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10 Questions with Bow Tie Cinemas COO, Joe Masher, on Stylish Saratoga Cinema Openings

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This summer, residents of Saratoga Springs, NY and surrounding communities will have two more exciting reasons to go to the movies. Bow Tie Cinemas, a company dedicated to creating a stylish and elegant movie-going experience, will be opening two new locations in Saratoga!

Absolutely thrilled about the idea of a luxury cinema experience (not to mention early morning movies with mimosas and late night showings of cult movie classics!), I caught up with Joe Masher, Bow Tie Cinemas Chief Operating Officer, and probed him for more information on these exciting openings! 

1. Bow Tie Cinemas offers movie-goers a unique, old-fashioned cinema experience. How do you maintain an elegant, upscale atmosphere? 

Our mission is to "Return Style and Elegance to the Movie Going Experience™", which we've trademarked. As part of that mission, we will not feature video games at any of our theaters, and we always do our best to enforce our 'zero tolerance' policy for bad movie going behavior, such as talking, making phone calls, or texting during the show. Our downtown theater is named "Criterion Cinemas™", which is our upscale brand, honoring our original Criterion Theater in Times Square that we owned and operated from 1938-2000. In its day the Criterion was Times Square's most elegant movie going experience, and presented such notable premieres as "My Fair Lady." Our second Saratoga area location will be in the Wilton Mall. The opportunity came to us to completely reconstruct the movie theater there, and we jumped on that opportunity. Together both locations will present a wide range of entertainment and the gamut of what Hollywood and the Independent and Foreign film community has to offer.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Bow Tie Cinemas?

Bow Tie Cinemas is a four generation family-owned company that began in 1900, making us the oldest theater circuit in North America. Our roots are in nickelodeons, then the chain developed a highly successful vaudeville circuit, fostering the careers of Bob Hope and Harry Houdini, and many other major talents of that time. The company developed and operated the largest independent movie palace chain in the Greater New York City area, and eventually branched out to other states as well. In 2004, Bow Tie Cinemas opened the Criterion Cinemas™ in New Haven, CT, the first movie theater to be built downtown in 34 years. The highly successful theater is located in a formerly abandoned historic office building and also features 44 luxury rental apartments. More acquisitions and new buildings brought the chain to its current location count of 21, with 177 screens. Bow Tie Cinemas' flagships include the 17-screen Movieland at Boulevard Square, a modern day multiplex housed in a former locomotive assembly plant built in 1880, and the newly reconstructed Reston Town Center Cinemas in Reston, VA. Locally, Bow Tie Cinemas developed Movieland in Downtown Schenectady, which opened in May, 2007 and has been a very successful venture. 

3. What is the Criterion Club™?

The Criterion Club™ is our Loyalty Rewards Program designed to reward frequent movie goers with free concessions and tickets. It is completely free to join, and members receive discounts to our Movies & Mimosas™ and Insomnia Theater™ classic film series, as well as a weekly e-mails outlining each week's new movies and show times. Launching in late 2013 will be our Criterion Club Gold™ program, which will be an enhanced reward system with more frequent theater rewards, and local offerings such as restaurant discounts, etc. Criterion Club™ Members also, from time-to-time, are invited to Members-Only screenings in advance of upcoming features.

4. Will "Insomnia Theater" and "Movies and Mimosas" be featured at both locations?

Both Movies & Mimosas™ and Insomnia Theater™ will be featured at our Criterion Cinemas 11, downtown at the corner of Church St. and Railroad Place. Movies & Mimosas™ will be offered on Saturday and Sunday mornings, where guests can come in, enjoy a mimosa, then see a classic film on the giant screen, the way they were meant to be seen. Insomnia Theater™ will run Friday and Saturday nights at the Criterion as well. Cult Classics are on the menu for Insomnia Theater™. Recent offerings at our other locations include "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Spaceballs," "Office Space," and "The Big Lebowski," among others. Readers can log on to our website at www.bowtiecinemas.com and see the various offerings at the locations running these programs. Tickets to these events are generally around $5 or $6, with $1 off for Criterion Club™ Members.

5. What is BTX?

BTX, or Bow Tie Xtreme, is our "Ultimate Digital Cinema." Bow Tie Xtreme features a 2,000 square foot screen with 30,000 watts of booming Dolby 7.1 digital surround sound, and enhanced design to bring the moviegoer into the action. Both of our new theaters will feature one BTX auditorium.

6. What are your top three "all time" favorite movies?

I honestly don't know if I have favorites. I never watch movies at home, because something is lost in the experience. I go to the movies quite a bit, mostly at a Bow Tie Cinemas location, but occasionally at a competitor, so I can make sure we are delivering a stellar experience to our guests each and every time they attend one of our theaters.

7. Will the theaters host any other type of events besides movies? 

Absolutely - we are currently in the middle of our "Second Wednesday at the Opera" Series, featuring presentations from all over the globe; our "Rock in Cinema" events, which are a series of concerts; the Philadelphia Orchestra series, and a series of World Ballet titles. We will present these at our theaters in Saratoga as well. We would also love to and have had some initial conversations with the Saratoga Film Forum, to present their programming at the Criterion.

8. Why did you choose Saratoga Springs as a new location for your theater?

I am a native of the Capitol District and started my career selling popcorn at the old Mohawk Mall Cinemas in Niskayuna. The Capitol District is a strong movie going region and we are always looking for expansion opportunities. Saratoga Springs presented the perfect mix of what we are looking for - a downtown without a modern movie theater with today's amenities, and is vibrant in the Arts, Education, and Medical.

9. Will there be any grand opening events and if so when?

We are pushing to have both locations up and running this summer. Both will have Grand Opening events. As we are in the early stages of construction on both sites, it's too soon to determine the exact date. When we open our theaters, we generally feature an invitation-only event to benefit a local charity and show an upcoming film in advance. 

10. Can you tell us something we don't know about the cinemas you are opening in downtown Saratoga Springs NY and at the Wilton Mall?

Starting in the Summer of 2014, we will run our highly successful Free Kids Summer Series at our newly constructed Wilton Mall Cinemas. On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, kids and their families will enjoy a recent kids movie absolutely free, with discounted concession offerings. Also, we are planning to run our Movies for Parents series at the Criterion, where parents and caregivers can bring infants and young children to new movies in an auditorium with special amenities for them - changing table, slightly brighter lighting, reduced volume, and bottle warming service.

Will you be treating yourself to a classier new cinema experience at the Criterion in downtown Saratoga Springs NY and at the new Wilton Mall Cinemas? 

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