Flickering Treasures

Baltimore's once-grand movie houses have assumed new identities, though traces of cinematic glory remain

January 20, 2008|By TEXT BY CHRIS KALTENBACH | TEXT BY CHRIS KALTENBACH,Sun Reporter

With the addition of just one new movie house - November's opening of the Landmark Theatres in Harbor East - the number of Baltimore theaters skyrocketed by a whopping 33 percent.

How times have changed. Over the past century, Baltimore has had more than 100 movie houses, from the palatial - the Grand, the Metropolitan, the Northwood, the Patterson - to the neighborly - the Blue Bell, the Community, the Plaza.

But beginning in the 1960s, theaters began flocking to the suburbs. Parking was easier; the huge movie palaces of the silent era became too expensive to maintain; neighborhoods became places to move away from, rather than grow up in.

Today, those theaters are gone, but many of the buildings remain - ghosts of a city's cinematic past. Some, such as Fayette Street's Town or Howard Street's Mayfair, have been promised rehabilitation. Others, such as West Baltimore's Fulton, have all but fallen down. Some have been put to other uses; the transformation of York Road's X-rated Rex into a church is one of the more ironic examples.

What follows are portraits of the cinemas of yesterday, in whatever state we find them today.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

Historical information provided by Motion Picture Exhibition in Baltimore: An Illustrated History and Directory of Theatres, 1895-2004, by Robert K. Headley (McFarland & Co., 2006)

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