Air conditioner burnout empties Berlin cinema

Published on Wednesday, 8 August 2018 19:41
Written by LISA BACKUS


BERLIN - A partial power outage caused an air conditioning unit at the Picture Show movie theater to burn out Tuesday evening, sending patrons outside, fire officials said.

The theater reopened Wednesday, with movies resuming during the afternoon, an employee said.

The Fire Department was called after patrons and employees began smelling smoke at the Frontage Road cinema just before 6 p.m., Kensington Fire and Rescue Chief Jeff Pajor said.

“One of the cooling units on the roof burned out, producing a light smoke condition,” Pajor said. “It wasn’t a lot of smoke, but it was enough to make people nervous.”

The movies being shown at the time were halted and the patrons were told to leave the building, he said.

A utility problem in the area over the weekend likely led to a reduction of power to the building, he said. The partial power caused the cooling unit to burn out, Pajor added.

“Any time you have partial power, you want to be cautious, especially in a big building,” Pajor said.

He noted that the Woolworth department store in the plaza across the street burned to the ground in the 1980s after a similar incident.

“There was some type of partial-power issue that occurred overnight that fried an electrical device,” Pajor said. “But because it was overnight, the fire wasn’t noticed until the flames were coming through the roof.”

The column of smoke from the Woolworth fire could be seen for miles.

The store had been a piece of Berlin history, offering a lunch counter with a soda fountain, a pet department carrying fish and birds, and all manner of notions and home goods. The building was a total loss and was never replaced, leaving a gaping hole in the plaza.

Firefighters dealt with the problem at the movie theater Tuesday night in about an hour and power was shut off until Eversource could fix the initial problem with the power source, Pajor said.

No one was injured.

Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, New Britain on Wednesday, 8 August 2018 19:41. Updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2018 19:43.