Rotunda theater on shaky turf

Sister cinema to Senator posts warning of closing

March 19, 2009|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

Three days into life without the Senator Theatre, the fate of its sister movie house, Hampden's Rotunda Cinematheque, remains unsettled.

The twin-screen Rotunda, operated by Senator owner Tom Kiefaber in the Rotunda mall on 40th Street since December 2002, is still showing movies. But the same notice posted Monday on the Internet that announced the Senator's closing said that the Rotunda would soon follow suit. Sean Brescia, who has been working with Kiefaber and others to try to preserve the Senator, said yesterday that he expects the Rotunda to close soon, "within the next couple of weeks, for sure."

An official with the mall's owner, New Jersey-based Hekemian & Co., said Kiefaber has not notified them of any plan to close the Cinematheque. Kiefaber leases the theater space from Hekemian.

"We have received no notification," said Chris Bell, a senior vice president of the company.

Bell said Hekemian would prefer that the space continue to be used as a movie theater and has no plans for what might happen should Kiefaber cease operations.

"There's nobody that we're talking to, in any kind of detail," Bell said. "We love the use, and we like having the theater operating."

Charles Theatre owner James "Buzz" Cusack, who has said he intends to bid on the Senator should it go to foreclosure auction, said his plans do not include operating the Rotunda.

"I'm not thinking about it," he said.

Sheldon Pearlman, owner of Amazing Spiral comics in the Rotunda mall, says merchants there do not want to see the movie theater go dark for long. The Cinematheque and a Giant supermarket serve as the mall's anchor businesses.

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