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“A Snapshot in Time... A Historic Must See Treasure”
Review of Criterion Theater

Criterion Theater
Ranked #49 of 75 things to do in Bar Harbor
Attraction details
Reviewed 14 September 2011

Being that it was raining in a very outdoorsy town, I was looking for something to do. An old theater in town was showing a documentary… not exactly whoop-de-doo for my two young children, but there wasn’t a heck of a lot else going on, so we tried it. The movie not so entertaining… The movie-house – The Criterion -- what a jewel of the past. The boys had fun up in the balcony – the theater wasn’t crowded, so we had room to move around. Plus our seats had a table, and they could play with their toys, while I attempted to watch the movie. Finally bored enough by the film, we started wandering about and one of the gentlemen who manages the place showed us around. First of all, everything in there is original. For a history and/or architecture buff (of which I am both), I was in heaven. Not to mention, it was so lovely that the gentlemen who run the place took the time to give us a tour and showed us details (including backstage) which I will never forget. Does the place need work? Absolutely – they need money, and anyone who sets foot in the door should be heralding this treasure, because it could be in danger of being lost. Make no mistake, this is a historic treasure. To see all the Art-Deco details in their original state is amazing. Original movie posters on the wall… Even if you don’t stay for a movie – visit and pay just to wander around.

2  Thank CobbCoGA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 4 August 2010

I have been to the Criterion each year I go to Bar Harbor for vacation, or a summer course at the College Of The Atlantic - but last year (2009) and this one have caused me to re-think entering the building.

This beautiful, old, art deco theater is heavily infested with mold and mildew. Its smell now overwhelms you as you enter the theater. The ventilation inside is poor - the large ventilation grill near stage left of the theater is covered with a plastic tarp. Following each visit, my wife and I left the theater with dry throats, parched mouths, and more distressingly, headaches. This past week my wife had a severe headache, and remarked that she could not step foot in the theater again. I won't either.

The guys who have tried to keep this old jewel afloat have made a commendable effort, But at this point, its only fair, albeit sad, to point out that the Criterion is a health hazard and should be closed until the moisture/mildew problem is taken care of.

1  Thank garyokeNh_Vt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 March 2009

I live in Bar Harbor in the summers and love to go to the Criterion.
The other negative reviews had some legitimate and illegitimate points.

Just as the management stated in their response the theater was undergoing renovations in 2008 so there may have been some dust in the air (this will obviously not be the case forever).
However there is absolutely no asbestos in the theater as one reviewer stated ( by the way tripadvisor a statement like that is not an opinion and not a protected form of free speech and is in fact libel, which you make yourself a party to by continuing to post it).

One reviewer said the screen was small. I don't know what theater she was at because the screen is huge. It is much bigger than any other theater screen in all of Downeast Maine that I know of.

One reviewer complained that the movie was bad.
This is obviously not the fault of the theater.
They show many great movies and some bad ones but it really comes down to personal taste and you are responsible for what you choose to go see, not the theater.

I love to sit in the balcony and think it is worth the extra dollar.

The theater was recently purchased by a non-profit that is trying to make it into a cultural resource for the community so you can feel good about where your money is going.

The theater is an original art deco style theater and they are purposely restoring it in a way that maintains its character.
I think this is very charming but some of the other reviewers seemed put off that it did not look like a carbon copy of every other mall type theater they are probably used to attending.
As they say there is no accounting for taste (or the lack of it).

If you are concerned about there being dust in the theater or what size the screen is simply ask the attendant if you can take a quick look in the theater.
It would be best to do this when they are not super busy and I know from experience that they will oblige you.

The other theater in town is Reel Pizza and both of these theaters are two of the most unique and fun theaters I have ever been at.
In my opinion you will have a great time at either one. I would suggest trying both before you leave Bar Harbor (assuming there are some decent flicks).

I want to state that I am in no way affiliated with either theater and am simply a summer resident of the town,

7  Thank Brescian
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 August 2008

It is difficult for me to write this review because there I had such a negative experience here. I wouldn't recommend this to some I disliked, let alone to someone I care about.

The Criterion Theatre is an old art-deco landmark that sadly hasn't been kept up with the times. You can sit up in the balcony in group box seats, which are newer seats, but you're farther away from the screen and it's noticeably stuffy up there. You can sit in the orchestra section for a dollar less, but there are still problems from the environment. Everything is either dirty, dingy, or dusty. There's lots of drapery that adds to the neglected and depressing interior decor, and that terrible smell that indicates that the air is exhausted and carrying mold.

I had a difficult time breathing during the movie, and I used my hoodie as a pathetic air filter. I was never comfortable and when I came home I immediately took a shower and washed my hair. My lungs weren't back to normal for THREE DAYS after. If you have lung problems or have a compromised immune system, avoid this theatre.

Aside from the health concerns, I also had the sad misfortune of encountering some of the WORST customer service I've ever seen. We were persuaded to buy the balcony seats for a dollar more, but when we saw that we'd have better seats below we asked that our tickets be exchanged. This was well before the start of the show and it was not a busy time. The cashier pointed to the "no refund" policy that apparently applied to our exchange request. He refused to give us the difference in our tickets, and of course, with "no refunds" we couldn't afford to take the hit and walk out. There was no manager to speak to, and the cashier was rude and brusque.

Honestly, I don't know how this place stays in business. I hope you take your business elsewhere, and if you do take your chances, I hope you didn't get sick, like I did.

2  Thank Kittery
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 5 August 2008

This was the very worst part of our Bar Harbor trip. It's probably the worst thing that I've experienced this summer, really.

My best friend and I saw that MAMA MIA was playing, and we still hadn't seen it yet. We decided to patronize this old-timey movie palace, and the ticket salesboy sold us our $8.50 balcony tickets. Now, we debated about spending the extra dollar to sit in the balcony. He assured us that the view was the same everywhere, but the balcony was well worth atleast three times that amount. The seats are better, there are tables, etc. OK! He seemed very passionate about his job.

The theater lobby looked dated, but maybe they wanted it that was for effect...? First I went to the bathroom. The entryway to the ladies room was full of junk! I even pulled my best friend in just to see, like, all the old dressers, mirrors, furniture of other sorts that they were storing in the bathroom. Ok...maybe they use it for special events they have...?

We then headed to our special balcony seats. When we got up there, the seats were disgusting and upholtered. I can't take that combinations. Then you KNOW they've NEVER been washed, instead of just having a feeling that they've never been washed. Plus, the screen was really small, and I didn't have my glasses. There's no way the view was going to be the same.

Oh well, we'll just get our dollars back and sit downstairs, right? WRONG! No refunds of any kind, EVER! Even though the movie hadn't started yet, and we weren't even asking for full refunds. Our choices were: "Go away, but we'll keep your money." or "Stay, and sit where ever you want, but we'll keep all your money." There wasn't even a manager on duty (all night) for us to talk to. The theater's just run by young children, like, 6 years old (essentially). The boy told us that even if there was a manager there, he's sure he would be backed up because "NO REFUNDS!" is a theater policy. What?? What are managers for if not overriding policy? I've never heard of such lunacy.

We didn't want to totally throw that money away, so we opted to sit downstairs. Well, it smelled TERRIBLE down there. I'm sure it was full of asbestos and mold. We really should have just cut our losses at this point, but we had paid, and we really wanted to see this movie. Instead, we stayed through the whole horrible ordeal and got black lung for our troubles. Also, the movie was bad.

Recommendations: See other movies in other theaters. See MAMA MIA on Broadway.

6  Thank Sarizona
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Bar_Harbor_Maine, manager at Criterion Theater, responded to this reviewResponded 1 September 2008

I'm sorry, to hear that this person had a lousy time in our theater. It is also unfortunate that this person did not find our balcony seats to be adequate.

Our balcony seats are newer and offer more leg room than our orchestra seats and many of our customers enjoy having a direct view of the screen from these seats, rather than having to look up at it.

There is a one dollar difference in the movie ticket price between the balcony and the orchestra seats. Just like almost any venue, after you have purchased your tickets, you may not exchange these tickets for any sort of refund, except in the case of a power outage or technical error. If you buy a balcony ticket and would rather sit downstairs, you are welcome to do so at no difference in the price.

The Criterion Theatre is an Art Deco Theatre that was built in 1932 and has since been operating continuously as a movie theatre in addition to having live performances. For the past two years it has been operating under the guidance of a non-profit group which has the intention of restoring the theatre to the movie palace it once was. During the summer of 2008, the theatre has been undergoing lots of construction/renovations and therefore has had an increased amount of dust, debris, etc. throughout the theatre during the various stages of this work.

We are working hard to keep this theatre going and greatly appreciate your support and feedback (positive or negative). We will use your suggestions to help guide us in our improvements.

thank you

-house manager

ps- As house manager I only take one off night a week. Unfortunately it happened to be the night that this person attended the theatre and I apologize for not personally being able to help this customer out in any way that I could.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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