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Rotunda Cinemas shuts its doors

Goodbye, Rotunda Cinemas. The theater has shut its doors for good.

The Rotunda Cinemas, a Baltimore cinematic showplace for four decades and once one of only three movie houses operating within city limits, has shut its doors for good.

The theaters were located in the Rotunda Mall, a shopping complex in the basement of a 1920s-era office building on 40th Street, near Hampden. Ira Miller, who took over operations at the theater six years ago and expanded it from two to four screens, said constant construction in the Rotunda building, which is being heavily renovated and expanded, helped convince him "it was time" to close. The movie theater's last day of operation was July 8.

"It just became impossible to run the theaters anymore, with the [lack of] parking and all the noise they are making in there," he said. "We were on borrowed time."

Miller said ticket sales at the theater had fallen by some 50 percent since construction started.

In March 2014, The Rotunda's owners, New Jersey-based Hekemian & Co., announced plans for a luxury seven-screen, 35,000-square-foot movie theater on land adjacent to the mall, to be operated by Georgia-based Cobb Cinemas. Construction on that building, as well as extensive renovations to the original mall structure, has dramatically reduced the number of available parking spaces, all but eliminating them in the back parking lot. And the noise level frequently made watching a movie problematic, Miller said.

"A lot of times they'd be doing something, and audiences could hear it in [screens] three or four," he said.

Representatives from Hekemian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Interviewed last year, Miller said he expected to keep showing movies at the Rotunda Cinemas until the Cobb theaters' planned 2016 opening. But the decline in business forced his hand, Miller said.

"As long as we were making money, we tried to stay open," he said. "We kept it open as long as we could."

Miller operates four other theaters in the Baltimore area, including the Pikes, the Beltway Cinemas and two Glen Burnie movie houses. He said employees of the Rotunda were offered jobs at his other theaters. 

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