When all was said and done, not even magic could save the Circle Theater in Annapolis. So the owner is trying something more down to earth: stores and offices.
Sike Sharigan is having the State Circle Building renovated and hopes to have a four-story building with stores on the ground floor and offices above ready for business by this time next year. He said it's possible he'll put apartments instead of offices on the fourth floor, depending on the demand for offices.
Sharigan, who also owns Fran O'Brien's restaurant on Main Street in Annapolis, said he has not done a market survey, but believes he'll have no trouble finding tenants for an office building right across from the State House. He said the building will comprise about 19,000 square feet, including stairways and elevator space.
Sharigan's decision to turn the 1919 brick-front building into offices came after years of trying to keep it open as a theater. The 720-seat former vaudeville house was the last of four downtown Annapolis movie theaters to close. The last show played in December 1983, the month Sharigan bought the place for $350,000 from F.H. Durkee Enterprises Inc., of Baltimore. The last movie to play there was a Disney production called "The Rescuers."
And Sharigan tried to rescue the Circle from doom by bringing in a husband-and-wife magic act in 1985. Success proved elusive, however, and in the summer of 1987 they declared bankruptcy.
Competition from surrounding mall movie houses and a lack of parking have been cited as reasons that the Circle never revived.
The building has been empty since the magic act vanished, despite the efforts of Historic Circle Theater Inc., a group of preservationists who banded together to raise money and try to find a tenant. The group landed a $5,000 grant from the city of Annapolis, but never used the money and returned it to the city.
Sharigan said he attended a lot of meetings and heard a lot of talk about maintaining the Circle as a theater, but finally lost patience with the lack of progress. Early this year, his builder started gutting the theater. He estimates the reconstruction, designed by the Annapolis architectural firm Schwarz Purcell, will cost "at least $2 million."
The building now is little more than a shell. The balcony, the stage, the seats and the red velvet curtain are gone. Nothing remains of the marquee but a steel frame supported by cables. The box office has been pulled out, the space boarded up with plywood.
"I liked the idea of having a theater," said Sharigan, "but those things just don't work."