National Building Museum to showcase longtime Sun photographer’s shots of Baltimore movie theaters

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The inside of the Senator Theater on York Road in 2014. Photo by Amy Davis, used with permission.

In an interview with Baltimore magazine last year, longtime Baltimore Sun staff photographer Amy Davis reflected on her past decade spent cataloging the city’s few current and many, many former movie theaters: “I was astonished to learn that, at one point, more than 120 theaters existed in the city. Even native Baltimoreans aren’t aware of the former theaters that they pass by on a daily basis.”

Davis was speaking on the work that went into her recently published photography book, “Flickering Treasures,” spotlighting 72 theaters around the city. Nearly all of them are shuttered and either replaced or in ruins, as befell the Mayfair on downtown’s Westside or the Royal in Upton. A handful have survived as salvaged and restored cinemas, most popularly the Senator near Belvedere Square or The Parkway in Station North.

Beginning next month, the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. will showcase some of Davis’ shots in a nearly year-long exhibition of the same name, “Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters.” The show will put more than 70 framed photos by Davis alongside relics of Baltimore’s cinema heyday, including building fragments, memorabilia and written stories and biographies on display.

The show promises a walk-through of the history behind Baltimore’s movie theaters, from the city’s first screenings of projected pictures at the 25-acre Electric Park at Reisterstown Road and Belvedere Avenue, up to the golden age where a moviegoer had their pick of the litter for places to catch a movie—many of them downtown—right up to their decline and more recent re-purposing as churches, or, in glorious cases like that of the Hippodrome, world-class live entertainment.

By pairing Davis’ colorful photos with black-and-whites, a release says, the exhibition aims “to illustrate the passage of time and reveal poignant echoes of theaters’ former glory.” And with the other memorabilia and stories on display, including from some of the architects who built those spaces, one can see “the lasting effects of racial segregation, suburbanization, and technological change on the movie-going experience,” the museum says.

“Flickering Treasures” will run from Nov. 17 through Oct. 14, 2019, at the National Building Museum, which sits just east of the Capitol One Arena in downtown D.C.

Ethan McLeod
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