Last night, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway (the theater’s fancy, donor-funded full name) opened its doors to a crowd of donors and supporters for an exclusive “First Look” at its $18.2 million-dollar renovation.
From the first look, it’s clear that the Parkway is serious about establishing itself as a neighborhood mainstay. Dominating a corner on North Avenue steps from Red Emma’s and other Station North staples, the building is a stark-white monolith with news-ticker style scrolling screens. The glass-enclosed lobby is similarly modern, and a bright-pink illuminated wall is emblazoned with its Post Typography-designed logo.
Stepping inside the main theater, however, is like a portal to a different time (despite the electric-blue theater seats). Its interior is studiously unfinished, giving the impression of well-maintained ruins—I almost expected to spot one of the original 1915 patrons, dripping in finery and peering over the balcony. As John Waters put it, gesturing to the high ceilings and intricate moldings, “We’re obviously not in a mall.”
The plans for the theater are equally as grand: It will be the home of the Maryland Film Festival, as well as an integral venue for MICA and JHU’s film programs and a hub for community programming.
Befitting its grand plans, the Parkway’s rollout was not without fanfare. Speakers included the aforementioned Waters, MdFF founding director Jed Dietz, Hopkins president Ron Daniels, Andreas Dracopoulos, Co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and more, and the guest list was rife with some of Charm City’s most well-known.
If it seems like a lot of effort for a medium that might be phasing out, don’t worry—that thought has more than crossed the mind of the many people making the Parkway happen.
“Many have said that streaming would spell the demise of moviegoing as we know it,” said Daniels. “But we know that there is an undeniable magic to film. We may no longer require hundreds of theaters, but we need a few great ones.”