If Charles closes, others have new role

November 18, 1993|By Stephen Hunter

If the Charles goes under, where will Baltimore filmgoers turn for art film?

The answers aren't encouraging.

Certainly the bigger films will achieve commercial release in mainstream venues. The independently owned Senator (on York Road) and the Loew's Rotunda (near Roland Park) will probably consolidate their positions as the major players in attempts to get the Robert Altman and James Ivory films of the '90s. The Westview complex, in Baltimore County on Route 40 West, has evinced interest in specialty films; maybe it will become a player.

But what about the smaller art film by the new young American or French director, the sort of movie that could slip into the Charles for a weekend and draw young people who want to stay in touch with film culture? That responsibility will shift almost entirely to the Baltimore Film Forum, which, according to its executive director, Vicky Westover, will re-examine its format to meet the new situation. Additionally, the Forum's April Film Festival will certainly acquire new status, offering a glut of films the likes of which rarely get into town.

Meanwhile, a proposal has been made by the owner of the Senator, Tom Keifaber, and Ms. Westover to turn the Pikes Theater on Reisterstown Road into an art house of exactly the sort the Charles has been. But that possibility has been shelved by the old theater's lease holder, the Greater Baltimore Community Arts Foundation.

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