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Bar Harbor, ME: New Plans for the Criterion Theatre Announced

Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011. Last Updated on Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 1:43 PM by Scott Jentsch

The The Criterion Theater and Arts Center is planning renovations and upgrades to the Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor, Maine, according to an article in the Bangor Daily News:

The Criterion Theater and Arts Center, which operates in the Criterion Theater building on Cottage Street, is looking to implement some elements of the plan right away, though other aspects will take more time to establish, according to General Manager Joseph “Tom” Burton. The Criterion is scheduled to reopen for the season on April 1 with two live New Surry Theater productions of the A.R. Gurney comedy “Sylvia,” he said Thursday.

Burton, who started in his job this past October, said the purpose of posting the plan and the theater’s budget on the theater website is to make the theater’s operations as public as possible. The theater needs to raise money in order to make its lease payment obligations, he said, and theater officials want to make sure donors know how their money is being put to use.

Part of the theater’s recent problems include a marquee reconstruction project that reportedly cost $150,000, difficulty in making rent payments to the building owner, and the walkout last summer of the former manager and his staff. The theater group was in danger of being evicted last summer because of late rental payments until it reached a negotiated agreement with Erin Early-Ward, who owns the building.

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One thing there will be less of in the future is first-run movies from major studios, according to Burton. They are expensive to show and block out weeks of space at a time, he said, which limits opportunities for other types of programming. The theater will continue to show recent Hollywood releases, he said, but it also will show more classic and independent film.

“It just doesn’t work,” Burton said of heavily relying on new Hollywood releases for programming. “That’s not going to make this theater float.”

Burton stressed that, in addition to the new programming, the theater’s physical attributes should help draw people from all over eastern Maine. With 877 seats, it is the largest capacity indoor venue within a 50-mile radius and it has the largest film screen within a 100-mile radius. Built in 1932, it has an art-deco design interior with 88 balcony seats and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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