SENATOR Theatre: Look Back for Blame or Forward for Best Solution?

In response to our post two days ago (Mayor wants to “put a period on that”…), we received a reader’s comment, which requested a response.

Normally, we would simply allow legitimate, non-spam comments and then others to respond if motivated. However, this brought up a subject we felt should be more prominently addressed as it further illustrates the current tendency by the media, officials and then echoed by some individuals to look for blame in the past when the mission we immediately face is about the future.

Should we ignore the past? Absolutely not. In fact, we should learn from it, particularly when it comes to the economics of first-run film in the modern age.

From reader Andrea:

Why did Tom Kiefaber not attempt to create the non-profit structure you desire back in 2008 after the community railed to save him from foreclosure? Instead, he went on record as wishing to retain his private ownership.

Why was there not an outcry back then for movement to a non-profit model? And pressure placed on Mr.Kiefaber to explore that?

This disconnect is one of the many factors that leaves me — and others, I’m sure — with the distinct sense that you really are backing Mr. Kiefaber. Otherwise, you’d be taking him to task for failing to act two-plus years ago, when he had control (and, as you have repeatedly asserted, the requisite experience and knowledge). Your credibility is damaged, for me, by your consistent high praise for Mr. Kiefaber and your failure to hold him accountable for in ANY way contributing to the Senator’s current circumstances.

In my view, your lack of objectivity makes this site partisan, and at it’s core designed to support Mr. Kiefaber, rather than an impartial space for legitimate discussion about the Senator.

I hope you understand my concern and are willing to respond to it.

Tom Harris responds:

Dear Andrea et al.,

Thank you for your interest in The Senator Theatre situation!

We make no bones about our admiration for what Tom Kiefaber has accomplished. Whatever your opinion is regarding him personally, after researching the situation we firmly believe that without Kiefaber’s tenacity to keep The Senator alive, in spite of the deck being stacked against him and risking all (he has, after all, sunk everything he owns into keeping it open), the historic landmark theatre would have closed several years ago.

However, the message we have tried to get across, and by far more important than looking backward for faults, is about the best chance for a viable, sustainable future for The Senator, which we believe and have advocated for, is transition of the theatre to non-profit ownership.

Regarding your questions about Kiefaber and the non-profit message, the background is somewhat complicated, but for your consideration, here are just a few citations on the subject:

Baltimore City Paper “Coming Soon: The Box-Office Battle…” July 5, 2006

[Jed] Dietz has another idea that has been bandied about in recent years as a way to salvage the Senator from its revenue problems. “Tom should turn it into a nonprofit and go out and raise money,” he says. But Kiefaber says he has explored that possibility and, last fall, concluded that that route would be a “counterproductive error… primarily because of its current debt load.” Instead, a for-profit Senator may embark on “synergistic associations and alliances with nonprofit entities,” he writes.

Govanstowne Business Association – Letter to the mayor, January 13, 2009

We were pleased to learn in early 2008 that The Senator owner, Tom Kiefaber, and 4th district councilman Bill Henry met with you and Andrew Frank to discuss the economic difficulties… to explore a change of ownership and a possible conversion to not- for-profit operation.

WJZ “Owner Says Senator Theatre Facing Foreclosure“, March 11, 2009

Kai Jackson explains why years of fighting to stay in business could end in defeat.

Senator owner Tom Kiefaber had been in negotiations with the city to turn the historic theater into a non-profit community center, but the theater’s mortgage is now in default.

Tom Kiefaber’s Open Letter to Councilman Bill Henry, July 7, 2009:

You were also one of the key Steering Committee members identified to the community, who endorsed the report’s misguided assessment that no one will outbid the city’s 950K position at public auction. The related conclusion by the committee is that therefore The Senator Theatre cannot become a non-profit facility, because it would require ongoing subsidy by the city. yet you are also well aware that the local consultants you steered our way in 2008 determined along with the community that historic facilities with the attributes of the renowned Senator Theatre are readily capable of achieving sustained funding without requiring the city to continue to foot the bill once the theatre achieves non-profit ownership status.

Investigative Voice “Radio Station or Restaurant?” January 27, 2010 comment posted by Kiefaber:

Had you attended the numerous community forums and town meetings in the past few years, or contributed to the scores of ongoing round table discussions, you would know of my oft-stated position first-hand. Had you ever asked me for clarification of this issue I would have told you unequivocally that my ownership tenure and my family’s 70 year stewardship of The Senator is essentially a few years overdue for the critical conversion to non-profit ownership status, and that once it occurs I will happily exit the theatre operations scene, stage right…”

The problematic debt attached to the theatre and transition to non-profit mentioned was raised again just last year at a public meeting on the subject. However, now that the foreclosure auction has taken place our understanding is that debt should no longer be an issue. So, we wonder why the benefits of such a transition, coupled with a multipurpose arts, entertainment & education program model has not been championed by officials… The city’s “steering committee/Senator Theatre Strategy Group” claimed last year it would require subsidy. Yet, last we heard, the current private business proposal expected to be approved, will also require significant public funding (on top of the ridiculously low rental of $1 per year).

Again, looking backward to place blame is not going to solve The Senator situation. What we need are forward-thinking people, particularly historic theatre redevelopment experts, to illustrate, design and execute the plan we believe will unlock The Senator’s potential. One that could help revitalize North Baltimore with diverse programming that will draw equally diverse visitors.

If anything, a look back should be teaching us that the proposed plan of returning to an exclusive first-run film format is flawed.


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28 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for your response, Mr Harris. To clarify — I am not looking to place blame or dwell in the past. I am looking for objectively. It feels to me that you and other “Friends of the Senator” are first and foremost friends of Mr. Kiefaber. I wonder if this allegiance clouds your perspective and contributes to the fault you continue to find in so very many other people and institutions who are now involved in attempting to save the Senator.

    Here’s Mr. Kiefaber, quoted in Towson University’s student newspaper, after many of us helped him out in the winter 2007:

    Kiefaber spoke out against moviegoers who
    criticized his management decision to not make
    the Senator a nonprofit entity.

    “It’s an authentic part of old Baltimore that
    is still left. Part of what has been difficult to
    get across to those who think it should be
    nonprofit is, if it’s nonprofit it’s not running
    first-rate movies,” Kiefaber said. “We’re trying
    to preserve its original function and its style
    of operation. It was a family business then and
    it’s a family business now and it’s run in the
    family style.”

    Now, another family is going to try. Their plan is largely respectful of the historic nature of the property. Their plan will bring more than movies to the theater and streetscape. City backing is in place to help assure their success.

    This seems to me to a positive outcome for the theater and the community.

  2. I’ve never posted on this site, but I felt compelled to do so with this topic. As a long time patron of the theatre, my main concern is The Senator Theatre and it’s future.

    First, I disagree that the Cusacks’ plan is largely respectful of the historic nature of the building. If you read through their plans, you’ll understand that they are going to destroy key architectural features of the building (a building that they won’t even own – they are only going to lease it from the city). The Cusacks’ will not be destroying key architectural features with just their own money, either. The tax payers are going to help fund this venture.

    Second, the Cusacks’ business plan is out of date. Only first run films on a single screen theatre in this day and age? Who actually believes that they’ll be successful with this business model? If Tom Kiefaber couldn’t make a go of it, why does everyone think that the Cusacks will be successful? I hope the Cusacks add a petting zoo in the lobby with unicorns. It’s just as believable as them being successful with an out of date business plan in a bad economy.

    Check out The Historic Castro Theatre’s website. It’s a successful historic single screen theatre that has a wide variety of programming which includes a few first run films, but also showcases classic films, live performances, film festivals, etc. This is just one example of a single screen movie house that has been successfully converted into a multipurpose community arts center. There are many others in the US. Why can’t Baltimore understand that this is the way to transition a single screen movie house so that it has a viable future?

  3. A favorite tactic of the so-called “Friends of the Senator” is to claim that the Cusacks’ plan is the same business model as what existed under the previous ownership. It’s clear that this is not the case. The Cusacks’ plan is to add two restaurants to the Senator, and a second screen at some point in the future. If these changes/improvementa had been made in the past, then perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today.

    From a Sun article in July 2000 (almost 10 years ago!):
    “For more than a decade, the theater’s owner has talked about adding screens to draw larger audiences and compete against suburban multiplex cinemas. The city gave the theater a $20,000 grant and a $20,000 loan in September 1997 to develop expansion plans and repair the building. Architects drew up plans for the project, which would add two auditoriums beside the main movie hall. But construction has not begun. Kiefaber also talked about building a diner across York Road from the theater, but that has not happened.”

    Regarding Susan’s comments about “destroying key architectural features”, this is also untrue. Changes will need to be made to the Senator, and again, they probably should have been made a long time ago. The bathrooms are not ADA-compliant, and are unprepared to serve large numbers of today’s theatergoers. The Cusacks’ plan includes relocating and expanding the ladies’ room, doubling the number of stalls from the current 3, and making both the ladies’ and men’s rooms accessible to people with disabilities.

    You may consider this “destruction”, but most people understand that it’s necessary to evolve in order to continue to serve the needs of the theater. I’m sure Towson University would have had to make similar renovations if they had been selected to operate the theater. This resistance to change is one of the reasons why the Senator fell into financial hardship.

  4. Stu, failing to change bathrooms does not make a business fail. I am not resistant to change in The Senator. In fact, I think it desperately needs a change. The change needs to be in the business model, not the bathrooms.

    By the way, historic structures don’t have to be ADA compliant the way new structures are. The ADA compliancy rules for historic structures is much less rigid. I’m not sure what you mean by large numbers of theatre goers needing seriousl bathroom facilities these days, either. Do you really think that any first run film made today is going to fill a 900 seat theatre to capacity?

    Do you really think adding two restaurants is going to make that much of a difference in an area already saturated with restaurants? Is Cusack going to take in all the money from those restaurants or is someone else going to run both of them? I don’t think adding a second screen is going to help, either. Do you know of any twin theatre in Maryland that’s still operational?

    Other than adding two restaurants, how is the Cusack plan so different than Kiefaber’s plan. He is going to only show first run films. Stu, you can be as rah-rah Cusack as you want, but you’re not looking at the facts. I used to insure historic theatres nationally. As an insurance underwriter, I’ve done extensive research on historic theatres. I’ve seen which business models work and which ones don’t. The Cusack plan would have worked 30 years ago, but it’s not viable today.

  5. Restaurants as financial buoyancy:
    As a patron said to me, after the final show of METROPOLIS last Friday – without any prompting, “Why does Cusack believe that restaurants can keep The Senator afloat in an area saturated by restaurants?” I could only answer, “I don’t know. I think you’d have to ask him, because I don’t understand it either.”

    Additional auditoriums:
    Turning The Senator into a multiplex would help with ‘moving’ poor performance films to smaller screens & clearance issues with Landmark… But, let’s remember that The Rotunda was used by Kiefaber for this purpose and it that didn’t save The Senator. Let’s not forget, more auditoriums means more money – lots. Is everyone keeping in mind that the proposed plan is offering only $400k of their own money toward a new roof & other needed repairs? Where will the rest come from?.. Baltimore taxpayers should pay very close attention.

    Ladies & Mens Lounges/restrooms:
    ADA compliance is necessary, yes. But, if new construction for a restaurant on the north side is expected, then why not include such in that area (accessible from the theatre)& thereby preserve (& restore) rather than destroy?… Oh, I forgot about the crepe shop slated for the Ladies restroom (yum). Well, we’re back to the “Restaurant buoyancy” issue, above.

    The Senator must indeed evolve. It cannot be set in amber, to be sure – However, we believe with the right expertise this can largely be done without sacrificing architectural elements & style of the 1939 art deco gem. Re-engineering the stage/screen area to better facilitate live performances for example. For what the experts say that primarily needs to evolve at old theatres like The Senator is the programming to mixed multipurpose. A wider spectrum of programs draws a wider diversity of visitors. Essentially, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Show films, yes, but not just films!

  6. copied from above:
    “…if it’s nonprofit it’s not running
    first-rate movies,” Kiefaber said. “We’re trying
    to preserve its original function and its style
    of operation.”

    At what point did Kiefaber *flip flop* on the issue of first run movies at Senator? Because as recent as a “Metropolis” screening, he made it very clear that he now thinks first run movies should not be the future at the Senator, in favor of more niche releases like the new print of “Metropolis.”

    It’s difficult to quote him on any issue since he changes his mind to disagree with whatever new “plan” arises.

    • As I recall, Kiefaber realized after the 2007 near foreclosure that first-run exclusive scheduling was no longer viable for The Senator.
      Notice the next quote, in a letter to the mayor, the writer is encouraged that Kiefaber was in talks with the administration in early 2008 regarding the possibilities of transition to non-profit. His changed stance on non-profit was formed well before the RFP was issued.
      -Tom Harris

    • For additional consideration. Here is video at a December 2008 town hall meeting at The Senator of redevelopment expert John Lind of Venuetech whose group has assisted in saving & reviving historic theatres like The Senator as “a vital tool for Economic Development, Cultural Growth and, most importantly, building a sense of community” for 20 years.

      Part 1:
      Part 2:

  7. It is clear though, despite the continued assertions from “Friends of the Senator”, that the proposed plan is not the same as the business model under the prior ownership.

    Susan, your comment that “historic structures don’t have to be ADA compliant the way new structures are” may be correct. But doesn’t it seem like common sense that a 900-seat theater needs more than 3 stalls in the ladies room? If you want people to come out to the movies (or whatever they present at the Senator), then you have to give today’s theatergoers what they expect from today’s facilities. Just as the Senator needed to upgrade its audio and visual equipment over the years, so it needs modern facilities in other ways. The last thing the Senator needs is people leaving there saying “It was nice, but the line for the restroom was ridiculous…” I refuse to argue bathrooms anymore, because that’s not the point. It’s a BATHROOM, not a shrine. It serves a purpose– and if it’s not serving its purpose anymore, then it needs to be upgraded.

    I get it– you don’t like what the Cusacks have proposed. You don’t like that they’re going to change the bathrooms. You don’t like that they’re going to show first-run movies, rather than turn it into a nonprofit arts center. However, the Cusacks turned around the Charles Theatre when it was unsuccessful, added screens and eateries, and made it successful. I hope they can do the same with the Senator. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know whether or not they will be successful. But they’re going to get their chance, so you can either go to the Senator or not.

  8. The Cusacks have been given a lot of financial help from the Abell Foundation. That same level of financial support was never offered to Kiefaber. By the way, The Charles wasn’t unsuccessful prior to the Cusack’s taking it over. That’s just another myth that the rah-rah Cusack side always likes to repeat. David Levy, who operated The Charles prior to the Cusacks, retired and the theatre was closed.

    Stu, from what you’ve written, you’ve obviously not visited a lot of historic theatres – if any other than The Senator. I’ve visited historic theatres all around the nation. Three or four stalls is fairly standard for many historic theatres. The Gershwin Theatre up in NYC, which probably has about 3000-4000 seats only has about four stalls. The Shubert Theatre only has about four stalls and seats about 3000. The Castro Theatre also only has about three or four stalls.

    I’m not sure why you say the current bathrooms aren’t serving a purpose. Every time I’ve been in there, the toilets have flushed and the sinks have worked. The few times I’ve stood in a line, the lines have been shorter than the lines at the Hunt Valley 12, which has quite a few stalls and several bathrooms on each side of the cinaplex. I’m guessing you are a man and use the men’s room (correct me if I’m wrong). Why are you so worried about how many stalls are in the women’s room, anyway?

    It’s not just the bathrooms that are going to be destroyed. The real crime is that the beautiful round lobby in the front of the theatre is going to have giant holes bashed through the walls for the doors to restaurants that the Belvedere Square area doesn’t need.

    Stu, isn’t it true that you’re friends with Bill Henry?

  9. Susan, I am friends with Bill Henry– is this part of a conspiracy theory?

    I don’t want to debate bathrooms anymore. Especially since your main points seem to be (1) Broadway theaters don’t have lots of stalls, (2) as long as the toilets flush, that’s all that counts, and (3) men shouldn’t be concerned about the functionality of the ladies’ room.

    Incidentally Susan, as a native New Yorker, I still go to many shows in NYC. There’s always a humongous line at the ladies’ rooms, which is one reason why Broadway shows have intermissions (unlike movies), so people can stand in line for 10-15 minutes for the bathroom. Went to a show last week with my mom, she came back cursing the bathroom situation. Almost everyone who goes to a Broadway show curses the bathroom situation, but if you want to see a particular show, you have no choice but to put up with the limitations of that venue’s facilities (unlike movies, where the same film will be played in many places so theatergoers have a choice of venue).

    But again, enough with your bathroom debate. It’s not clear to me why you are so opposed to improving the bathrooms, perhaps there’s some ulterior motive there. I’m not on any “rah-rah Cusack side”, I’m on the Senator’s side. You can try to pretend that the Cusacks had nothing to do with the Charles’ present success, but the fact is that when Levy was operating the Charles, it was a single-screen theater showing art-house/alternative films (nothing wrong with that, I like that too) catering to a niche audience, and today the Charles is a thriving multi-screen theater and restaurant complex, showing a mix of first-run/mainstream and art-house fare, and serving as the anchor of a new arts and theater district. Maybe that appears “rah-rah Cusack” to you, but to me it’s just acknowledging reality. I’ll be thrilled if the Cusacks can accomplish something similar with the Senator.

  10. Nope, Stu, I don’t have any conspiracy theories. I was just curious if you were friends with Bill Henry.

    I’ve watched you post on this topic over the past year on different news outlets. You’ve been extremely combative with many people who want the same future for The Senator that I do. I find that really intersting.

  11. I have been reading the cyber back and forth between Stu and Susan. Stu, in one of your comments you said that the Cusack plan is going through whether people here support it or not. You obviously support the Cusack plan even though you admit that you don’t know if it will be successful. If you are getting the plan you want for The Senator’s, why are you spending time on a website that is promoting a different outcome for The Senator’s future? It seems like a waste of your time.

  12. Stu I believe you said “I don’t have a crystal ball” and I have to wonder if that is entirely true or not. My point is with regards to what parts of this fine art deco theater where allowed to be designated as historical in lieu of the entire building? In most cases a building is either historic in nature or it isn’t. Why was this building sectioned off into portions that seem to meet the guidelines and others that do not? I have to wonder if this plan to “improve” and “remake” this building into something other then what it already is, a historic art deco theater, into something Baltimore already has enough of, another in a long line of multiplex theaters was exactly what Baltimore City Commissioners plan was all along. And if you need to throw out the conspiracy theory again…it’s old, tired and been beat like a long dead horse. Things happen the way they happen for a reason. (Do I need to add period end of sentence?)

    In the long run it’s not about making “restrooms functional”, which they happen to be as they are today; it’s about preserving the architectural integrity of the whole, if you tear it down it can never be replaced. And by the way, adding restaurants, didn’t they try that out in Owings Mills Mall, didn’t work. And in an area that has dozens of restaurants of all types and styles to chose from, what could possibly be inside the theater that would bring a bigger draw?
    Just my two cents, for what it’s worth. Personally speaking, I’ll not be back once they decide to undo this building. Why mess with perfection??

    • Deb, you might be interested in this video taken at a public meeting regarding Baltimore’s CHAP actions and the fact that two potential new owners were scared off by the announcement of those proposed actions:

      -Tom Harris

  13. Yep, here go the conspiracy theories again. Tom, for someone who claims to want to look forward, not back, you sure do seem to talk about the past a lot. Since you’ve already stated publicly that you believe the city performed some sort of “takeover”,

    @Susan: Yes, I’m friends with Bill Henry. We both went to Hopkins, almost 20 years ago. Bill is also responsible for initiating my love of the Senator, as he held many “balcony parties” there over the years.

    @John H.: Yes, I now support the Cusacks’ plan, because they’re the ones who have been chosen and I want the Senator back up and running as soon as possible. If WTMD had been successful in their bid to operate the theater, I’d be supporting them too, even though personally I probably would’ve been less interested in the programming they’d be presenting. Both plans seemed like feasible ones. (I wasn’t too keen on that Noch-Noch puppet-theater plan, but that’s another story.) Of course I don’t know whether the Cusacks will be successful– none of us do. Just as we don’t know whether WTMD would have been successful. But I am looking forward to the Senator once again having programming that people actually want to go to, rather than the local bands, open-mic nights, karaoke, drum circles, etc. that it’s been doing for the past several months.

    @Deb: “mess with perfection”? Really, Deb? The Senator is PERFECT the way it is? Maybe it’s just as well that you don’t return.

    It’s almost funny, for these folks who claim to be “friends of the Senator”, how many appear to be so willing never to return to the building once the Cusacks take charge. I guess that’s why Andrea suggested that this group of people seem to be more “friends of the former owner” than actual friends of the Senator.

  14. Mr. and Mrs. Harris, as you add Stu to your long list of folks who somehow are wrong-thinking and even wrong-acting, I return to my original question — why such inconsistency in whom you scrutinize and hold accountable? And can you not find anything positive about the Cusack’s ownership of the theater and the city’s commitment to this important anchor?

    Whatever the fate of the current commodes and lobby (and aren’t there controls in place on that?) the Senator will be an unusually lucky historic structure — it will be in use for its original purpose. How is that not great news?

    Let’s not get too carried away with this historic preservation stuff. We need balance. Due given to the building’s architecture. Due given to creating a vibrant entertainment venue. Due given to the facility’s economic and community role. It seems that this balance is being found.

    A year ago there were “nightmare scenarios” abounding — the Senator boarded up, the Senator in the clutches of real estate speculators, the Senator turned into a mega-church, the Senator abandoned by the city. Instead, even if it’s not everyone’s most favorite option, we’ve been given a good option.

  15. I’ll just be glad when I can go to a movie at the Senator and not hear a passive/ aggressive ramble from Kiefaber before every screening.

  16. No Stu, wrong on that point. Don’t have any connection to the old OWNER of the theater or the new TENANT of the building on any level. Just a huge FAN of this building as it stands and functions today or should I now be saying yesterday. And the use of perfection, well let’s see, as perfection, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then yes perfection is an accurate description. The theater is an exemplification of supreme excellence of a fine historic movie theater. The sound system, screen and projection quality have, in the past mind you, been pretty free of fault or defect and the fact that it calls for someone who actually knows and appreciates film to operate it is an added bonus, of course only if you appreciate the history of things.
    I am ok with some change, oh excuse me, I guess the new word is balance right? I like the multi-functional use of the theater. And if it means doing some work on the stage to make it open for even more types of use, then change it, balance it, whatever term you want to use. But you don’t need to demolish the parts of this building that make it unique, in order to make it conform to a blue print of the ordinary. But again, once you “balance” the building you cannot take it back, as in life there will be no “redo”.
    So be a fan of the plan because it’s the plan that is in place, very politically correct in verse. I’ll be a woman of my words and, even though I am not a friend of either side of this battle, and stay away. Why take the extra time to drive to just another first run multiplex, when I have three down the road. And for the City’s sake only, will wish it luck. But Stu, I hope if it fails, you stand by yours and sink with the ship.

  17. @Deb, thanks for your reply. but you kinda prove my point. I love the Senator too. but partly because it has evolved with the times– in some ways, at least. The projection and sound equipment have been upgraded over the years, to provide a better experience. Are you upset that we are no longer watching movies with 1930s projection equipment, and listening through tinny 1930s speakers? That’s upgrading. Same thing with the facilities. I hope they replace the seats, too, and put in more comfortable seating. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging things that can be improved upon, and it’ll make the Senator even more of a destination for theatergoers. To say that it’s perfect exactly as it is, is kind of absurd.

    Deb, you also said, “Why take the extra time to drive to just another first run multiplex, when I have three down the road.” You know, there’s little done at the Senator that isn’t also being done elsewhere in Baltimore. First-run movies? check. Art films? check. Local bands? check. Open-mic nights? check. I’m sure you can find it all closer to home. but there’s a reason why we go out of our way to see films at the Senator. It’s a special place, that’s why we all care about it. It’ll continue to be a special place if it has additional screens, restaurants, etc. Whether or not you choose to come back is your own decision.

  18. Don’t think there’s anything about the notion of “balance” deserving of sarcasm, Deb! Hey, even if you value form over function and desire the total historical preservation of the building above all else (including remaining historically true to use as a first run movie theater), the elimination of the current ladies room and the placement of two doors in the lobby (actually, aren’t the Cusacks proposing pass-throughs, using existing poster cases?) are in no way going to reduce the Senator to the equivalent of your local multiplex.

    The Charles is a great experience just as a drive-by. As the Cusacks and their architectural consultant Alex Castro (who has experience working with folks like Rebecca Swanston, who did AVAM, and Ziger/Snead) turn their attention to the Senator, aren’t you and other FoTS just a LITTLE bit excited to see what they might pull off at 5409 York Road?

  19. @Andrea I’m sorry to see you felt my use of your word as being sarcastic on some level. Only using your terminology, no attack meant, you chose to feel that way, then ok. As for the Charles being a great experience just as a drive by couldn’t be truer statement. But I’m not so impressed with the actual venue at all. Just an opinion, nothing more and not an attack on the Charles or its followers, just don’t care for it.
    @Stu, I’m pretty sure I’ve already stated I’m ok with using the theater as a multi-purpose venue; your summation was almost perfect. My point has been and always will be that once you “undo” the unique feel and texture of the theater you are just going to have another, well Charles Theater, and again as above not an attack on the venue, just an opinion that it is not so great. So you have fun spinning away, happy to leave you to it.

  20. No spin required, Deb. Some people decided way at the beginning of this process that they only wanted one possible outcome for the Senator (this nonprofit arts center idea), and anything else was bad and should be opposed. I’ve never been one of those people. If WTMD had been selected to operate the theater, I would have supported that– though, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have been very interested in the kind of programming they proposed. If the Cusacks plan will be successful, and self-sustaining, then I’m all for that too. If they can start paying the City back for all the money that has been invested in the theater since this whole mess started, even better. Time will tell.

    Incidentally, I like the Charles too. I like the Landmark complex in Harbor East, too. All great places to see movies.

  21. Peace, all. Having a kumbaya moment after watching Avatar on my (modest) tv. Eywa says some movies, especially with sorry plots, require a real big screen and wicked sound.

    We all agree the unique nature of the Senator deserves to be preserved. Some of us are willing to sacrifice a bathroom or what all to that end, others understandably want to defend every inch. Seems like we’re arguing over two pretty similar variations on good. So I’m gonna channel some blue people vibe and give it a rest.

  22. Stu said “…aren’t you and other FoTS just a LITTLE bit excited to see what they might pull off at 5409 York Road?”

    No, Stu, I’m not. I’ve been to The Charles. The projection quality is average, at best. From what I understand, The Senator’s projectionist isn’t going to work for Buzz. The Charles Theatre, while it has curb side appeal, is a dump on the inside. First run films at The Senator, with average projection quality? Sorry, I can get that at the multiplex in my neighborhood.

    After reading through your posts, I agree with Deb. You are the Lord King Spin Doctor. I’m sure you’ll find a way to spin my comments, too.

  23. Correction to my post: the quote isn’t Stu’s, it’s Andrea’s. The rest of my comments stand.

  24. So wait, if you misattributed Andrea’s quote to me, does that mean that she’s the Lord King Spin Doctor, or am I? LOL

  25. “No, Stu, I’m not. I’ve been to The Charles. The projection quality is average, at best. From what I understand, The Senator’s projectionist isn’t going to work for Buzz. The Charles Theatre, while it has curb side appeal, is a dump on the inside. First run films at The Senator, with average projection quality? Sorry, I can get that at the multiplex in my neighborhood.”

    Last time I was there, the Senator had a dog running around the moldy lobby, I had to sit through, frankly, pathetic announcements before the film, and the projection quality was mediocre and dim. I’ve never had a similar experience at the Charles, and the Charles gives back to the community with the hugely successful MD film festival. I really want a viable single-screen theater in Baltimore, too, but this sort of comparison between the Charles and Senator is delusional.

    I think I’ve seen political messages on the Senator marquee as or more often than movie announcements. If the Charles group’s bringing in any management strategy other than constant inept political maneuvering and tired complaints about the tragedies of the film industry, it’s a win for Baltimore.

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