Remember when seeing the latest feature film was as easy as walking down the street? There was the Avalon in Park Heights, the Vilma near Clifton Park, the Boulevard in Waverly. . . . In fact, in 1962, there were 150 movie theaters in Baltimore City. Now there are five. The one-screen theaters simply couldn’t compete with the multiplexes.
But that is starting to change. “I think we’re going back to the way things used to be,” says Ira Miller, pictured, who is reopening Pikes Theatre in Pikesville this month. “People don’t want to travel as much, and now they want to support their local neighborhood.”
Pikes was a popular neighborhood theater from 1938-1984, and Miller, with 45 years in the movie business, is opening it back up with two 100-seat theaters that will play first-run and independent films. There will also be a new restaurant in the back, Pikesville Cinema Bar and Grill. “So many people have childhood memories of going to Pikes,” Miller says. “And they’re so excited that the theater will open again.”
Along with Pikes, Miller owns the Rotunda, which underwent extensive renovations after he bought it in 2009. Now the theater has a total of four screens, an added coffee shop, and apartments and restaurants opening soon. Additionally, James “Buzz” Cusack, owner of The Charles Theater and The Senator, said that the beloved Govans theater, with four theaters and a restaurant, will reopen this month. “Baltimore is resurging,” Cusack says. “There are constantly new things going on.”
One of those new things is the MFF Parkway in Station North, a project of Maryland Film Festival director Jed Dietz. The original theater was abandoned in 1978, and Dietz is hoping to reopen it in fall 2015 with three theaters showing independent movies. “Currently, this town is severely under-screened,” Dietz says. “But we’re finally starting to be in better shape.”