Senator Theatre

3946-3956 Minnesota Avenue NE,
Washington, DC 20019

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: K-B Theatres

Architects: John J. Zink

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Nearby Theaters

Senator Theatre

Located in northeast Washington DC, K-B Theatres opened the Senator Theatre on February 19, 1942 with 946 seats and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Suspicion”. The auditorium had large murals with classical scenes. When the Senator closed in 1989, it had 880 seats and the second-largest movie screen in Washington D.C. The largest screen for the last half of the century, is the Uptown Theatre.

The District of Columbia Historic Preservation Board recommended that the Senator Theatre be designated as an historic landmark, but facing the owners opposition, the designation excluded the auditorium. After much controversy, tragically, the auditorium was demolished in 1990, leaving only the facade and lobby building. It now stands as a large and depressing tombstone that tells of a theatre’s fate.

Contributed by Ross Melnick, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on February 13, 2003 at 5:32 am

The Senator is located at 3946-3956 Minnesota Avenue.

William on November 21, 2003 at 12:49 am

The Senator Theatre seated 946 people.

dcrick2004 on July 21, 2004 at 3:58 am

The Senator now is home to a beauty supply shop and a Subway sandwich shop. The facade is still there but the top half of the theatre was lopped off to allow for the retail stores.

rlvjr on June 4, 2005 at 8:41 pm

The SENATOR looked like a burnt-out hulk last time I drove by. This was the final operation of a movie theatre on any “urban black” neighborhood in Washington, DC. They tried hard to make this place work again, but if people can’t be safe using the rest room or even just sitting and watching, all is lost to the urban loser mentality.

rlvjr on October 27, 2005 at 7:24 pm

There’s much mis-information listed for the SENATOR. The theatre was never made into a twin, and never had the roof lopped-off —– except by arson.

rlvjr on December 3, 2005 at 5:32 pm

The SENATOR no longer looks like a burned-out hulk. The facade is still there and it houses a SUBWAY and a beauty shop. The marquis has been lopped-off. When in operation it was for the longest time a KB Chain theatre, meaning it was above-average in comfort, design and management, playing the best pictures. A few years after KB gave up, the SENATOR re-opened under black ownership/management, which tried hard to offer this upscale black neighborhhod a nice theatre, showing black-oriented movies, at slightly below regular admission prices; but to no long-term avail. The inner-city loser mentality will not allow things like theaters to function in peace. Picture this: the Minnesota Ave neighborhood is primarily large standalone houses, 3 or 4 bedrooms; a few nice apartments; several parkland areas —– but the inner-city corruption still ruins things. If persons in this neighborhood want to see a movie, the nearest functioning theater is many miles away. Too bad, really.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on July 5, 2006 at 12:14 pm

That 2004 photo does not make theatre operation seem like it would have been a realistic option.

JackCoursey on January 27, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Here and here are photos from January 2008 of what remains (façade only) of the Senator.

AliceChandler on June 19, 2008 at 4:04 pm

There is a major revitalization that the government is making for this retail area. The Great Streets project is in the process of getting developers and the local government to change much of what the Eastern portion of the city has been waiting for since the first closing of the Senator Theater. A major Metro subway/bus station (Minnesota Avenue) is within a few short blocks of the location. Several of those houses and small structures mentioned in an earlier blog are in the process of being razed for the building of a Department of Employment Services and an already completed multi-story indoor parking lot for Metro.

Alice Chandler

Breedentials on October 24, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Seven years later: there were indeed several houses, etc. removed to make way for a beautiful new apartment building, however this is on the side of Benning Rd opposite the Senator Theater. The block that the theater is on looks pretty much the same in 2015 according to Google street view Nov 2007 view. The imagery was taken in the evening and it appears that the facade of the Sentator’s upper glass bricks are illuminated from within.

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