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March 12, 2009

Senator Theatre is up for auction (again)

senator theatre baltimoreDid you see the piece in today's paper?

The historic theater could be up for auction (again) and possibly sold next month.

Well, if you have an opinion about it, feel free to share it with me.

People are very vocal when it comes to the Senator, and I'm happy to provide a forum where you can share your thoughts on the matter.

Unfortunately, as someone who has covered this particular topic (and could cover it again in the future), I'm unable to tell you how I feel about it. So the best I can do is ask how you feel about it.

(Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:41 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Random stuff


The owner does not exactly have a huge fan club in this city. If he had treated people better in the past, more people would be willing to help him. Tragic either way though...

Hot Damn first to comment, first off I think Tom Kiefaber is an idiot. He has The Senator by birthright and can't figure out how to make it profitable? It is purely due to his ego and incompetence that he can't make a profit. I hope it does get auctioned so that someone with new ideas and plan can purchase it and actually make the place work. It's not like someone is going to turn it into condos. It is an historic landmark and will always be a movie theater. Bring on the progress!

Tom Kiefaber is an idiot. He has The Senator by birthright and can't figure out how to make it profitable? It is purely due to his ego and incompetence that he can't make a profit. I hope it does get auctioned so that someone with new ideas and plan can purchase it and actually make the place work. It's not like someone is going to turn it into condos. It is an historic landmark and will always be a movie theater

Nice to see learned folks jumping right in, guns blazing... And shooting blanks.

For those who missed (or have chosen to ignore) it, the owner (Tom Kiefaber) publicly announced some time ago that he's accepted the city's offer which requires he hand ownership over to a non-profit. So this is no longer about him.

The real issue here, kids, is that it appears the CITY OFFICIALS are now renegging on the deal even though a non-profit (The Senator Community Trust - made up of local community leaders) has stepped forward to accept ownership.

Oh, and the last time I checked there's nothing in place to keep the interior of the building from being completely redone. Outside yes, inside no... How about a pet salon?... Or why not a Slots Parlor so the state can get a cut?

Beautiful theater, and a decent location. Unfortunately, I think the fact that it can only show one movie at any given time is always going to keep it from being profitable solely as a movie theater. It was a losing proposition when multiplexes started popping up, and it became even worse with the advent of extremely high quality video and audio available in your own home.

I would like to see it turned into a concert venue. From what I've heard there have already been a few successful shows there. Live music isn't something that can be easily replicated at home. Get a liquor license and a good sound system and you might actually have a money maker. It would be a nice alternative to the Recher for a mid-sized non-downtown venue.

Smash of issues. Old business plan (one theater can't make the money multiplexes can) plus Tom Kiefaber's ability to rub literally everybody he deals with on a business level the wrong way has led to this ending.

Would like to see someone like the Charles owners take it over as a sattelite theater. Would love to see live music there, but unless it's already zoned for that I imagine that would be a hell of a battle vis a vis the local neighborhood.

I likwe the concert venue idea. I saw Laurie Anderson there several years ago and it was great.

Yes, they've held concerts there. Most recently a weekend full of them. They've also hosted several community-based simulcasts (inauguration & superbowl) & free screenings of classic holida movies, all while taking in canned goods for the neighborhood charity. Just this week the TV media finally caught on that they've been hosting educational programs (Ace That Assessment 'edu-tainment') for local school children. All prime examples (and just the tip of the iceberg) of what a non-profit community ownership could do with the place.
Check out for plenty of ideas. They help places like this.
Oh, BTW, I was being sarcastic about the pet salon & the slots parlor... But I wouldn't be surprised, nonetheless.

About every two years, Tom asks for donations and suggestions. He always takes the donations but not the suggestions.

I love the place but I'm done with it until it's under new ownership and management.

The liquor license, live music and cafe will keep it afloat if they can pull it off. In my opinion.

(btw saw Watchmen there on Sunday and the sound system is GD amazing to the xxxxtreme)

No doubt it is difficult for a single big screen movie theatre like The Senator to compete with the multiplexes financially and in quality. Sadly, financially the multiplexes win, in quality, The Senator is the best.

You just can't beat the old world decor and GIANT screen of the Senator. And the sound system is great too! They already have a stage and yes, have hosted music events and various live performances. They have been selling beer and wine on occasion as well. There are even more plans and schematics drawn up to improve on the stage, add a larger balcony area with tables to further add to the full service entertainment options at The Senator. If anyone on here has been to The Senator in the last year or so and has a clue, you may have seen the plans that were on display, or have seen the stage, or live performances. For the rest of you that don't have a clue, please state that fact before posting your false claims and slander.

This theatre has done so much for the community. It has raised tones of food for the hungry and homeless. It has been used to show special events often free (like the recent inauguration). It is used by local filmmakers to showcase their work. It has been used by local schools for educational purposes. I am not even a part of The Senator’s community but I think it would be a tragedy to shut The Senator down and loose all of this history and benefits it provides. I make the two hour round trip drive from Pennsylvania every chance I get to visit The Senator. There is just NOTHING like it!

Oh, and another thing. When I go to the multiplexes, I just feel like part of the herd of cattle. When I go to The Senator, all of the staff is so friendly, courteous, and helpful. The theatre is always very well cleaned, unlike the super rush clean job given to most multiplexes before the next herd is let through the gates.
And there is nothing like The Senator's real buttered popcorn!!!
I remember during one of the Star Wars ticket lines, it was so cold outside Tom even opened up the doors and let everyone inside to keep warm until morning. So a big thanks to Tom and The Senator staff for all of their hard work.
I sincerely hope they can continue to provide for the community.

Tom Kiefaber is an idiot? A bad business person? Egotistic? And my personal favorite, "He has The Senator by birthright." First of all, some people need to do their research. Tom Kiefaber PURCHASED The Senator Theatre and has owned and operated it for the past 20 years. The Senator has raised millions of dollars in charitable donations for many organizations... And who was the man behind that? Tom Kiefaber, winner of the 2003 Business Leadership Award...

It is very unfortunate that Tom will no longer be the owner of The Senator regardless of the outcome; however, he is making certain that the theatre is in the proper hands. It is infuriating to know how misinformed people can pass judgements without being properly informed. Perhaps these people need to attend The Senator's town hall meeting scheduled for next Monday at 7pm.

Let's add one more. Tom Kiefaber is a [bad word]!

I applaud you MD for that brilliant argument. Perhaps you should attend the town hall meeting and argue with "Let's add one more. Tom Kiefaber is a [bad word]!"

spec, I don't know the man, but based on the information at hand, I question Keifaber's ability to run the business.

Since I've lived here, there's always been some reason why the Senator wasn't successful, and it was always someone else's fault. For a while it was Towson Commons blocking him from getting hit movies, which stopped being an issue when AMC declared bankruptcy a few years back. Then it was The Charles blocking him from getting movies, a problem which was supposed to be ameliorated when the Landmark theaters opened. For a long time it was because he only had one screen. The solution for that was supposed to be the Rotunda. Now it's because of the bad economy. The only problem with that rationale is movies are generating record revenue in this horrible economy. When I was there a few weeks ago, the line at the door was so long that the movie started late.

It seems to me that the problem, like most of the problems in the current economy, is too much debt. Hopefully someone with deeper pockets and a more likeable persona will buy the place at auction for a lower price and keep it running. Raising a lot of money for charity is very admirable, but it doesn't make a person a good businessman. I wonder how much taxpayers will be on the hook for, since the city guaranteed the loan from the most-recent bailout.

The owner is a first class jerk. I'm glad to see that I am not the only one he treated with disrespect. I also don't have any respect for a movie theater that sells stale popcorn dumped into bins from huge pastic bags. It's a part of the movie experience. I stopped going there years ago because of the obnoxious owner and bad popcorn. There used to be a really annoying recorded lecture by the owner before every screening.

We all love The Senator. How could you not? But Tom Kiefaber unfortunately does not know how to make this place work. How many times has their been some bailout, handout or fundraiser for this theater? Is anyone counting? It seems as though you could practically design a calendar around it as it happens so regularly. It's time for nature to take its course and take this theater away from incompetent management already. Someone else could make this place work the way it should. If someone tries to tear it down then the City and community should step in, not now when for the umpteenth time we're being shaken down to finance this place's fiscally incompetent ownership.

i would like to say that this theater in the pic above it very nice i know the feeling of owning one we own the colonial theater in down town tarboro north carolina except our theater was destroyed by the flood we had in 1999 and we are just now getting back to it we have spent a lot of time in the restoration of this and have spent over 1 million dollars on it already and were not even half way through but we have the funding to get it done so hopefully there will be another historic theater back up and running

mini millionair,
OK, slow down and take a breath:-)

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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