Construction on the historic Senator Theatre
could begin the end of this month or early September now that it has the city's go ahead, says Kathleen Cusack, a co-leasee of the property with her father, Buzz Cusack.
The new Senator with its four movie screens and wine bar could open March 2013, depending on the construction schedule. The city's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation OK'd the Cusacks' plan earlier this month. The entire project is costing $3 million, of which the Cusacks are investing $1 million, and the remainder is from a commercial bank loan and city and state funding.
The Cusacks are now in the process of restoring the main lobby. The original wood paneling and mural are under restoration and professional artists have been hired to do the work, she says. Cusack says the restored theater and its additions will open together, and not in phases.
The Senator Theatre occupies about 65 percent of its lot, leaving a small area for parking in the rear. Cusack says they are expanding the theater by “filling in the corners” of the lot with the construction of the three new theaters and the wine bar.
The main theater “needs a lot of work,” Cusack says. It formerly seated between 800 to 900 people, but the original seats are being replaced with seats that are larger and more comfortable and she expects its seating capacity to be 770 when the work is done.
Cusack leases The Charles Theater
, 1711 North Charles St., in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District
. But Cusack says that plans for the Senator are quite different from the Charles.
“The Charles is an art house,” says Cusack, and plays films that are often not shown in other venues in Baltimore. “The Senator has never been an art house. It has always played big Hollywood products. And, we don’t want to compete with the Charles.”
After a competitive process in which four proposals were submitted, Baltimore City last year awarded the Cusacks a 40-year lease on the property. The city bought the theater three years ago after it went into foreclosure.
One of the new auditoriums will have a seating capacity of 150; the other two auditoriums will seat between 60 to 80 people each. “It will be like any movie theater with multiple screens. The auditoriums will play national movies,” like the Senator itself, she says.
The wine bar will serve light fare and feature outdoor tables along York Road.
“Our vision is to restore the Senator as a beautiful Art Deco movie palace,” says Cusack.
Source: Kathleen Cusack, The Senator Theatre
Writer: Barbara Pash