By Jamie McCoy
The beloved Senator Theatre was put up for auction last Wednesday, causing a great deal of anticipation among its loyal patrons. This issue has been followed closely by many Baltimore residents who have grown up with the theatre, or have simply fallen for the charm of the unique and historic feel of the place.
These people were hoping to feel a sense of closure in knowing that the theatre would be in caring and capable hands, but they were sorely disappointed. Although representatives from Loyola College and Buzz Cusack of the Charles Theater had each discussed making bids for the Senator, neither did. One bid of $800,000 was made, but then the city decided to retain the theatre for $810,000.
Many people in the crowd complained loudly during the proceedings, shouting that people couldn’t hear and that the auction was rigged. Several of the audience members were upset that the auction was held outside, when it had previously been agreed upon to hold it in the auditorium, with air conditioning, seating, and most importantly, a microphone. The traffic noise was admittedly quite distracting. The auctioneer explained, however, that it is in fact traditional to hold auctions outside, and that they are most frequently held in front of the courthouse.
The proceedings were very upsetting to some of the audience members. Gayle Grover broke down in tears when the bid went back to the city. She has been one of the Senator’s most dedicated followers. She attended the theatre as a child, and began working there 17 years ago. Since March, she has been one of a dozen or so volunteers that have helped to keep the theatre running. She showed up in a red cape, her costume highlighting her opinion that the auction was a “freak show.”
Kathleen and Tom Harris were also in attendance. They have been volunteering with their children since March as well. Tom explained that his kids “couldn’t bring themselves to come to the auction.” The whole family, living in Woodlawn, is attached to this theatre, especially Tom. “It’s not just a movie theatre,” he explains. “It’s a piece of arts and culture in the neighborhood. I’ve been coming here since the mid-80’s. I’ve slept on the sidewalk waiting for the Star Wars films. It’s the coolest place to come.”
This theatre, home of “good ol’ theater nuts” and self-proclaimed movie geeks has seen both marriage proposals and weddings, and now it has seen a great deal of distress. As people anxiously await the results of the ratification process which will determine the ownership and future of the theatre, volunteers will still be donating their time to keep the theatre running.
“I just hope it doesn’t turn out like the Mayfair,” says Harris. It’s been owned by the city for 20 years, and now has its roof resting on the floor.”