SENATOR Theatre Closes Tonight for Renovations

Senator Theatre marquee - 2012, Apr 3: some lights finally relit

Senator Theatre, April 2012

According to a post on the Senator’s official Facebook page the theatre will close tonight (Thursday, April 26, 2012) after the scheduled viewings of The Hunger Games. It’s said the closing is required to move forward with their renovation plans that will add three screening auditoriums to the north and south sides of the original historic building as well as a wine bar.

Those interested in details should visit the theatre’s commerical site to see the city approved floorplan and two thumbnail renderings of the completed project via the “Renovations Blog” link: http://www.thesenatortheatre.com

You can also read the most recent article about the plans: http://towson.patch.com/articles/senator-theatre-operators-improvements-coming-soon

And an “Update From The Senator Theatre” Facebook Note also provides some details:
https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-senator-theatre/update-from-the-senator-theatre/379632822067390

According to an administrator’s comment posted on their Facebook page, the project is expected to take 6-9 months to complete.

Update: Just after posting the following article was brought to our attention, in which The Senator is described as “a very sad theatre” by renter/operator James “Buzz” Cusack and “a complicated deal with many layers of financing” by M.J. “Jay” Brodie of the BDC.
http://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/blog/real-estate/2012/04/senator-theatre-to-close-for-renovations.html

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December sees classic films return to The Senator Theatre!

Three films from 1939, “The Year of The Senator”:

Gone With The Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington & The Wizard of Oz @ The Senator in December

Tickets available now: Click the image, on the next page click Movie Quick Link

Tickets on sale now at thesneatortheatre.com

AND

a seasonal favorite returns…

Saturdays, December 17th and 24th only
@ 10am:
Frank Capra’s
It’s A Wonderful Life
(1946)
James Stewart, Donna Reed & Lionel Barrymore

Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life"
Admission: $5 worth of canned goods at the door, to benefit GEDCO Cares

AMC Theaters at Towson Commons Closing

Towson Commons photo by Lizzy BrooksAccording to a Towson Patch article the original anchor tenant’s last day will be Friday, May 15 to make way for renovations.

[A new theater] is planned for the long-stalled Towson Circle III project, but until then movie lovers will have to trek to the Regal cinema in Hunt Valley, the AMC cinema in Owings Mills or The Senator Theatre in Govans to get their fill.

And, some more changes apparently are coming to the Belvedere Square retail area:

SENATOR Theatre: Harry Potter tickets on sale today

Advance tickets for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010, PG-13) go on sale today.
See thesenatortheatre.com for details.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows poster

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 (http://thesenatortheatre.com) 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.

71 Years Ago Today The Senator Theatre Opened Its Doors

On October 5, 1939 Baltimore’s “Theatre of Distinction” opened to the public with exhibition of “Stanley and Livingstone“, starring Spencer Tracy, Nancy Kelly and Richard Greene.


SENATOR Theatre RFP: CHAP Hearing Results

UPDATED (Aug. 13, 2010): Scans of CHAP Staff Report used at the meeting – see bottom of this post.

Yesterday’s CHAP hearing on The Senator Theatre was quite positive!

I want to thank everyone who attended!

It was encouraging to see so many show and endure the wait (the hearing was scheduled for 3pm, but I don’t think we actually got started until nearly 4?), especially the young man who addressed the committee stating (paraphrased):

“I think I may be the only one here not affiliated with some group.”
“I don’t know of anywhere else this [programming plan] has been successfully with an historic single screen theatre, so I hope the City will bring in experts from places where they successfully done something like this.”
“I want to bring my kids to see movies at The Senator, but I need it to be here for a while for that to happen.”

Our overriding concern for expert top-to-bottom evaluation of the building was taken into account and added to the conditions for moving forward with detailed renderings and further study of proposed changes. This was a huge relief! Our suggestion that Tom Kiefaber be included in such an inspection, because of his intimate knowledge of the building and systems was also taken.

Quick rundown of changes proposed by Alex Castro and Joe Adamczyk on behalf of Senator Theatre, LLC (James “Buzz” Cusack and Kathleen Cusack – renters/operators of The Charles Theatre & expected to be likewise at The Senator):

  • The crepe shop is now slated to occupy what is currently (largely) office & storage space. It is no longer destined for the ladies’ areas.
  • The mens’ lounge, while largely preserved would lose significant space as the north wall is proposed to be moved southward about 4ft to accommodate the revised crepe shop location.
    Part of the concern here is that the lounge is within CHAP’s protected areas & the lounge would appear as more of a hallway than a lounge. Either way, the star & moon in the mosaic floor is expected to survive.
  • No new passageways from the rotunda… Restoration was the word of the day for that area (And overall for that matter – for which I am thankful to hear!).
    Tom Kiefaber noted to the committee that an expert inspected the mural recently & suggested that the resulting suggestions for expert restoration be considered.
  • Two new storage closets to be placed against the auditorium’s back wall, right below the mezzanine level’s skyboxes.
  • The proposed Tapas restaurant facade is currently proposed to be 8ft closer to York Rd. “Further study” of this proposed extension was added as a condition to passage.
    It also raised concern about commemorative sidewalk blocks that would be affected. The committee agreed that relocation of the blocks (or alternate plan to save them) be a condition of approval.
  • A 2nd auditorium on the south side with stadium seating is now a ‘front-burner’ plan.

I hope to scan & post the handout we received at the end of the hearing that shows some additional views of the proposed additions/changes. In the meantime, the pre-meeting copy is here (PDF).

Thanks to CHAP chair Mr. Donald Kann and all of the commissioners who were present (I thought the two newest commissioners were especially on the ball, Ms. Anath Ranon and Mr. Tom Liebel).

My thanks to all of the CHAP staff, particularly Ms. Kathleen Kotarba and Mr. Eddie Leon for their cooperation and help in keeping me informed and answering my never-ending volleys of questions.

-Tom Harris

Related mass media reports:

SENATOR Theatre: Standing Ovations Salute Kiefaber on His Last Night

TK 8pm standing ovation

Kiefaber receives extended standing ovation standing-room-only crowd

Both the near capacity crowd for the 4:30pm screening of Star Wars: A New Hope and the standing-room only 8pm show saluted former owner Tom Kiefaber for his family’s 71 years of operation and his personal dedication to keeping the historic theatre going for over two decades.

The evening also capped off a Friends of The Senator volunteers’ 16-month stint as Kiefaber’s theatre support staff.

Judging by the crowd reaction during and after the screenings all felt that this chapter was being closed on a positive note with “A New Hope” for the future of the landmark theatre.

Here’s to hoping the lights are back on and the doors open in short order, because knowing the theatre was going dark at the end was a concern repeated by many attendees on an otherwise celebratory night.

More photographs: http://johnwairephoto.com/blog/2010/07/21/the-end-of-an-era (John Waire)

SENATOR Theatre: FREE Farewell to Kiefaber screenings of rare STAR WARS (1977) print on July 21

“This is it!” – Red Leader, Star Wars

STAR WARS Style A half-sheet by Tom Jung

STAR WARS Style A half-sheet by Tom Jung (1977)

The Force Is With Them!

Baltimore’s Senator Theatre Ends 71 Years of Continuous
Family Ownership and Operation.

“Friends of The Senator” Express A New Hope for a Rapid Reopening

Baltimore, MD
July 21, 2010

The Friends of The Senator (FOTS) theatre advocacy group announced today
that Wednesday 7/21 marks the final day of operation for Baltimore’s historic
Senator Theatre. The shutdown date was designated by Baltimore’s City Hall.
Instructions are to cease operations, and for the theatre’s ex-owner to remove
all personal items. Baltimore City took ownership of the renowned, single screen
Art Deco landmark at a foreclosure auction in July of 2009.

For the final evening of operation, the FOTS are encouraging patrons to join
us for a gathering of The Senator’s extended family, including long time
manager Gayle Grove and The Senator’s popular border collie staff, Natty Boh
and Nipper.

The evening will feature two free celebratory screenings of a rare 1977 British
I.B. Technicolor print of “Star Wars: A New Hope” from a private collection.
Free screenings of the two hour feature will be at 4:30 pm and 8:00 pm. Doors
open at 4:00 pm for the 4:30 show.

“We wanted to do something really special for the last film to be shown at
The Senator, to honor Tom Kiefaber and his family, as well as The Senator’s
long term staff,” said FOTS President Tom Harris, who has camped on the
sidewalk at The Senator for past Star Wars midnight openings with his family.
“A film collector approached us about this rare original release print of Star
Wars, and the film is such a touchstone for so many of us, we went for it.”

“This is where I came in,” said Tom Kiefaber, in reference to Star Wars in 1977.
“I grew up in The Senator, and I officially joined the family business in 1977, just
as Star Wars was about to change the film industry forever. The saying ‘this
is where I came in’ comes from my youth, when the theatres ran short subjects,
newsreels, and features continuously. We would often arrive in the middle of a
show and stay until it was starting the repeat, noting this is where I came in.”
Also popular in those days were the weekly “cliffhanger” serials where a
young George Lucas found inspiration for “Star Wars.”

“With The Senator going dark for an indefinite time, we all feel a great
disturbance in the Force,” said FOTS Managing Director Laura Perkins.
“Kathleen Cusack from the new management team predicts The Senator may
only stay dark a few days, and we hope the Cusack team understands
the importance of the theatre to this community and reopens The Senator as
quickly as possible.”

“We have many concerns about what’s in store for The Senator, particularly
plans to demolish original features that define the character of the building’s
interior,” noted Kiefaber, “but we have no choice but to accept as graciously
as possible that the force is with them.”

* * *