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Transcription of Interview - Charles Theater


Nestled on historic Charles Street is a one of a kind movie house. The name of this theater is, The Charles Theater. The Charles Theater is housed in a 108-year-old building that was originally designed to be a cable car barn. After serving four years as a cable car facility, the building became a streetcar barn, a bus barn, a library for the blind, and a Famous Ballroom. In 1939, the Times Theater opened on the site to serve as Baltimore's first all-newsreel movie house. It was in 1959, that the theater would be renamed, The Charles Theater. I spoke with Markeith Chavis about some of the history of The Charles Theater.

MC: Umm, my name is Markeith Chavis. I'm Floor Manager and Concession's Manager over at the Charles. It's been around for over 50 years and it was renovated three years ago. It was closed for two years during renovations and the reopened it. They knocked down all the walls going all the way back and they put in four theaters because it used to be just one… and that's about the history of it, I guess.
BI: Every year The Charles Theater plays a major role in the Maryland Film Festival.
MC: Every state, I think just about every state or one city in every state gets a film festival. The Philadelphia Film Festival is actually going on now. I used to work there too. The Maryland Film Festival, it's an event for about a week the theater is basically rented out or used to show movies. I think they show like sixty movies in all, different types of movies you know, shorts, small comedies, feature length films. Umm, usually they start it off with a classic, like we don't actually start the film festival; the first day of the film festival is at another theater the opening night and I don't know what they are going to show. The last year I think it was Citizen Kane; they usually show something like that in the beginning. And it's just like a large movie event; it's just a film festival.
BI: If you're lucky enough and have the resources, you may be able to show your film at The Charles Theater.
MC: Well, very rarely do we show something that is locally produced unless someone asks the owner to rent out the theater and to borrow the Projectionist or they provide their own projectionist to show it. I mean we do things like that every now and than. But when I say like, independent, it's not usually like really really small local budget. You know what I mean, we're like, the owner is very very nice and we're not too strict with that type of thing. If you approach him and it's not too busy of a time and you have enough money, you know you can pretty much rent the theater out and that's how someone would show their movie locally here, at The Charles.
BI: I asked Markeith if he could describe the theater how he saw it.

Unique! That's, I worked at another theater, the same type of movie theater, independent film theater in Philadelphia and it's a really hard line. The Charles Theater is not like that, but it works just as well, if not better because I definitely know that this theater is more successful than that one. And, you know, it's just because the environment is really laid back. The layout of the theater is unlike any other theater because actually, it used to be a train station before it was a movie theater. They just kind of built around that and didn't really change much. It's kind of eclectic, so I guess when people come here…

(Music Fades Up)

…they’re always put off by how it looks initially. It’s always like a big shock and than people just grow to love, like, how unique it is.

BI: Well, with that being said, I think I might check out a movie myself. I'm Bill Irwin reporting for BaltimoreStories.com.