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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Super Bowl and Local Bands to Rock the Senator

It looks like there are some exciting efforts coalescing around the efforts to save the historic Senator Theatre in Baltimore.

This Sunday, the Senator will be hosting an HD Digital presentation of the Super Bowl on the big screen. Come watch as the Pittsburgh Steelers battle the Arizona Cardinals!

Admission is free, but donations of non-perishable food are encouraged, because this event will serve as a food drive for the local GEDCO “Cares” food pantry.

Doors open at 5:00 PM. Kickoff is at 6:18 PM. The Senator seats 900, but based on the turnout for the inauguration event just over a week ago, you may want to get there early.

But what about the beer? Yeah, I know. Watching the Super Bowl works up a thirst, right? Don’t worry. There will be beer and wine sales to people over 21.

Hey! I just wrote my first blog about sports, and it didn’t even hurt. (OK, I admit to being not much of a sports fan personally, but I think I’ll go to this anyway.)

The next event is more like my cup of tea, really.

Starting on February 13th, there’s going to be a whole weekend of local band concerts to rock the Senator and help save it too. There’s a press release that came out yesterday, but it’s an evolving situation, and I hear the events will be much more extensive than the press release that’s on the Senator’s web site says right now.

I’m not sure it’s all set in stone, but it looks like there will be a rock concert on Friday night, the 13th, then an acoustic concert on Saturday, then a jazz concert on Sunday. Stay tuned for details, because I don’t know all of the band names or details just yet. But anyway, here’s a quote from the original press release:

BALTIMORE - Popular Baltimore-based bands The Payola Reserve, J Roddy Walston and The Business, and Wye Oak announced today their plans to hold a first-of-its kind live benefit concert to help the renowned Senator Theatre remain in operation. The concert is a timely response to actor David Arquette's recent celebrity MySpace blog highlighting the endangered status of "Baltimore's Premiere Showplace".

The Senator, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is converting to non-profit operation as an enhanced arts and entertainment facility; however the recent economic downturn and fixed overhead costs threaten to shutter the stunning art deco landmark theatre before the transition can be accomplished.

The indie band showcase, co-produced by The Payola Reserve and Manifesto Promotions, is envisioned as "a Fillmore-style rock revue with an arts twist" by promoter Sean Brescia." The concert, featuring an array of popular local bands, film
shorts and performing arts, is scheduled for Saturday, February 14, 2009. Proceeds will assist The Senator's transition into a community owned non-profit facility, offering a wide variety of live music concerts, HD simulcasts, films and special events.
I heard the rock concert is now going to be on Friday night, though, so I’m not sure that last paragraph I quoted is accurate.

As mentioned in the press release, the Senator is also getting some celebrity attention from actor David Arquette, who visited Baltimore and was really impressed by the theater. Thanks, David!

The Theatre Historical Society of America is also getting involved, writing in a letter from their president Karen Colizzi Noonan to Governor Martin O’Malley, Mayor Sheila Dixon, and city and state legislatures:

For nearly 70 years, The Senator Theatre has served Baltimore as an icon of architectural distinction, cultural excellence and civic pride; a revered and iconic neighborhood movie house whose neighborhood happens to be all of America.

When the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Main Street Center named "historic theaters nation-wide" as their top endangered element of American life, an image of The Senator's stunning facade was used as the attention-getting hallmark representing the mission to "Protect the Irreplaceable".

Truly, The Senator Theatre in Baltimore is one of the most intact and well known examples of the architecture, grandeur and elegance of Hollywood's golden era, when the theatres were themselves attractions along with the films being shown.

Today, we find ourselves at a cross roads for this magnificent, renowned structure. It either remains in day-to-day operation to evolve, or we watch it slip from our American tapestry. In the coming weeks the country will be literally watching Baltimore and the State of Maryland in relation to the precarious fate of the endangered Senator Theatre.

In 2009, The Senator now stands as the only remaining single-screen movie house in Baltimore, a former "City of Theatres", which once boasted over 150 unique movie houses that served as cultural centers and economic engines, anchoring the heart of the city's commercial and residential districts.

If The Senator's owner is not assisted in his efforts and the theatre is allowed to go dark, it will be to the detriment of Baltimore's historic fabric and economic vitality. An abrupt shutdown of the theatre must be averted, or it will quickly become a regrettable failure of vision and civic responsibility and a resounding loss to the cause of enlightened historic preservation nation-wide.

Owner Tom Kiefaber and his family have worked diligently for seven decades to protect, operate and preserve The Senator for the citizens of Baltimore. The theatre
under Kiefaber's independent stewardship and guidance is regularly honored in the national arena as a consistent, guiding light for the protection and preservation of America's remaining Main Street theatres.

Mr. Kiefaber has received numerous historic preservation awards and film industry
accolades as The Senator's devoted owner. We note that through his leadership, the community has been encouraged to become involved and helped to formulate an innovative vision for The Senator Theatre's future as the premiere, community-owned arts and entertainment venue in the region.

You can read the rest of the letter here.

For their part, the City seems to be slowly getting on board, also. My letter to Mayor Sheila Dixon received a response that said, in part “I assure you that we are committed to finding a long term solution that secures The Senator's future for generations to come.” That sure sounds like they plan to find a way to keep it open, which is encouraging.

Of course, the Senator also continues to play movies on a daily basis. Starting Friday, look for a return engagement of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which played there a couple of weeks ago and is back by popular demand.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend this movie, which has been nominated for 13 Academy Awards. I always like movies that are just a tad off-kilter from the reality with which we’re familiar, so the concept of a man who gets younger instead of older was immediately intriguing to me. Brad Pitt’s character, Benjamin Button, isn’t just a freak, though, but someone with surprisingly normal problems. Both he and Cate Blanchett are amazing in this movie.

If you enjoy being astounded by the crazy things film makers can do in terms of creating appearances, you’re going to have your jaw drop to your chest when you see the age makeup in this movie, too. You could just about swear they invented time travel just so they could film Pitt and Blanchett when they’re like 80 years old. It’s pretty wild stuff, but I bet it’s a lot more fun for us to watch than it was for them to wear.

Check the web site for times.

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