Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cool Mini-Documentary about the Senator Theatre

It occurs to me that, in case anyone outside of Baltimore is reading this blog, I probably haven't adequately described the Senator Theatre or why I'm so passionate about preserving it. I found a mini-documentary on YouTube by justingladden, which helps give a sense of why the theatre is so special.

Built in 1939 in the Art Deco style, the Senator is one of the most intact examples of the classic old movie palaces. It has been run by the family of current owner Tom Kiefaber for its entire existence, and it will have its 70th anniversary this year. Unlike many other theaters of similar vintage, it has never fallen into a degraded status, been closed, become a porn theater, or been used as anything other than a movie theater showing first run movies and hosting community events. It is in nearly pristine historical condition, although it could undoubtedly use a lick of paint here and there, a little restoration, and an HD digital projector of its own.

Over the years, the Senator has held fundraisers for many community non-profits, hosted educational events, and premiered many movies. The colorful painted blocks in the sidewalk in front of the theater attest to many of the special events that have been held, often with Hollywood directors and stars in attendance, and recall many of the movies that have been shown.

The theater hearkens back to the day when movie-going was really a special experience and the theaters themselves were works of art. When you enter the circular lobby with its murals and its colorful floor design, you know you've arrived at an exciting destination. In fact, after visiting many neighborhoods and homes for sale in Baltimore when I was first moving here, it was the proximity of the Senator and my first visit there to see The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton, which really told me that this particular neighborhood was uniquely interesting, as I fell in love with the Senator immediately.

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