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Curtain closes on Ellicott Theatre, an art revival movie house


The Ellicott Theatre on Historic Ellicott City's Main Street popped its last batch of popcorn and showed its final feature film a few weeks ago unbeknown to area business owners and some of its patrons.

The art revival house -- which featured artistic, second-run and classic films -- closed three weeks ago, said Jesse Krauch, property manager for the site. Owner Jill Porter was unavailable for comment despite numerous attempts to reach her.

Neighbors of the downtown Ellicott City theater are wondering why it would close its doors so quietly -- and after only seven months.

Barry Gibson, president of the Ellicott City Business and Professional Organization, said he didn't know the movie house -- at Main Street and Old Columbia Pike -- closed until he noticed no lights were on one evening.

"It was the perfect spot for a theater," Mr. Gibson said. "It needs to be worked out very carefully what would occupy the space next."

During the building's half-century history, it has housed a children's theater group, a disco, a coin-operated laundry and a grocery store.

Two potential customers -- both involved in entertainment -- are interested in leasing the site, said Mr. Krauch, property manager for Historic Ellicott City Properties. He declined to elaborate.

"I'm working with everyone the best I can to fill this space," Mr. Krauch said.

Gary Maule, president of the Ellicott City Restoration Foundation, said the movie house was perfect for the Historic District.

"I like to see a mix of uses downtown to give everyone better choices for the evening," Mr. Maule said. "It was a nice complement to the restaurants and eateries."

Ms. Porter, 43, of Baltimore, modeled the Ellicott after the Senator and the Charles in Baltimore with second-run and artsy feature films.

She even expanded the concession stand to include an espresso bar with cappuccino and latte in addition to the normal popcorn and sodas.

"The loss of the Ellicott Theatre means there is that much less choice for people to see out-of-the-mainstream movies without going to Baltimore or Washington," said David Pierce, a classic film series programmer at Slayton House in Columbia's Wilde Lake village.

Mark and Neysa Silvestri of Catonsville said they were pleasantly surprised by the movie house when they saw "Immortal Beloved" there a few weeks ago.

"I still can't believe she greeted us when we walked in," Mrs. Silvestri said.

"The parking was the worst, but it was an excellent neighborhood theater," Mr. Silvestri said.

Don Wessel, owner of Wessel's Florist and Weddings on Old Columbia Pike, said he preferred the films shown at the Ellicott rather than movies at chain theaters.

"I enjoyed coming into town, going to the theater and then to one of the restaurants," he said.

Sun Pacylowski, owner of a collectibles store on Main Street and the movie house's next-door neighbor, said she was surprised by the work Ms. Porter put into the building.

"That place was a dump," Ms. Pacylowski said. "She had improved the building so much. It was very cozy, not like those modern theaters."

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