Criterion Theatre

The Criterion Theatre is an art deco movie and live production theater in downtown Bar Harbor. It was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places on April 23, 1980 because of its unique architectural style and because it acts as a reminder of Bar Harbor’s summer resort years in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries [1].

The Criterion Theatre and the State Theater in Portland are the only art deco theaters in Maine [2]. Art deco is a form of modernist art popular in the United States and Europe during the 1920s and 1930s which started in Paris at the beginning of the century [3]. American art deco—in addition to the traditions started in Paris—took inspiration from indigenous North and South American cultures and has an emphasis on “geometry, machinery, botany, nationalism and color” [4]. The Criterion Theatre was built in 1932 by Augusta, Maine architects Bunker and Savage, and most of the interior decor was designed by D. H. Pickering of Boston, Massachusetts [5].

02 - criterion 3Since opening its doors on June 6, 1932, the Criterion Theatre has provided on-screen and live entertainment to Bar Harbor and since the early 2000s[6]. According to the theater’s website, it was originally opened by former bootlegger George McKay, and has had several owners and operators since that time with varying degrees of success [7]. Today, the theater hosts bands, variety shows, and new-release movies [8].

By Marisa Higgins


[1] National Register of Historic Places. Criterion Theatre, Bar Harbor, Maine. National Register #80000222.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Art Deco: Introduction to an Art Movement.” accessed November 11, 2015.

[4] “History of American Art Deco.” Bryn Mawr College. accessed November 11, 2015.

[5] Register #80000222.

[6] Bar Harbor Jazz Festival. 1932 Criterion Theatre. access November 12, 2015.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Register #80000222; Bar Harbor Jazz Festival; Trotter, Bill. “$2 million donation enables Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor to reopen.” Bangor Daily News. October 14, 2013.

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