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Front Street Theater, Planning To Open In Winter, Letting Public Vote On Seat Styles

By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN

July 11, 2011

Get ready this week for a preview of coming attractions for downtown Hartford's movie theater at Front Street.

Beginning Wednesday, the operators of Spotlight Theatres Inc. will give the public the chance to sit in eight different styles of seats that could be used in the four screen, 700-seat venue and vote for their favorites. Two styles will be chosen from the top votegetters: one for "VIP," reserved seating and the other for general, stadium seating admission.

The voting will start at the convention center, across Columbus Boulevard from the Front Street entertainment and restaurant district and continue for six weeks, moving to other high-traffic venues such as the science center and possibly, the Travelers tower.

"We're inviting people to sit in the chairs and take a test drive," Joe Paletta, chief executive of Atlanta-based Spotlight, said. "We want to know what people think. This is going to be their theater."

The "Pick Your Seat" promotion is designed to stir up excitement for the opening of the theater. Spotlight took over the project when another operator, Cinema Grill, was not moving fast enough for developer HB Nitkin Group. The theater would be the first tenant to open in Front Street, a development financed by public and private funds.

Building contracts are now out to bid and Paletta said he expects them to be back in two weeks. Construction would them begin, taking four to six months. While an initially-announced opening of November is still possible, it will more likely be closer to January, he said.

The theater will move into 20,000 square feet of space at the corner of Columbus Boulevard and Front Street, directly across from the convention center. The exterior shell of the Front Street complex has been completed for more than a year, but has remained empty.

It is hoped that the theater will provide an anchor to attract other tenants.

Spotlight plans four viewing auditoriums with digital projection that will include VIP reserved sections with more luxurious seating. Those seats are expected to carry a slightly higher ticket price, Paletta said.

Paletta said the theater would have first-run films, but also art and independent movies that may not be shown at other complexes. He said patrons can expect films such as "The King's Speech" and "Black Swan" but not "action" films, like its main competitor, Bow Tie Cinemas on New Park Avenue.

Ticket prices generally would range from $9 to $10 for adults and $6 to $7 for a matinee. There also would be special pricing for seniors and children.

The theater would include a restaurant where moviegoers can either stay in the restaurant to eat or take their food into the auditorium. There will be little tables in the auditoriums but no service there because it could disrupt the viewing by other patrons, Paletta said.

The menu will include chicken wraps, pizza, burgers, fish, shrimp, rice bowls and salads.

"We're looking at a little higher scale than a TGI Fridays," Paletta said.

Spotlight already runs two theaters in Georgia and is working on a third there now. Paletta said. Spotlight was attracted to the Hartford project because it can bring a new concept to movie viewing to the area.

"And Hartford as a whole is underscreened for the number of people in the area," he 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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