Fine Arts Theatre

31 W. Lexington Street,
Baltimore, MD 21202

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Additional Info

Architects: Alfred Lowther Forrest, Oliver Birkhead Wight

Styles: Adam, Atmospheric, Italian Renaissance

Previous Names: Thirty One Theatre, Wizard Theatre, Picture Garden Theatre, Lexway Theatre, Newsreel Theatre, Vogue Theatre, Laffmovie, World Theatre

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Fine Arts Theatre

The Thirty One Theatre was opened in June 1907, designed by architect Arthur Lowther Forrest. It was soon renamed Wizard Theatre and in the spring of 1911 it was remodelled to become the Picture Garden Theatre, decorated to resemble an Italian garden, opening on July 8, 1911. The central dome in the auditorium ceiling was painted blue to resemble the sky. It became one of four first run movie theatres in that era in downtown Baltimore joining the Blue Mouse Theatre, the Parkway Theatre, and the New Theatre. An M.P. Möller, Inc., Opus 2082 symphonic 2 manual 12 ranks pipe organ was installed in the spring of 1916.

It was remodelled in an Adam style to the plans of architect Oliver B. Wight, reopening September 20, 1920. It was closed in 1922 and became a milliners shop.

In late-July 1938 it was reopened as a newsreel theatre named Lexway Theatre. On 5th June 1942 it was renamed Newsreel Theatre. Between 1944 and 1946 it was operating as the Vogue Theatre. It then became the Laffmovie which operated until 1949. It was remodelled again and reopened March 23, 1949 as the World Theatre.

In November 1951 it became the Fine Arts Theatre. It had closed by July 1952.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

dallasmovietheaters on June 19, 2016 at 3:28 pm

Built in 1907 and launched June 9, 1907 as the Wizard Theatre with A. Lowther Forrest as architect. The Wizard lasts just two years in this location before moving to its third location. This theater is advertised simply as the 31 West Lexington Theatre briefly in 1910 before becoming the Picture Garden Theater. At just over ten years, the Picture Garden was the longest-running theater operation in the location.

In July of 1938, Max Cohen – former operator of the Leader Theatre – and Buddy Silverberg open the 31 Lexington facility as the Lexway Theatre showing exploitation and independent films. In December of 1941, the Lexway is sold to Sam Soltz for $90,000 where it shows second and third run films. In May of 1942, Sherrill Cohen purchases the Lexway from Soltz and it’s converted to the Newsreel Theatre during the War years. It appears to be the lesser of Baltimore’s two newsreel theaters. After the newsreel interest wains following the war, Newsreel Corp. Circuit changes it briefly to the Vogue Theatre.

An auspicious moment for the Vogue occurs in May of 1946 when manager Helen Ford is up in the projection booth only to fall through the rotting floor and onto the ledge of the balcony. Just inches more and Ford would have fallen on top of patrons seated on the main floor. She quit the theatre. When the Vogue struggles to find an audience, Newsreel Circuit subleases it to the fledgling Laffmovie Circuit of James Mage in 1946 which had just three theaters in New York, Boston, and Baltimore.This was a circuit targeting a children’s audience showing comedies from the 1930s and cartoons continuously as a grindhouse. The lobby had distorting mirrors often found in amusement parks to get interest. It begins in March of 1947. When that fails, it likely reverts to the previous operator which labels it first the World Theatre and then the Fine Arts Theatre, an arthouse that appears to the final curtain.

The theater’s downturn and general business district malaise led the Committee for Downtown and the Greater Baltimore Committee to adopt an urban development plan called the Charles Center. The 50-year old 31 West Lexington property was targeted. The west Lexington street was blocked off to vehicular traffic, and the Wizard Theatre / 31 West Lexington Theatre / Picture Garden Theater / Lexway Theater / Newsreel Theatre / Vogue Theatre / Laffmovie / World Theatre / Fine Arts Theatre was demolished.

rivest266 on January 29, 2017 at 5:07 pm

July 8th, 1911 grand opening ad as Picture Garden in the photo section.

rivest266 on January 29, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Opening as Picture Garden

Found on

rivest266 on February 5, 2017 at 10:47 am

July 21st, 1938 grand opening ad as Lexway can be found in the photo section.

rivest266 on February 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm

June 5th, 1942 grand opening ad as Newsreel also in the photo section.

rivest266 on February 5, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Opened on June 11th, 1944 as Vogue. Ad in the photo section.

rivest266 on February 5, 2017 at 5:19 pm

March 23rd, 1949 grand opening ad as World also in the photo section.

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