Charles officially becomes multiplex

April 22, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Twenty-eight hours before last night's grand opening of the expanded Charles Theater, "Wet Paint" signs hung on the walls, wires dangled, drills screamed and the popcorn machine had not been installed.

By the time director John Waters and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke cut a ribbon of film at 8: 15 p.m. to celebrate the first showings on the four new screens, the 60-year-old theater had been transformed into a work of art.

"It is great to be here tonight to see the resurrection of a great Baltimore landmark," Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend told a crowd of more than 700. "Hopefully, this will lead a revitalization of the whole area."

A spotlight swept the sky. Police officers wearing white gloves guided traffic around the crowds pressing to get into the theater's packed lobby.

Inside, waiters picked up trays of champagne from an art-deco concession stand. Film fans nibbled on hors d'oeuvres and coconut macaroons. Owners John Standiford and James "Buzz" Cusack looked on from a balcony in front of a window that looks like a camera lens.

"I think this is a wonderful contribution to the cultural life of the city," said Schmoke, who saw "Star Wars" there in the 1970s.

The $1.6 million expansion of the theater at 1711 N. Charles St. is intended to help it compete against suburban multiplexes and lift an area where night life has been hurt in recent years by vagrants and vacant storefronts.

"This has been the hippest theater in the city since the 1960s," said Waters, director of such films as "Pink Flamingos" and "Pecker." "Now, with the four new screens, hopefully we will be able to see movies that play even in the most obscure theaters of New York."

Last night's celebration also kicked off the weeklong Maryland Film Festival.

The expansion added four screens and 660 seats to the 485-seat theater.

Pub Date: 4/22/99

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