BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Back in business. The beloved Senator Theatre reopens its doors after a multi-million dollar restoration. The new Senator is expected to bring new life to the North Baltimore hub of Belvedere Square.
Kai Jackson has more on the grand reopening.
It cost $3.5 million to renovate the Senator. Now the new owners are hoping to get their money's worth.
The lights were bright at the Senator Theatre on York Road. The crowd waited in the rain to get inside. On the screen was John Waters' iconic Baltimore film, Hairspray.
"You can have the top Hollywood tent-pole movies and a documentary about the divine showing in the same building," Waters said.
But the big star on this night was a renovated movie house--a remodeling that started in April of 2012 and took 16 months to complete.
"I am so glad to see it reopen and I'm thrilled to be part of this ceremony tonight," said actor Jack Leary.
The 74-year-old building was in disrepair, and with one screen, was playing to a dwindling audience. The city bought it during a foreclosure auction in 2009. Then, it was sold again in 2012. Three and a half million dollars later, the historic theater looks like new.
"It's beautiful. I mean, when you walk in, it just takes your breath away," said General Manager Andres Londono.
Artwork has been restored throughout the building and seats and curtains were replaced, giving patrons more room.
"People love to come to the Senator and this area, and it's going to be a great anchor," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
One of the most notable additions to the Senator Theatre is a major expansion--one that includes three new smaller theaters that the owners of the Senator say will allow them greater variety and more flexibility to showcase films.
Some hope the Senator's renovation is also a revitalization for the area. When it closed, nearby businesses saw sales drop up to 20 percent.
"You can bring more people back to the neighborhood. These businesses around here could use some business," said Tracy Greene.
"It's going to liven up the whole, really, three block radius here. I think it will be great for all the businesses in the area and also for the residents," said Ann Costlow, the owner of Sofi's Crepes.
Plus, more improvements are on the way. A tapas style restaurant and wine bar next to the Senator opens in six months.
"We've been waiting for it for years to open back up and get back on its feet. So now that it's finally rolling again it should be really exciting," said one person.
For this piece of Baltimore history, it's showtime once again.
Starting Friday, you can come out to the Senator and see films like Gravity, Captain Phillips and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2.
The grand reopening also benefits the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Proceeds will go toward children and teen literacy programs in Baltimore.
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