Former Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber made a scene at a city council meeting last night. He walked to the front of the room, cut off speakers, sat in front of them, and generally misbehaved. All this because he is basically still upset that the city bought the theatre out from under him two years ago.
This is the latest event in the long story of the theater’s battle to stay afloat. The historic landmark (as it was officially dubbed in last night’s meeting) is beloved by people all over the city, including myself. But poor management decisions have kept the place from being the success it should be. To put it bluntly, Keifaber never deserved to run the Senator; he never did anything interesting with it. If the the theater’s new management wants to finally stop talking about this place and help it achieve its ambitious destiny, then they need to incorporate a few changes into the program. Here are my top three recommendations:
1. Play the trailers, like every other theater – I realize men may disagree with me on this one, but the main thing that always bothered me about the Senator is that they never played previews. The movie just begins at exactly the scheduled time. So if you arrive a little late, as many moviegoers do, you’ve missed a chunk of the film. Previews are fun, I enjoy watching and always regret missing them whenever I catch a movie at the Senator.
2. Play more than one movie at a time – I know the theater has one screen, but that doesn’t have to prevent it from playing two movies at different times throughout the day. Typically, the theater will choose to play a major film and run it and it alone for two weeks. It’s not surprising the Senator has had financial trouble when two films equal a full month’s menu. This one is really a no-brainer–if they play more movies and switch the lineup more often than twice a month, more people will come. What they really should do is add more screens which may be in the cards. But until then, they should run more than one film per half month.
3. Choose different movies – The Senator model is not suited to compete with multiplexes like those in Hunt Valley and White Marsh. Because of their size and location in major shopping centers, those theaters will always attract a younger crowd pulled see the latest blockbusters. The Senator can embrace its image as a historic place by regularly showing historic, classic movies. The theater already has a great tradition of playing It’s a Wonderful Life around the holiday season, but I think they should also play great movies of the 70s, 80s, and 90s on a weekly basis. The modern movies they choose should rely less on large-budget events–they should aim to play more movies that are attractive to older patrons. People who go to the Senator are generally older anyway, they would rather see The Bucket List than Twilight. The Senator people should know their audience and play to them.
What do you think? What might the Senator do to finally become an independent success story?