I’m in love with a movie theater. It’s true. My first real memory of The Charles was long before it became the multi-screen theater it is today.
One summer day in the early 80’s my brother, one of my best friends Brendan, and I walked down from Charles Village and bought tickets to see The Exorcist. It all felt like a huge adventure. I remember there being lots of laughter and silliness on the way. I don’t know how old I was, but none of us was old enough to be seeing an R rated movie that much I know. I was in middle school perhaps, 7th grade possibly. But being a voracious reader I had picked up a copy of the book at the second hand store and devoured it. I was now determined to see the movie.
Back then The Charles was a revival house theater bringing back older films to the big screen. I remember the seats in the big theater being a plush red velvet material and they had the springy seats that closed up when someone wasn’t sitting in them. I recall almost leaping out of mine when at a particularly scary moment in the film Brendan reached over and squeezed my knee, whispering “Boo!.” I was enthralled with the theater, the movie, and the entire experience.
The Charles has always remained my favorite place to see a movie over the years. I enjoy watching a film in any of the newer stadium seating screening rooms, but am secretly thrilled when the movie I am going to see turns out to be in the big old theater. I of course appreciate the beauty of the recently auctioned off Senator and I think back nostalgically and fondly on the long gone Boulevard on Greenmount (saw many a Disney flick and RoboCop there) and The Playhouse on 25th (I remember sneaking in to see a James Bond movie there). All fine theaters. But no other movie theater has ever been able to hold a candle for me to The Charles. Whenever I walk through the doors I just feel home.
I am so relieved that the 1999 transformation of The Charles into a multi-screen breathed new life into the awesome theater. In fact I think it deserves a good chunk of the credit for turning the seen-better-days surrounding neighborhood into the happening hot spot it is now becoming. Theater patrons need places to eat and have drinks and the surrounding businesses are starting to flourish.
The building is still beautiful, the staff is still just the right mix of smart arty and friendly, and the mix of film choices rivaled is by none. You can catch a revival, scope out a new indy, or catch one of mainstreams best all in the same place. Plus you can make a night of it without even leaving the block. Grab a glass of the best sangria in Baltimore and some happy tummy nibbles at the attached Tapas Teatro . Or pop across the street to the unbeatable Club Charles for a couple of drinks and atmosphere that oozes out of the walls. On your way to your movie you can even stop and grab a delicious made-hot-while-you-watch-and-wait crepe to take with you from Sofi’s Crepes. Venture up to the next block and there are places to grab coffee or listen to live music.
Yes indeed, it’s true. I am in love with The Charles.
[Click on photos for larger versions.]