Charles Theatre

1711 N. Charles Street,
Baltimore, MD 21202

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Charles Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Times Theatre opened in a pre-existing building in 1939. This art house in Baltimore was renovated in 1998 and added four new screens and stadium seating.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 3, 2007 at 8:27 am

Added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1998

Baltimore City Passenger Railway Power House and Car Barn (added 1998 – Building – #98001156)
Also known as Charles Theater;Famous Ballroom;B-3991
1711-1717 N. Charles St., Baltimore (Independent City)
Historic Significance: Event
Area of Significance: Transportation, Commerce
Period of Significance: 1875-1899, 1900-1924, 1925-1949
Owner: Private
Historic Function: Industry/Processing/Extraction, Transportation
Historic Sub-function: Energy Facility, Rail-Related
Current Function: Recreation And Culture, Vacant/Not In Use
Current Sub-function: Theater

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on February 21, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Some rivalry between the Charles Theater and the Senator Theater in 2004.

“Two Baltimore-based movie theatres at odds over distribution of the same film at the same time.

Source: Daily Record
Byline: Kara Kridler

The Charles Theatre and the Senator Theatre in Baltimore seem much alike: both opened in 1939, both are among the last independently owned theaters in the area and both would like to reap the benefits from releases that appeal to wide audiences.

Yet for many years the two theaters, located six miles from each other, have been at odds over clearance whereby one theater convinces a distributor to keep a competing theater from showing the same film at the same time.

Tom Kiefaber, owner of the Senator, deplores the practice, while James “Buzz” Cusack, owner of the five-screen Charles, has cleared movies to defend his turf.

The opening of Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” next Friday is striking up the familiar controversy between the theaters, Kiefaber said.

Cusack is clearing the Senator from showing the commentary, Kiefaber said. Cusack is able to prevent the Senator from running “Fahrenheit 9/11” because the Charles has a relationship with Los Angeles-based Lions Gate Films, the company distributing “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

A spokesperson from Lions Gate could not be reached for comment.

The Charles plays more of Lions Gate’s films than the Senator does, Kiefaber said. They have “more pull with the distributor.”

“We are regular customers of Lions Gate,” Cusack said. “They are inclined to look out for the interest of their customers.”

Kiefaber said he has received a lot of requests for “Fahrenheit 9/11” to run in his theater. In response, Kiefaber sent an e-mail to more than 7,500 of his patrons last week explaining the situation.

“The specific obstacle to our being able to exhibit Fahrenheit 9/11' is an unlikely one, our fellow independent Baltimore film institution, the Charles,” the e-mail said.

It continued: “We cannot however condone the anti-competitive tactic The Charles has employed for years to specifically block The Senator from featuring any film they exhibit. We feel it is a deplorable practice and that the time has come for it to be revealed and halted in the best interest of all concerned, in particular the discerning moviegoers of the region.”

Cusack, who said he has received numerous calls on the matter Friday, said, “If we both play the film, presumably we will get half of the business that we would have gotten if we just showed it.”

The Senator and the Charles really have two very different situations, Cusack continued.

The Senator has a 900-seat theater, which is difficult to operate because it is a single-screen theater, Cusack said. “There are only three or four movies a year that work for that theater and the rest of the time they are struggling to get people in the door.”

The Charles, on the other hand, typically plays smaller movies that do not generate large revenues, Cusack added. “Occasionally, when we get a larger movie like "Fahrenheit 9/11,” it is very important for us to take advantage of it."

Larger movies do not come frequently to the Charles, Cusack added. “But, when they do come, it is not good for us to share them with the Senator.

“While sharing seems like it would have an appeal, it’s clearly in [Kiefaber’s] interest, not in ours,” he added.

Still, Kiefaber claims that any economic detriment the Charles may face by “sharing” movies could be overcome “by working collectively to increase mutual audiences.”

“Any short-term gains of blocking us gets in the way of the larger issue, which is to support and promote each other” as independently owned theaters, Kiefaber said.

Kiefaber faced a similar problem with the former General Cinemas in Towson. The multiplex theater “cleared” him for 12 years, until the theater was bought by AMC Theaters, which has refrained from clearing the Senator from movies.

“My greatest concern is that by airing this issue it may be misconstrued as some form of attack against the Charles, which is the furthest thing from the truth,” he said. “I have always been supportive of the Charles. I just want to occasionally play the films that the Charles plays”.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on May 5, 2007 at 6:13 am

Here is a 2007 close-up view of the Charles Theater.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 2, 2007 at 11:46 am

This is a 1996 article about the Charles Theater. A small photo of the Times Theater is included.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 15, 2008 at 12:06 pm

More photos can be seen here.

randytheicon on June 12, 2009 at 5:55 pm

If I recall from Headley’s “Exit,” the Times was originally booked to show newsreels exclusively (hence the name “Times”).

Throughout the 1980s, the manager/director of the Charles was Pat Moran, who also played in John Waters' pictures and is now a well-respected Hollywood casting director. Moran’s projectionist, the late Garey Lambert, was one of the best in his field.

randytheicon on June 12, 2009 at 6:27 pm

I don’t remember the Charles in “Cecil”. The theatres used were the Senator, Hippodrome (pre-restoration), and Beltway Movies 6 (the theatre the “guerillas” raid about halfway through). The alley used to access the Hippodrome was actually Davis St., which runs between Calvert St. & Guilford Ave. around Saratoga St.

CSWalczak on December 2, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Here’s an historical article with pictures about the Charles from the Archives of the University of Baltimore: View link

Iamcurious on July 6, 2011 at 12:49 pm

The Charles address is originally given as 1717 N. Charles St. when it was called The Times and where it continued as the single screen Charles Theater. The current incarnation of The Charles Theater does in fact list it’s official address as 1711 N. Charles since it’s 1999 renovation. The buildings it is housed in are designated 1711-1717 N Charles. It is worth noting that the newer side of the Charles Theater was formerly the Famous Ballroom which played host to many of the Left Bank Jazz Society’s most legendary shows between late 1966 and the early 1980’s. Below is a partial list of some of the many shows that took place there. I think you’ll recognize some heavy hitters in the list:

12-4-66 HERBIE HANCOCK, piano; RON CARTER, bass; WAYNE SHORTER, tenor sax; FREDDIE HUBBARD, trumpet; JACK DEJOHNETTE, drums (Famous Ballroom)

12-11-66 PEPPER ADAMS, baritone sax; FRANK FOSTER, tenor sax; BOBBY TIMMONS, piaon; FREDDIE WAITS, drums; CECIL McBEE, bass (Famous Ballroom)

12-18-66 JACKIE McLEAN, alto sax; SCOTTY HART, bass; LAMONT JOHNSON, piano; BILLY HIGGINS, drums (Famous Ballroom)

12-25-66 Christmas Holiday

1-1-67 New Year’s Holiday

1-8-67 No Concert

1-15-67 No Concert

1-22-67 No Concert

1-29-67 SONNY STITT, electric varitone, alto and tenor sax; DON PATTERSON, organ; BILLY JAMES, drums (Famous Ballroom)

2-5-67 COLEMAN HAWKINS, tenor saxophone; MAJOR HOLLEY, bass; OLIVER JACKSON, drums; BARRY HARRIS, piano (Famous Ballroom)

2-12-67 AL COHN, tenor sax; ZOOT SIMS, tenor sax; DAVE FRISHBERG, piano; VICTOR SPROLES, bass; STEVE SCHAEFFER, drums

2-19-67 LOU DONALDSON, alto sax; TOMMY TURRNETINE, trumpet; PECK MORRISON, bass; WALTER DAVIS JR., piano; LEO MORRIS, drums

2-26-67 WALTER BISHOP JR., piano; HAROLD VICK tenor & soprano sax & flute; DICK “TINY” BERK, drums; REGGIE JOHNSON, bass

3-5-67 BILLY HIGGINS, drums; WALTER BOOKER, bass; DAVE HUBBARD, tenor sax; CLAUDE HUBBARD, piano

3-12-67 BOOKER ERVIN, tenor sax; LENNIE McBROWNE, drums; HORACE PARLAN, piano; JAN ARNETT, bass


3-36-67 JIMMY HEATH, tenor sax; HANK MOBLEY, tenor sax; MICKEY ROKER, drums; CEDER WALTON, piano


4-16-67 YUSEF LATEEF, misc.; CECIL McBEE, bass; HUGH LAWSON, piano; ROY BROOKS, drums

4-23-67 FREDDIE HUBBARD, trumpet; BENNY MAUPIN, tenor sax; RONNY MATTHEWS, piano; HERBIE LEWIS, bass; FREDDIE WAITS, drums

4-3-67 MILT JACKSON, vibes; JIMMY HEATH, tenor sax; CEDAR WALTON, piano; MICKEY ROKER, drums; WALTER BOOKER, bass

5-7-67 JOHN COLTRANE, tenor sax & soprano sax; PHAROH SAUNDERS, tenor sax; ALICE COLTRANE, piano; DONALD GARRETT, bass; RASHID ALI, drums

Source: originally transcribed from the Left Bank Jazz Society 1970 Yearbook.

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