"I have fond family memories of the Senator Theatre and know that many others share in my excitement that the tradition will continue," she said.

City Councilman Bill Henry, who represents the area and lives nearby, said he plans to watch "Gravity" with his wife while their two girls watch "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" in an adjoining screening room — the first time the girls would be allowed to see a movie alone.

"There's no other theater where I would feel the same comfort level in doing that that I feel at the Senator," he said.

Henry said the Senator's revival points the way for a greater revitalization of the area. A recent study by the Urban Land Institute indicated that the entertainment hub that centers on Belvedere Square and the theater could spread several blocks further south on York Road, he said.

Business owners expressed delight at the prospect of greater foot traffic, particularly in the evening. Restaurants in Belvedere Square plan to stay open later to accommodate moviegoers, operating until 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Atwater's, a farm-to-table cafe, will begin serving beer and wine. And Spike and Amy Gjerde, owners of Woodberry Kitchen and Artifact, had tentative plans to open a new casual restaurant, Shoofly, on Friday.

"We're super excited to have the Senator back up and running," said Stacey Pack, property manager for Belvedere Square, which comprises three acres of shops, restaurants and businesses.

Victoria Warren, who supervises the nearby Junior League store The Wise Penny, said she expects to see a surge of customers.

"In the past, the Senator has helped the community, staging events on weekends and things like that, which gave us a lot more foot traffic for our store," said Warren. "It was very missed when it closed."

The theater has an agreement with an office building about a block away on the same side of the street to allow Senator patrons to park in 70 spots there. Still, because the theater can accommodate more than 1,000 patrons, it appears more parking is needed.

Pack said theatergoers who plan to patronize the shops and restaurants at Belvedere Square are welcome to park there while at the movies.

Laverne Sipes, president of the Belvedere Improvement Association, said neighborhood residents are not overly concerned about parking.

"We're used to dealing with parking," she said. "When business is good, parking is going to be a problem. But it also means our property values go up. It means people come through and say, 'Oh that's a cute neighborhood.'"

Sipes, who has lived in the area for 25 years, said the neighborhood organization was considering asking the city to require residential parking permits for the blocks behind the theater.

It seems likely that the Senator will draw large crowds, at least to start. Thursday's reception and screening sold out rapidly.

Sarah Lapinsky Yesilonis, a retired hospital clerk, said she kept a close eye on the theater's website for opening-night tickets and even called and stopped by. She still wasn't able to get a ticket.

The 73-year-old Northwood resident is eager to return to the theater she has loved since childhood.

"It's old. It's historic. It's just fun," said Yesilonis. "It reminds me of when my mom used to take me downtown when I was 5 or 6 and we'd go to the movies."

Waters also shared childhood memories of the Senator. He attended birthday parties in the theater's private screening room. "It made me an elitist filmgoer from the start," he said.

He said he was thrilled that "I Am Divine," a documentary about his friend and muse, the late drag queen Divine, whose final starring role was in "Hairspray," would be among the first films shown at the renovated Senator.

Waters said he had the perfect date lined up for the reopening of a theater dear to generations of Baltimore families — his mom.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Larry Perl and Richard Gorelick contributed to this article.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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