SENATOR Theatre to reopen Oct 15 with 1st run films, starting with action/comedy “RED”

At a public meeting last night, Buzz and Kathleen Cusack announced that the theatre will indeed reopen to the public next Friday (October 15, 2010) as a first run movie house. The first film to screen will be “Red“, starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary Louise-Parker, Helen Mirren and others.

Showtimes were not announced, but can be expected to be listed on the new Senator website ( when it launches, as early as 5pm today. Ticket prices announced were $7.50 for matinees (shows starting before 6pm) and $9 for shows beginning after 6pm.

Senator Theatre outer lobby original paneling

Outer lobby paneling

In regard to renovations, the 100 or so attendees got a first-hand look (and touch) of the recently uncovered original wood paneling in the outer lobby and the likewise inner lobby ceiling mural. Sadly, the latter is covered with so many globs of adhesive (used to anchor the suspensions for the acoustic tiles that were recently removed) that it is intimated to be beyond repair.

The Cusacks, who operate The Charles Theater, also displayed plans for expected additions of a full service restaurant (on the north side, replacing  what was an addition that housed a dry-cleaners), crepe shop and a second auditorium to be attached to the south side of the theatre, along Rosebank Avenue. Current designs for the restaurant, it was noted, would find it’s facade extending approximately 8 feet toward York Road. This would mean that the sidewalk blocks commemorating Casino Royale and the premiere of Ladder 49 would be lost. However, steps are being taken to see if they can be recreated in another location. Also noted were changes to the mens & ladies lounges and restrooms to make them ADA compliant.

It was stressed that the visuals were concepts and that plans are still in the design & development phase and pending approval from the City’s CHAP as well as state and federal officials (to qualify for historic tax credits). Construction, once begun, is expected to take 9 months to 1 year to complete. However, the Cusacks state they expect to keep The Senator open during much of that time, only to close when necessary – for instance – when replacing the main auditorium seats with new, larger models.

For those who could not attend, it was said that the slideshow would be available on the new Senator website.

Meeting media coverage:


Cusacks to Announce Oct 15 Reopening for SENATOR Theatre

According to Michael Sragow, “Buzz” and daughter Kathleen Cusack will announce that Friday, October 15th as the day The Senator Theatre will reopen as a first run movie house.

The announcement is to come as part of a public “Progress Meeting”, as stated in the theatre’s marquee, slated to begin at 6:30pm. It’s also expected they will name the feature that returning Senator projectionist Bill Hewitt will exhibit to hail the reopening.

“We welcome anyone with any interest in the theater to join in our excitement as we prepare to reopen.”
-Kathleen Cusack

You can read Mr. Sragow’s full post here.

Kathleen Cusack: Meeting at The Senator on 10/7

According to a Citybizlist Baltimore posting, a communication to the BDC and some community association leaders from Kathleen Cusack has announced a meeting to be held at The Senator Theater on October 7 at 6:30pm:

SENATOR Theatre RFP: CHAP Hearing Summary Letter

Below are copies of the letter sent to Alex Castro (lead architect for Buzz and Kathleen Cusack’s Senator Theatre, LLC project) officially announcing the results of the August 10 CHAP hearing. Each of the attendees to the hearing was to receive this this document by mail.


The Commissioners considered the application materials you submitted, the presentation you gave at the hearing, the staff presentation, the staff report and other testimony presented at the hearing…

The Commission then made motion and determined the following:

  • Moved to approve the staff recommendation for rehabilitation of the interior and exterior with careful attention to be given by experts in the field to the evaluation of systems and structure, with study of the storage space and the addition to the front, paying particular attention to the interior features specifically landmarked, as well as the (commemorative movie) sidewalks and the men’s lounge.
  • Approval of the new addition concept and interior concept alterations as submitted with the next phase concept designs to be submitted for full commission review…

Click on each to view full size:

SENATOR Theatre RFP: Lease Agreement @ Board of Estimates tomorrow!

FOTS has learned that the Board of Estimates meeting tomorrow (August 25, 2010) at 9AM will include a vote on the proposed lease for The Senator Theatre. What follows is an excerpt from the meeting agenda (pages 94 & 95):


Baltimore Development Corporation – Triple-Net Lease Agreement
for the Senator Theatre

The Board is requested to approve a triple-net lease, with the Senator Theatre, LLC for the City-owned Senator Theatre, located at 5904-06 York Road. The period of the lease agreement is effective upon the date of the lease and will terminate on the lesser of 43 years from the lease date or 40 years from the date of the granting of a Certificate of Completion.
The Board is further requested to authorize the Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development to execute any ancillary documents, letters or certificates that do not change the substance of the terms of the documents, subject to review and approval by the Law Department.

$1.00 – Annual Rent
(The first five years are payable at the execution of the agreement).

In May 2002, the Board approved a $600,000.00 loan guarantee for the Senator Theatre. With the threat of foreclosure imminent and facing the loss of its $600,000.00 guarantee, the City purchased the Promissory Note and Mortgage on the Senator Theatre from the First Mariner Bank in May 2009. The City’s acquisition and settlement costs were $965,757.00.

Through a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued September 21, 2009, the City of Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), on behalf of the City of Baltimore, offered for sale or rent the Senator Theatre for use as a movie theatre and/or performing arts venue. The BDC received four proposals in response to the RFP. After a review and analysis process, which included a public meeting and several meetings of an Advisory Panel (comprised of business, residential and theatre advocacy groups, and City staff), the panel recommended that the City enter into an Exclusive Negotiating Privilege agreement with the Senator Theatre, LLC.


BDC – cont’d

The Senator Theatre, LLC is comprised of Mr. James Cusack and his daughter Ms. Kathleen Cusack, the owners of the Charles Theatre. Their proposal is to use the building for a single screen theatre and two food-service establishments, with the possible addition of a second screen.

The proposed capital improvements include replacement of seats, carpet, wall coverings, and curtains, and painting of ceilings and walls in the auditorium; repairs to the exterior; new or upgraded building systems including electrical service, sprinklers, boiler and roof; and construction of a restaurant on the north side of the building.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $1,650,000.00. The Senator Theatre, LLC is contributing $400,000.00 in equity; applying for $450,000.00 in Federal and State Historic Tax Credits; applying for a $100,000.00 in State Community Legacy Grant funds; and has requested a $700,000.00 loan from the Mayor and City Council. The deadline to apply for Historic Tax Credits is August 31, 2010 and in order for the Senator Theatre, LLC to qualify for these tax credits, the term of the lease must be extendable for a total of 40 years, and the lease must be executed by August 31, 2010.

The BDC conducted a City Return Analysis on the project using the total City investment of $1,665,757.00, which includes $965,757.00 in acquisition and settlement costs and the requested loan. The Net Present Value (NPV) is calculated for a 20-year period using a 6% discount rate. Based on this analysis, the projected returns to the City are revenues of $473,403.00 NPV over 20 years. The City’s 20-year Internal Rate of Return is projected to be 9%.

The developer has signed the Commitment to Comply with the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Program of the City of Baltimore.
(The triple-net lease agreement has been approved by the Law Department as to form and legal sufficiency.)


SENATOR Theatre RFP: CHAP Hearing on August 10

Friends of The Senator (FOTS) has been alerted to a hearing called by Baltimore City’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) that will review the plans proposed by James “Buzz” Cusack (who rents & operator The Charles Theatre) and his daughter, Kathleen Cusack for renovations intended for the historic Senator Theatre.

Details from the August 10 Agenda via the CHAP web site:

3:00 PM Senator Theatre

(Baltimore City Landmark-Exterior)
(Baltimore City Landmark -Interior pending)
(CHAP Special List-Interior)
Plan: Rehabilitation of exterior and interior-Concept.
City of Baltimore, Owner.
The Senator Theatre, LLC. (James Cusack and Kathleen Cusack, principals), Lessee.

Eddie Leon, Staff Presenter.
The hearing will be held in the Phoebe Stanton Conference Room of the Department of Planning, 8th Floor, 417 E. Fayette Street.

We’re informed that anyone can view the plans in advance by making an appointment with the CHAP office.
(410) 396-4866
(410) 396-PLAN (7526)
Fax: (410) 396-5662

FOTS strongly encourages anyone concerned with the future of the theatre, particularly the planned renovations, to attend this hearing if possible.

SENATOR Theatre RFP: BDC Advisory Panel Requires Additional Meeting

The BDC Advisory Panel did meet yesterday, just a day after the public meeting, but apparently at least one more meeting will be necessary before their recommendation to the BDC board can be made.

While it is true that we (FoTS) have a member representing us on the panel, Laura Perkins, confidentiality rules have restricted what she can tell even us!

What she could say is that:

  • No decision could be made as to which of the 4 proposal plans the panel should be recommend to the BDC
  • At least one more meeting will be needed. The date is not yet known.
  • Questions, comments & opinions can, therefore, still be submitted, but should be done ASAP

So, keep using the list of Advisory Panel members we posted yesterday to keep your communications flowing to the people that best represent your feelings, community, etc.!

We favor the WTMD/Towson University plan. It includes the community-based, multipurpose arts, education & entertainment programming and non-profit ownership we’ve been advocating for over a year now. That said, we’d feel more comfortable if they could say they have historic theatre experts at the ready to assist with their planned “historically sensitive renovations”.

The plan presented by the Cuzacks (known for The Charles Theatre) is closest to what The Senator was and we wish it could always be, but we believe trying to keep it as a 1st run movie house (you heard right, they do not plan to make The Senator another “art film” house)  is no longer a viable business model for the last historic single-screen theatre in Baltimore. And, adding a couple of eateries, we don’t believe, can make up for that or regain droves of customers (There are plenty of great eateries within yards of The Senator already).

The record of successful, surviving historic theatres in the US shows the best model (if not backed by a major theatre chain) is like that presented by WTMD/TU.

SENATOR Theatre RFP: Public Meeting Results

Updated: Jan 8th, 7:50 am (1 new news link)

Tom Harris (a FoTS Ambassador) shares some brief comments on last night’s meeting (feel free to add your own!), below. And, as promised, here is the list of representatives on the BDC’s Advisory Panel (and contact links if we can find them), so everyone can contact them with their opinions and/or questions on the four proposals. Cast your vote in our new poll while you’re at it (scroll down & look to your right)!

BDC Advisory Panel members :

Laura Thul Penza (Senator Community Trust)

Catherine Evans (Belvedere Improvement Association)

Michele LeFaivre (Elsinore Village)

Karen DeKamp (York Road Partnership)

Rick Swanson (Govanstowne Business Assoc.)

Bill Gilmore (Baltimore Promotion & the Arts)

Carla Nelson (BDC and Mayor’s Office of Women & Minority Business Development)

Larry Jenkins (Baltimore City Law Dept.)

Karen Noonan (Theatre Historical Society of America)

Laura Perkins (Friends of The SENATOR)

Questions regarding the RFP process can be directed to
Kristen Mitchell
at the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) at

Proposal (Respondents):

The Lofts at The Senator (J.R. Owens Corporation)

Tom Harris (FoTS Ambassador): As stated at the Jan. 5th public meeting, he’s not interested in anything but saving the theatre and he believes that means building a mixture of apartments and retail space around the sides and back of the theatre to produce “new revenue streams”. Personally, I found the concept renderings detracted from the beauty of the theatre and frankly, as another attendee noted, this plan leaves out the heart of the matter and the theatre itself- what should go on inside the theatre.

The Senator Theatre, LLC (James & Kathleen Cusack)

T.Harris (FoTS): As much as I’ve loved seeing 1st run movies at The Senator and have dearly missed that, I cannot buy into the belief that, given the financial realities and contracts involved with 1st run exhibition, the Cusack’s would fare better than Keifaber. For that matter, recent news stories have shown that even the multiplexes have not been doing well! My fear is that in a few years time, we’ll be revisiting the threat of The Senator closing. I wish it otherwise, but I think a more viable plan is called for.

The Theatre Project PUPKIDS, Inc. (Noch-Noch Productions)

Tom Harris (FoTS): In short, while a well intended mission and open-arms policy toward a multitude of programming make this a nice idea, I don’t believe this plan, alone, would support the theatre’s future. There was simply not sufficient evidence of theatre management, scheduling or financial expertise given at the presentation.

WTMD at The Senator (Senator Theatre Redevelopmentl, LLC – Towson University)

Tom Harris (FoTS): I believe this plan to be the best fit for The Senator’s future. It adopts the vision that has proven itself time & again in other historic theatres across the country. That of a nonprofit-owned, community-based, multipurpose arts, education & entertainment venue. The diversified programming would attract more than just movie-goers (yes movies, including the occasional 1st run are included!) to North Baltimore, exposing local businesses to a multitude of potential new clientele. The biggest problem I see is overcoming what some residents fear is a “college-town invasion”, but those who paid attention to the sampled daily programming would see that it caters to a much wider audience. That said, I want to know more about the intended “historically-sensitive renovations” and if they have financing firmly in place to undertake the task, as this was not convincingly answered during the public presentation Q & A.

Editor’s note: Mr. Harris is employed by TU (not by WTMD) and has had no input whatsoever in the WTMD/TU proposal.

Please feel free to comment!

News Links:

SENATOR Theatre RFP: Public Meeting Tonight with 4 Competing for Ownership!

We can’t encourage people strongly enough

Be at The Senator tonight for the meeting at 6:30pm!

All four respondents to the BDC’s RFP will be on hand to make a brief presentation of their plans for the future of Baltimore’s last historic single-screen theatre.

The Lofts at The Senator (J.R. Owens Corporation)
The Senator Theatre, LLC (James & Kathleen Cusack)
The Theatre Project PUPKIDS, Inc. (Noch-Noch Productions)
WTMD at The Senator (Senator Theatre Redevelopmentl, LLC – Towson University)

You will have an opportunity to ask questions!

This is probably your best chance ever to have an influence on the future of this 70 year old landmark!

Speak now or live with the consequences

Doors will open at 6pm

Let leaders on the BDC Advisory Panel know your opinion regarding the best plan:

Michele LeFaivre (Elsinore Village)
Karen DeKamp (York Road Partnership)
Rick Swanson (Govanstowne Business Assoc.)
Bill Gilmore (Baltimore Promotion & the Arts)
Carla Nelson (BDC and Mayor’s Office of Minority/Women’s Business)
Larry Jenkins (Baltimore City Law Dept.)
Karen Noonan (Theatre Historical Society of America)
Laura Perkins (Friends of The SENATOR)

If you have any questions regarding this meeting,
contact Kristen Mitchell at the Baltimore
Development Corporation at

SENATOR Theatre RFP: BDC Jan 5th Public Meeting Reminder!

Updated Jan. 1, 2010 – “Each respondent will have 10 minutes to present, and then we will have Q&A for that particular proposal.  General Q&A and comments will be taken at the end of the meeting.” – Kristen Mitchell, BDC


– JANUARY 5, 2010 @ 6PM –

Join us at The SENATOR when the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) presents
a Public Meeting on the future of the theatre!

The purpose of this meeting is to give the public the
opportunity to hear from the groups which
responded to the Senator Theatre
Request for Proposals

The Lofts at The Senator (J.R. Owens Corporation)
The Senator Theatre, LLC (James & Kathleen Cusack)
The Theatre Project PUPKIDS, Inc. (Noch-Noch Productions)
WTMD at The Senator (Senator Theatre Redevelopmentl, LLC – Towson University)


 If you have any questions regarding this meeting,
contact Kristen Mitchell at the Baltimore
Development Corporation at


Admission is FREE
Doors open at 6PM
Meeting begins at 6:30PM 

Anyone with any interest in the future of this historic landmark should attend.
Spread the word and we’ll see you there!