After an interruption of nearly 30 years, movies will once again play at Pikesville's Pikes Theatre beginning Friday.
"I'm a true believer in neighborhood theaters," said Ira Miller, who will operate the revived movie house in the front half of a Reisterstown Road building that showed films from its opening in 1938 until 1984. The back half, which has housed various eateries since 1997, will remain a restaurant, under the name Pikes Cinema Bar & Grill.
Miller, who also runs the four-screen Rotunda Cinemas and the six-screen Beltway Movies in Perry Hall, says he thinks Pikesville is ready to once again support its own neighborhood theater.
"That's what I'm counting on," he said. "People are coming up to me all the time, telling me they met their wife here, or that that went in their first date here. There's a tremendous amount of excitement here in Pikesville. If everybody I talk to comes here, we'll have no problem."
The two-screen Pikes will show a mix of first-run and arthouse movies, Miller said. Friday's opening-day features will be "Gravity," an intense space drama starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, and "Hava Nagila (The Movie)," a 2012 documentary on the popular Jewish folk song that has become a staple at weddings and bar mitzvahs.
"Gravity" will be shown in 3-D.
Each of the Pikes' two theaters has a capacity of 80 and features newly installed stadium-style seating. Miller said he spent about $200,000 on renovating the building, which had been stripped of such movie-house trappings as a concession stand, ticket window and pitched seating floor.
While remnants of the original Pikes are hard to find, they are still there. Inside the restaurant, the curved ceiling remains from the original auditorium. And the stairs leading up to the projection room are original — although the room itself is far less crowded. Modern digital equipment and the hard drives they play take up far less space that the old-style projectors and multiple reels of film that were once mandatory equipment in movie theaters.
Two vestiges of the original Pikes remain on prominent display, however: the theater marquee fronting Reisterstown Road, and an old film projector that has been moved outside to a spot on the building's north side.