SENATOR Theatre Auction: Unnecessary Sideshow Atmosphere?

For your consideration – It is our understanding that:

  1. The Auctioneer requested (well ahead of time) that owner, Tom Kiefaber allow the auction to take place inside the theatre.
    They expected a large turnout (knowing it would draw many individuals that would not bid, but would want to witness the event) and having an air-conditioned 900 seat auditorium on hand seemed to be a good solution.
  2. The owner agreed.
  3. The owner contacted City officials (well ahead of time), who also agreed.
  4. Many people did indeed arrive at the theatre, came inside and were milling around.
  5. Auction crowd spills onto York Rd. (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis / July 22, 2009)

    Auction crowd spills onto York Rd. (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis / July 22, 2009)

    Minutes before the auction was to begin, a city official informed the auctioneer that the venue was to be moved outside, onto the sidewalk in front of the theatre.

    Police called to handle potential safety hazard (Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh)

    Police called to handle potential safety hazard (Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh)

  6. Given the large number of people, the crowd spilled into the street causing a potential traffic/safety hazard, so city police apparently had to be called in to perform crowd control.
  7. Owner Tom Kiefaber tried to get everyone to calm down and come back into the theatre for the auction to take place, but to no avail.
  8. While some shouted they could not hear the auctioneer and were told to move closer,  auctioneer staff were heard telling media camera crews to take a steps back.
    With such a large and now packed collection of bodies/cameras this was not what you’d call an optimal situation.
  9. We could find no one who could or would give a reasonable answer as to why this last minute change and the resulting confusion, disgust and raucous outcry (from some in the crowd) was at all necessary. At the very least it was a distraction. Some present said it was another chance for city officials to publicly disgrace the owner.

Bottom Line:
All the city officials had to do was let the auction take place, as planned, inside the theatre.
All this could have been avoided.

Also consider:

  • None of the aforementioned parties interested in the auction actually bid (“Buzz” Cusack, Loyola College, etc.), but many are now interested in the expected RFP process.
  • These interesting points from Baltimore Sun:
    • A staff member of the auction house, acting on behalf of an anonymous bidder, offered $800,000.
      The proceedings paused briefly while representatives from the city’s law department and the Baltimore Development Corp. huddled and then, when the auction resumed, counter-offered $810,000. Nobody bid higher.
    • Comptroller Joan M. Pratt was also disappointed by the result, but for different reasons. She warned that the city should have “cut its losses” and sold the theater for $800,000 to the sole bidder.
      “They should have let them have it,” Pratt said. “We know that the city does not have funds to operate, maintain and retrofit a movie theater. The city of Baltimore should not be in the business of owning movie theaters.”
    • The city’s already lean budget is expected to take another hit, with Dixon asking all of her agency heads to identify 5 percent cuts from their spending plans. Kimberly Clark, an executive vice president at the Baltimore Development Corp., said that the city will likely have to spend more money to make capital improvements to fix the theater, though she will not know how much more until the city can properly assess the building.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. According to the article in the Baltimore Sun, Tom Kiefaber “had set up a rostrum adorned with a giant frowning mask”. Hmm, could THIS have been the reason the auctioneer decided to move the auction outside? A giant frowning mask? I guess Tom couldn’t resist trying to get in one last jab.

    • Duh Stu! I was the person who did that. That is a a theatrical “tragedy” mask/image. I understand that you are friends with Bill, but there are certain truths and realities involved here. Those of us who are, and have been directly involved with the situation are aware of the history and pattern and the “players” involved. For outsiders, the information you are forming your comments from, comes from mis information and media spin.

  2. Gayle, this isn’t about Bill Henry or Tom Kiefaber or you or me. It’s about the theater.

    This posting says, “All the city officials had to do was let the auction take place, as planned, inside the theatre. All this could have been avoided.”

    This avoids the real issue, which has nothing to do with whether the auction was held indoors or outdoors. There was no “confusion”, as this posting tries to assert. I was there, and so were you. They announced (loudly and abundantly) that the auction would be held outside, and everyone went outside. As for “disgust and raucous outcry”… well, I think it’s safe to say that you were full of disgust and raucous outcry before the auction was moved outside, right?

    This was an auction, a business transaction. These things apparently are usually held outside, on the steps of the courthouse. I know you’re not happy with the fact that the Senator went to foreclosure, but that’s reality. Arguing about whether the auction should have been held inside or outside is just a distraction.

    Sadly, there was only one bidder (whether the auction was held indoors or outdoors), and they weren’t willing to bid high enough to cover what the City paid for the theater. Is the Senator worth more than $800,000? In our hearts it might be, but as a business investment, it would appear not.


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