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Cinema City Moving; MDC Negotiating For Land

Jenna Carlesso

June 02, 2010

Cinema City, a popular theater in the South End known for its art films, will close July 22.

But moviegoers won't have to say goodbye for long — Cinema City will reopen in a wing of the city's Bow Tie Cinemas theater the next day.

The art house is moving from Brainard Road to the Bow Tie Palace 17 and Odyssey Theater at 330 New Park Ave., where it will reopen under the name Cinema City at the Palace. The new Cinema City will feature five screens, stadium seating, a new café, digital stereo sound and more parking. The South End theater has four screens and a smaller parking lot, said Joseph Masher, chief operating officer of Bow Tie Cinemas.

Cinema City shows a blend of independent and foreign films and higher-budget films.

"We realize they have a very loyal, very dedicated audience, and it's because of that loyal fan base that we have done this," Masher said Wednesday.

Each theater at the New Park Avenue location will have its own box office. The Bow Tie Palace, which features 17 screens, will go down to 12 once Cinema City moves in, Masher said.

The lobby of Cinema City at the Palace will pay homage to its former location with artifacts from the original theater, such as photographs and memorabilia.

"It's an unusual thing to have a mainstream theater and an art house in the same complex. It's rare to find that," said Will K. Wilkins, executive director of Real Art Ways, which also shows independent and foreign films in Hartford. But, he added, "I think the physical plant — the building, seating and projection — of [the current] Cinema City left a lot to be desired."

Wilkins said the move would be good for the city's Parkville neighborhood, where Real Art Ways also is located.

"I think it certainly makes Parkville the movie capital of Connecticut," he said.

Even as new technology offers many ways to watch movies, theaters that show art films have a loyal following, Wilkins said.

"The people who love movies and are interested in art and in things they might not normally expect are very devoted," he said.

James Hanley, co-president of Cinestudio, another art film house in Hartford, said that although Cinema City is expanding, the move ultimately cuts back the number of movie screens in the city.

"It's a shame," he said. "I think when you put them in a multi-screen complex, it seems to not have such a light about it. The theater has a cachet. It has a special connection to its audience."

Cinema City opened in 1972 as a commercial theater. As bigger cinemas sprung up nearby, it was converted to an art house theater.

All of the employees at the current facility — 12 part-time workers and one full-time — will be offered jobs at the new cinema, Masher said.

The Metropolitan District Commission, which provides water and sewer services to the Greater Hartford region, is looking to acquire Cinema City's Brainard Road property, officials at the commission said Monday. Talks between MDC and Bow Tie Cinemas began about three months ago, said Christopher Stone, assistant district counsel for MDC.

MDC would use the land for an expansion of its water pollution control facility, located across the street from the theater, he said. The project would cost roughly $415 million — funded by state and federal grants, low-interest loans and taxpayer money — and take three to five years to complete.

The expansion is needed to help eliminate weather-related sewer overflows to the Connecticut River, Stone said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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