Saving the Senator

December 20, 2009|By Michael Sragow

The battle to keep Baltimore's single-screen movie showplace, the Senator Theatre, up and running, was rarely out of the news - and that's to be expected when the fate of any city landmark hangs in the balance. But in this age of impersonal megaplexes, the impassioned debate over the Senator's future, which came to a head when the city took ownership in July, reveals how much loyalty an individual cinema can earn when it's run with affection for movies and respect for audiences.

Under Tom Kiefaber's stewardship, the Senator was a place where moviegoers could expect expert presentation.

The city is now considering a handful of proposals for the theater's future. Movie exhibition is at least a part of all of them. Kiefaber prefers the Towson University-sponsored WTMD-FM bid to transform the site into a base for the radio station and an eclectic education and performance platform. The other credible plans include one from the owner of the Charles, James "Buzz" Cusack, to continue booking the Senator as a first-run theater, enhanced by a crepes shop and restaurant like those that flank the Charles.

The hope is that the Senator can retain its touch of class and its anchor value to the neighborhood as it heads into a vital eighth decade.

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