Financial Strain Drops The Curtain On Little Theatre

3 CENTS WORTH

October 02, 1991|By Russ Mullaly

I'm sorry to see the closing of the Little Theatre on the Corner in Ellicott City, especially so soon after Talbott Lumber shut its doors. It's sad when a Main Street business closes for good. And it's particularly sad to see the theater vacant in the year of its 50th anniversary.

I think it would be a great idea for the theater to go backto a format it had in the late '60s and early '70s. That is, showingsecond-run or classic films, and perhaps foreign films as well.

Yeah, I know, cable television does that sort of thing. But thereare those who like the theater setting and don't want to spend $20 dollars a month more on their cable bill just to see one film worth watching. It's worth a thought. I bet the eateries on Main Street wouldwelcome the idea to pick up the hungry after-movie crowd or, for that matter, the before-movie diners. And the parking couldn't be more convenient, with the parking lot behind the post office a short walk away.

As a kid back in the '50s, I remember going to Saturday showsat the Ellicott -- that was its name back then; only the "E" remainson the marquee today -- and seeing the usual fare of westerns. In later days, four-legged residents -- mice or rats -- could sometimes beheard scurrying around the aisles during the movie in search of popcorn or other dropped treats.

The Ellicott showed second-run films and some cult-type classics at the reasonable price of around $1, I recall. I remember seeing "Woodstock," "Easy Rider" and other films ofthe '60s era, a few years after their original release.

Then camethe night club Superstar, which opened in the theater in the early '70s and featured dancing, light shows and a state-of-the-art sound system. Some nearby residents didn't appreciate the sometimes-rowdy behavior of the club's patrons.

During that period a "movie-style" burglary was committed at the theater. On March 19, 1974, some $17,000 worth of sound equipment belonging to the night club was stolen from the theater basement. This was not an ordinary burglary by any means.

Police found that a large hole had been made in the basement wallby suspects who entered the theater via the Tiber River, which runs under many Main Street buildings. The equipment was removed through the hole, then lowered to the river to a raft or rowboat, and floated to a point where it was unloaded and taken away.

The culprits werearrested six months later. Two were from Columbia and one was arrested in New York.

In 1982, the theater became the home of Onstage Productions, housing a non-profit children's theater group operated by Betty May. It became known as The Little Theatre on the Corner, and held performances until August of this year. Leading to the demise of the theater was the doubling of the rent in July 1990, along with a 50 percent drop in corporate and foundation donations because of the recession, said James Mayer, president of Onstage Productions.

One wonders what plans the owners have in mind. I hope it can continue someday as a theater, movie or otherwise.

On a brighter note, Main Street is sporting two new businesses. The Manhattan Hot Dog Place, and Grinders, a pizza and sub shop, both offer eats at reasonable prices for the Main Street area. They're a welcome addition.

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