Criterion Cinemas at Movieland opens December 28th

Criterion Cinemas will open December 28th, 2012 and will focus on art and independent films.

Update #1 — December 18th, 2012; 11:00 AM

The new four-screen theatre, set in the middle of Movieland’s parking lot, will open its doors on Friday, December 28th at 11:00 AM. The Criterion Cinema will focus on art and independent films:

“Richmond is a vibrant arts community, and we’re excited to offer movie-goers the opportunity to see art and independent films that wouldn’t previously have been available in the Richmond market,” said Ben Moss, owner and partner of New York City-based Bow Tie Cinemas, which owns and operates Movieland. “We’re thrilled with the way this city has embraced Movieland, and we look forward to building upon this success with the opening of Criterion Cinemas.”

Open day films will include A Royal Affair (the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival winner) and Central Park Five (a Ken Burns documentary).

Bow Tie will also launch “DocWeek,” a program that will feature “exceptional documentaries” the first week of each month.

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Original — November 16th, 2012; 10:01 AM

Bow-Tie Cinemas will construct another theatre in the vacant building that sits in the parking lot of its 17-screen Movieland theatre on N. Boulevard. The new theaters will exclusively show independent films.

The building to house the new theater has been vacant since Movieland opened in February 2009. Chief Operating Officer for Bow-Tie Cinemas, Joe Masher, said “we had the property earmarked for a restaurant.” He attributed poor overall economic conditions as the reason why a restaurant never developed.

However, while the building remained vacant because of the economy, Movieland thrived.

“The theater has done extremely well,” Masher said. “[It’s] performed way above our expectations.” With the theater prospering, Bow-Tie executives began considering using the vacant building for a Criterion Cinemas, one of their subsidiary brands, to show independent films.

Masher said Richmond has strong educational, arts, and medical communities, attributes that Bow-Tie looks for when considering new theaters. The COO said Bow-Tie paid recent attention to how successful screenings of The Master performed to gauge area reception to independent films. Audience numbers were impressive, he said.

Bow-Tie’s in-house team of designers developed the property’s new layout, and builders are currently working on constructing its interior. Bow-Tie hopes to open the new theater in late December.

With research suggesting that an exclusive independent theater would thrive, and with the space to accommodate such a theater in place, Bow-Tie executives decided “now was the right time,” according to Masher, to expand its theater presence in Richmond.1

The building will house four screens: two of them, said Masher, will accommodate 100 seats, with the remaining two allow for 60 seats. All will have stadium seating. Ticket prices will be comparable to that of Movieland, he said.

Masher added that while the interior will be refurbished to accommodate the new theaters, the building’s exterior will remain close to its current condition, similar to how Bow-Tie refurbished the adjacent Movieland theater, a 130 year-old former locomotive shed.

When Movieland opened in 2009, some in the area anticipated seeing first-run movies from the Toronto International Film Festival, with which Bow-Tie has a close affiliation.2 However, Movieland seldom (if ever) offered those films for audiences. Masher affirmed Bow-Tie’s relationship with the revered film festival, and said it was likely that some of those films will screen in the new theater. As to what other independent films will play, that will decided by Masher and the theater manager.3

Masher said Criterion Club members will be able to use their cards for rewards and membership perks just as with the Movieland theater. He added that an “enhanced loyalty program” is slated to debut early next year.

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  1. Currently, the only theater to see first-run independent films is Regal’s Westhampton Cinema 
  2. Charles B. Moss, Jr. the third-generation Moss family member to run Bow-Tie, is Chairman of The Toronto International Film Festival Group Foundation. 
  3. Masher and theater owners discuss which films will be screened in individual theaters every Monday. 
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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