIRE