Baltimore’s Senator Theatre – One Year Later

It has been more than a full year since Mr. Cusack and his daughter became the operating tenants to the city owned, internationally recognized Senator Theatre. Many Baltimoreans had high expectations that the operators of The Charles Theatre would rejuvenate and revitalize The Senator given the plans presented. However, lately I’ve been hearing from residents and patrons that the state of the theatre in the meantime has deteriorated.

Having not been in the Belvedere Square area recently I made it a point to drive past The Senator this Thursday night. I was literally stunned by just how badly the theatre looked from the street. In my 27 years as a patron of The Senator .

While I cannot call myself a close friend of longtime Senator Theatre exhibition expert and film preservationist legend William (“Bill”) Hewitt, I’ve enjoyed countless films he presented over the years. I was even more fortunate have briefly worked with him (as did my family and several others during 18th month all-volunteer period). Given this and what I’ve learned of the man from others, it’s obvious he was the consummate film exhibition professional, and, a tremendous contributor to The Senator’s fame. I am therefore comfortable stating that he would NEVER have accepted the “black-eyed” appearance The Senator Theatre now conveys in the Belvedere Square community.

Moreover, my heart and jaw dropped as I realized that this man’s “memorial”, placed on the iconic marquee, occupied the dark center section.

A recent article by Adam Bednar writes:

[Mr. Cusack] also said there’s no current maintenance being done on the building because they are waiting for state funds and city approval to begin a rehab of the structure.

If this has been the approach by the tenants toward maintenance, as it seems, what should we expect if they are not awarded government funding they expect to receive?

The citizen-owners of this Baltimore landmark, historic building advocates, film historians and preservationists alike should not only take note of the situation, but make their opinions and voices heard – via online petition, yes, but also at Baltimore City Hall. For what does it say of us if we allow this last remaining, operational, historic Baltimore movie house to be neglected – In a state in which The Senator Theatre and The League of Historic American Theatres calls home?

-Tom Harris


SENATOR Theatre RFP: No Plan Finalized but City orders theatre to go dark on July 21

SENATOR Theatre in the dark

City Orders Senator Theatre volunteers to "cease all operations on the 21st under any circumstance"

BALTIMORE, July 16 /PRNewswire/ — The Baltimore Mayor’s office announced yesterday that The Senator Theatre will go dark on July 21st. The announcement is a partial response to rising concerns of North Baltimore business owners, residents, and the 2100+ member “Friends of The Senator” theatre advocacy group, regardin…g the uncertain fate of The Senator Theatre, an iconic, nationally renowned landmark showplace that has entertained and served the North Baltimore community continuously since 1939….
Full press release at:

BDC Issues Request For Proposals (RFP)

Updated (Sept. 24, 2009) – More links (scroll to bottom)

Senator Theatre RFP cover sheet

Senator Theatre RFP cover sheet

The Baltimore Development Corporation has officially issued a Request For Proposals for the purchase or lease of the historic Senator Theatre today, on behalf of Baltimore City.

Announcement excerpt

The goals of BDC in offering this RFP include, but are not limited to, the following:

A) Solicit a respondent who will purchase or lease the Senator for use primarily as a movie theater and/or performing arts venue, though additional uses are also welcome
B) Maintain a schedule of events which keeps the Senator active throughout the week
C) Reinforce the mutually beneficial relationship between the Senator, Belvedere Square, surrounding communities, and the Govanstowne business district by serving as a positive economic generator for the area
D) Respect and capitalize on the building’s rich history
E) Complement and maintain the property’s unique historic interior and exterior features
F) Achieve the highest quality of architectural and interior design
G) Renovate the Senator to ensure the comfort and safety of patrons and employees enhance patrons’ experience and incorporate the services, amenities, and support facilities necessary to attract and accommodate a range of events and patrons (per event)
H) Achieve positive impact for the City including quality jobs increased tax revenues community stabilization opportunities for minority and women owned businesses and contribution to the City’s long term economic growth objectives and
I) Create a primarily privately-funded project with minimal public sector financial support.

The RFP document can be downloaded from the BDC’s web site at:

A “pre-proposal conference” is scheduled to be held:
Monday, October 5, 2009 @ 10AM
The Senator Theatre
Notification of attendance required
[note: we asked for clarification regarding who can attend. Kristen Mitchell (BDC Senior Economic Officer) responded quite promptly:
“The October 5 meeting is open to anyone who is interested in submitting a response to the RFP.”

Additional information and/or notice of intention to attend the Oct. 5 conference:
Kristen Mitchell
BDC Senior Economic Development Officer