Baltimore’s Historic Senator Theatre expected to close

posted by JodarMovieFan on March 12, 2009 at 11:00 am

BALTIMORE, MD — A press release was issued today that puts the future of Baltimore’s Senator Theatre in doubt.

“We just received notice that accelerated foreclosure is proceeding, said Senator owner Tom Kiefaber.

On top of that, Baltimore City’s transition steering committee apparently given up on the non-profit proposal, even though community leaders formed The Senator Community Trust and asked to become that non-profit owner. One member of the committee said,

“We have looked at many examples for a nonprofit and not one of them exists without considerable subsidy. That is not possible in today’s environment.”

Read the press release in its entirety at Reuters.

Updates will be posted at Friends of the Senator.

Theaters in this post

Comments (9)

Maximillian Genus
Maximillian Genus on March 12, 2009 at 11:47 am

Thanks for posting this, JodarMovieFan!
I’ve added some more news links to the Friends of The Senator blog this morning that provide more information.

After reading and comparing stories, I’ve begun to wonder if the city’s stance is actually what they’re attempting to project.

The owner publicly stated some time ago he’s accepted the city’s offer to pass ownership to a non-profit. A non-profit has stepped up, but the city says it won’t work… And appears to blaming the owner?!

JodarMovieFan on March 12, 2009 at 11:54 am

They initially put up a donation link and now they’ve taken it down. Whatever happens, if there’s a last minute attempt at a non-profit reorganization, an outside party buy out, maybe even a bankruptcy filing, at least start the donations so that the place is kept open and/or maybe pay off its mortgage arrears. I wish we knew what that amount was.

Maximillian Genus
Maximillian Genus on March 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm

My impression is that, although Kiefaber has already agreed to step down, a call for donations would attract more of the “Tom’s asking for money again” backlash.

Might be a different story IF the city had accepted The Senator Community Trust’s (SCT) offer to be the non-profit owner. They would need to raise serious cash and quickly.

New story today shows the vultures are already circling… Or, have they been, but this is the first anyone’s noticed? View link

BTW, everyone is invited to Monday night’s Town Hall Meeting at the theatre, hosted by the SCT at 7pm. If you’re in the area and care what happens to the place, this may be the last chance to have your voice be heard. Elected officials have been invited… Don’t know if they’re coming though.

HowardBHaas on March 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Mr. Harris, what’s your definition of “vulture” as the article mentions those who would operate it as a movie theater?

My asking that question should not imply that I wish the theater to depart the existing owner operator’s hands.

JodarMovieFan on March 13, 2009 at 5:12 pm

I’ve read the owner has just about everything he owns tied up with this loan, including mortgaging his house. I suspect if it goes to auction, he will lose his home, too. That is too much. As far as a backlash for asking for money, what is there to lose if the end is near? Just lose your house, your home and whatever else you’ve put into the theater your whole life. Just do it. Put up the donation link and get the word out that funds are needed.

I suspect a bankruptcy filing is in order as a last minute action if nothing else comes through. Keep the circling vultures away.

Maximillian Genus
Maximillian Genus on March 16, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Mr. Haas, I define a “vulture” as anyone who awaits the failure of another in order to make a profit off the remains.

As far as continuing the theatre as a first-run movie house, I’ll say up front I’m no theatre manager, but from what I’ve heard from many and I think Mr. Kiefaber has shown is that game plan alone is a recipe for failure. I agree with him and many others that the multi-purpose entertainment/education prospect is the way to go. Live performances, recitals and movies (new & old), etc.

I hate to see Mr. Kiefaber go. Say what you may, I think the man and his staff have done a Herculean job of keeping The Senator going this long. But he did agree to a city deal in which he would hand over the keys to a non-profit, which is key in differentiating this situation from the one in early 2007.

Tonight’s Town Meeting (7pm at The Senator) may be the community’s last chance to get 1) the straight story and 2) voice their opinion on the issues. If you’re in the Baltimore area tonight, come on over and hear/see for yourself!

Maximillian Genus
Maximillian Genus on March 16, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Mr. Kiefaber has released a press release today:

So tonight’s meeting may also be our last chance to make a case to the city to save the place from the auction block.

JodarMovieFan on March 17, 2009 at 12:15 am

I got stuck in PA and couldn’t make it to the meeting. As it is just past midnight, I’m wondering if any of you attended the meeting (and are nightowls) to report as to what happened? Its a shock to me that its over but may be it not?

Maximillian Genus
Maximillian Genus on March 18, 2009 at 2:17 pm

The meeting was long and, I believe, lost focus.
Once I thought it over, there appears to be two things that must happen in order for The Senator Community Trust to still have a crack at becoming the non-profit owner & keeping the theatre off the auction block:

  1. Everyone needs to contact Maryland elected officials (federal, state & municipal) and insist they convince First Mariner to delay the foreclosure so they can raise funds to bring the mortgage current ($70k).

  2. Donations. They’ve set up their own site with a Paypal button (

From what I understand, these have to be successful for egotiations with the city to continue.

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