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Historic photo of the Regent Theater.
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Flickering Treasures

Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters

In 1896, Marylanders crowded to Electric Park to see the lights and attractions, including the very first moving-picture show. Movies were magical, transporting the viewers to new places, inviting them to escape their everyday lives, marvel at a new technology, gather news, and appreciate art. Movie theaters became symbols for the worlds they were unlocking, ethereal buildings where people gathered to take a journey together through the movie screen.

Resurrecting Forgotten Movie Palaces

From the very first purpose-built movie theater on East Baltimore Street, which opened in 1905, cinema houses have been special places. However, most did not survive. Some were razed completely, while others left a barely visible vestige. A small handful of theaters have survived the decades of tumultuous history and drastic cultural shifts.

Now, in an age where streaming is king and escapes from reality happen from the comfort of a couch, a new wave has begun to resurrect the deserted, forgotten movie palaces of the early twentieth century. The Parkway Theatre, revitalized in 2017—nearly 100 years since it opened—is but one shining example.

Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters combines the contemporary photographs of Baltimore Sun photographer Amy Davis, from the book of the same name, with historic photographs and ephemera to celebrate the golden age of movie theaters and explore how they reflect our values, as well as the way we live, consume, and dream.

Photo of football youth courtesy of Amy Davis.

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Since 1844, we have collected, preserved, and interpreted Maryland's diverse history, art, and culture. Visit and see it at the Maryland Center for History and Culture.

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