Sixteen years after the idea of a Front Street development first surfaced in downtown Hartford, the first paying customer sauntered into Spotlight Theaters Friday for the noon showing of “Flight.”
And with the opening credits of Flight, the final piece of Adriaen’s Landing was up and running. I didn’t get the customer’s name, but I watched the heart-stopping scene with Denzel Washington as pilot of a jetliner spinning toward the ground.
No, we will not compare Hartford to that plane, with Spotlight owner Joe Paletta and Front Street developer Helen Nitkin as the pilots. Too dramatic, and the facts don’t line up.
But if Front Street works even one-tenth as well as the visionaries of the ’90s hoped, Paletta, Nitkin and a large number of other folks will have played a role in a save. After Spotlight, we’ll have Infinity Music Hall and the large national-chain restaurant that hasn’t been publicly named yet, and, with luck, some smaller establishments.
After a ribbon-cutting Thursday night, it was a quiet opening afternoon as many of the 50-plus employees scurried around the four-screen movie house and the Front Street Bistro space, where patrons can order food and bring it into the theaters.
“I would like to think we’re one of the main reasons why we were able to get the other tenants here,” said Paletta, whose chain includes three locations in Georgia and one in Florida, with 35 screens total.
Neighborhood resident Pamela Peay and Anthony Jackson of Windsor stopped in, on their daily walk. “It’s outstanding that somebody’s investing in this area,” Jackson said.
“We hope to see you here,” Paletta responded.
“You will,” Peay said — especially on $6 Tuesdays.
Peay, a retired CT Transit bus driver, had a job as a Manpower temp, working for one of the first firms planning Adriaen’s Landing in the ’90s. “It looks similar to what the pictures described,” she said.
Sure, there were apartments in that plan, and the buildings were colorful. “This I guess will do,” Peay said. “I’m sure glad to see a new theater in Hartford.”