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RickB, when I lived in Philly in the 1950’s, the Benner on Castor Avenue was my local theater.
This picture shows the second floor of the theater, accessed by two sweeping staircases on the sides of the main lobby which converged in the middle of the second floor lobby (shown on the left of the picture). The rest rooms and two smoking loges were on this level.
Good news: Charles Theater owner and daughter to run Senator Theater.
There’s hope yet!
Here’s the Sun article:
“Towson University and its radio station, WTMD-FM, has withdrawn its proposal to turn Baltimore’s historic Senator Theatre into a studio and performing arts center.
The request to withdraw the proposal came from Towson officials shortly after noon today, said Kimberly Clark, executive director of the Baltimore Development Corp., which will decide who operates the 71-year-old moviehouse. The city took over operation in July after then-owner Tom Kiefaber could not keep up with mortgage payments.
Towson officials offered no reason for withdrawing the proposal, Clark said. University officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Towson’s withdrawal leaves only one proposal left under consideration by the BDC. Charles Theatre owner James “Buzz” Cusack has proposed continuing to operate the theater as a first-run moviehouse while adding restaurants on both sides.
Clark said the BDC could make a recommendation on the theater’s future to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as early as its next board meeting, set for April 22."
Sad news: Towson University withdraws its plans for the Senator:
Happy Birthday indeed! For an old girl, you look remarkably well!
Tom went above and beyond in trying to keep the Senator afloat. I doubt that the City ownership will lead to much.
As an aside, my son’s band, JD and The Blades, were one of the three bands that closed the theater a few weeks ago.
I grew up at the corner of Frontenac and Benner in the 1950’s and each Saturday would be movie day for my pals and myself. Kids' matinees were 25 cents (evening adult admission was 75 cents).
Kids' shows were typically a few cartoons, a serial and a Western, but some Saturdays featured special all-cartoon shows. There were on-stage yo-yo demonstrations and contests sponsored by the two big yo-yo companies, Cheerio and Duncan.
My first real date was with a girl on my
named Sheila. We were both around 10 at the time and our parents let us go to the movies together – at night, yet – and we walked there and back.
Saw lots of great movies there; I especially remember the horror flicks like ‘Attack Of The Crab Monsters’ and great movies like ‘Three Coins In The Fountain’, ‘Seven Brides For Seven Brothers’ and ‘G.I. Joe’ and remember the huge lobby and the handsomely-decorated theater quite well, considering that I left Philly 50 years ago :–))
I moved to Baltimore from Philly in 1959 at the age of 14. As soon as I could drive, the Crest became one of my favorite theaters to take dates to. Saw many a James Bond movie there.
The protocol on Friday nights was to hang with the boys across the street at the Hilltop Diner (made famous by Barry Levinson) after dropping off our dates.
Saturday night was movie date night, which meant either the Crest, Uptown, Avalon or Ambassador, and then to Mandell’s & Ballew’s restaurant next to the Crest for a ‘four-by-four’ burger and fries. The doorman, Dave, made life miserable for us kids by letting us in only a few at a time while seating the adults.
Best thing about the Crest and several other theaters of the day were the smoking loges upstairs, where one could either smoke or make out during the movie :–)) A glass screen kept the smoke from the rest of the theater.
I did see a few movies there in the 1970’s, after it had been turned into a dollar house.
I remember sitting in the Ambassador with my date some time in 1961-62 and my date complained about her arm getting wet. I told her she was probably imagining it, but a few minutes later I felt a drip, too.
A few minutes later we changed seats and it probably wasn’t more than 60 seconds later that the ceiling collapsed, sending plater, wood and thousands of gallons of water right where we had been sitting!
Turned out that the water cooling tower on the roof had collapsed and caused the deluge.
But it was a beautiful building and is still there, although the plans for renovation have collapsed, too.
As of this writing (April 3, 2009) the Senator theater is about to be foreclosed on and we’re not sure whether it will be saved.
I remember the Tacony-Palmyra Drive-In being open in the mid-1950’s – in fact, I can still remember the marquee posting the Ava Gardner picture ‘The Barefoot Contessa’, which was released in 1954.
Living in NE Philly, we’d come across the bridge for a nickel!
I, too, remember the Benner, where I used to spend Saturday afternoons at the matinees and occasionally Sundays, too. Admission in the 1950’s was 25 cents for kids and 75 cents for adults. During the matinees there were often yo-yo exhibitions and contests on stage conducted by both the Duncan and Cheerio yo-yo companies.
I remember seeing some great movies at the Benner, including ‘Three Coins In The Fountain’ and ‘Seven Brides For Seven Brothers’. I remember Polly’s, too, where we’d go for a burger and shake, and especially Frank’s hobby shop right across Castor Ave from the Benner. The drug store on the corner was one of the first air-conditioned stores I can remember.
In those days I lived at the corner of Frontenac and Benner, moving there from 7th and Poplar in 1949 and remained until I moved to Baltimore in 1959. I went to Carnell and Fels Jr. High and graduated there in 1959. There was an A & P food store near Polly’s at the corner of Castor and Comly. Anyone that wants to contact me and reminisce about the greatest neighborhood in Philly can reach me, Stosh, at