Monday, April 16, 2012

Down East Hollywood

From Joe Viger:

Roaming Bar Harbor, Maine's Cottage Street on an off-season Tuesday in March, you might suspect The Criterion Theatre is another unfortunate story of a forgotten landmark that needs saving. The marquee seemed to have some style, but otherwise, the facade was pretty unremarkable and the entrance was filled with outdoor seating. I wasn't sure if The Criterion was closed for the season or closed for good, but I made this photo because it seemed to have the melancholy feeling a lot of Backside subjects have.

The Show is Over

The Criterion Theatre Bar Harbor, Maine (iPhone 4s)

Weeks later through the wonders of the Inter-tube, I've come learn that The Criterion Theatre first opened its doors on June 6, 1932 and was hailed as one of the finest movie houses in Maine and the nation. It was built in five months by local George P. McKay for around $200,000 and is rumored to have been funded, at least in part, by bootlegging Prohibition-era liquor.

This seems out of context for small town Maine. But, let's not forget the Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords, Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Astors are all noted past summer residents of Mount Desert Island.

The exterior of the 875-seat theater on this drab off-season morning didn't do The Criterion justice. Photographs of the interior show the rest of the story to be told in Art Deco glass, velvet and silk. The main hall chandelier centers the ornate theater with a painted ceiling that radiates outward.

The unique "floating," free-hanging balcony has a front rail painted pink and is still separated into sections by red velvet curtains that were formerly bought as private boxes by wealthy residents. It was said that The Criterion would draw a line of chauffeur driven Lincolns and Cadillacs on movie night.

The Criterion has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now operated as a non-profit. The theater will open back up for movies in June and will also feature music and other performances this summer. I guess I know what I'll be doing next time I'm in town.

Check out more of Joe Viger's photographs at

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful colors against the sun drenched chairs.