More silver screens Senator Theater: City gives $40,000 in support of York Road movie house expansion.

September 13, 1997

THE SENATOR THEATER is an odd relic in today's world of multiplex cinemas. It is the highest-grossing single-screen theater in Maryland, drawing about 160,000 patrons a year to its 1939 Art Deco edifice on York Road. But what is so successful today might turn out to be an economic white elephant as tastes and habits change.

With a $40,000 boost from the city, the Senator is now hoping to launch its long-planned expansion. The first stage is likely to be construction of a 175-seat diner across the street from the theater. (It may recall the 1940s glory days of chrome, but will actually be brand new. The vintage diner currently on the site is destined to go to the Rhode Island Diner Museum.)

If a financing package can be worked out, two additional screens will then adjoin the current 900-seat Senator. One will be a 450-seat hall called the Ambassador, named after a Forest Park Art Deco house also designed by architect John J. Zink. The other will be a 175-seat room. It will be called the Blue Mouse, after a 1920s and 1930s Lexington Street art house.

''I've been trying to accomplish this for a decade,'' says Senator president Tom Kiefaber. ''Having an additional screen is mining where the crowd is.''

We hope that this long-delayed expansion will finally become a reality. Over the years, the Senator has become a landmark that has enriched Baltimore's film scene with outstanding features as well as gala premieres. It also has become an important economic anchor, particularly since erratic management has squandered much of the potential of the nearby Belvedere Square shopping center.

An expanded Senator Theater is a key to the commercial viability and residential stability of the York Road-Belvedere Avenue area. In an area with a paucity of quality movie houses, it is a metropolitan magnet.

Pub Date: 9/13/97

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