'The end' for a landmark Theater: Tears flow as Westview Cinemas in Catonsville, which opened in 1965, closes to make way for an appliance store.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It started in 1965 with the Peter O'Toole movie classic "Lord Jim" and ended last night as the credits rolled at Westview Cinemas on Bette Midler's latest comedy, "That Old Feeling."

Memories of the 32 years in between left many movie lovers teary-eyed in the lobby of the quirky 10-screen cinema on U.S. 40 in Catonsville as they bade farewell to the Westview -- soon to be replaced by a huge appliance store.

"I'll miss this place," said Bob Langston, 40, of Reisterstown as he munched on a tub of popcorn he described as "the best in town."

"My mother used to drop me off here when I was a kid. It's a shame," he said.

As Langston fondly recalled the time he saw "2001: A Space Odyssey," others flocked through the sprawling lobby, with its granite walls, crystal chandeliers and purple carpeting.

With the box office selling all seats for $1 -- the 1965 price -- Andrew Zeisberg and other patrons conceded that they had come to the Westview just to catch a bargain movie.

Others came out of respect for an institution they said was one of the last landmarks in Catonsville, aside from the Double T Diner about a half-mile away.

And many of the theater's 24 employees wandered about and sat near the indoor ticket booth in sad recognition of the final day.

Manager Fran Lewis, who has worked at Westview for 14 years, carried a black-and-white glossy photograph of Gov. J. Millard Tawes, Maryland's chief executive from 1959 to 1967, at the cinema's groundbreaking.

"I'm disheartened," said Karl O. Gilbert, projectionist at the Westview for the past decade. "The customers I've encountered have been very disappointed to know the theater is closing. Beyond that, there seems to be a sad recognition to know that little can be done to change the events. There's a feeling of loss."

Behind the concession stand, Josephine Dempsey popped her last batches of popcorn and filled drink cups. She has been at Westview for 10 years and reported to work with sadness yesterday.

"I'll miss the people. I love seeing and meeting the people every day," she said.

Chief usher Charles Williams donned his black tuxedo to collect tickets one last time.

"I started this job after I retired from a government job and got bored," Williams said. "I came here for what I thought was a couple of months, and it's been 14 years. The closing means I'll end up on my porch again. Nobody likes it."

The Westview opened as a 1,170-seat single-screen theater with plush rocking-chair seats, a glass facade and a large, flat roof that echoed 1950s-style architecture. Over the years, it was divided and expanded to hold 10 screens, much like the movie complexes that have sprouted in area malls.

The Westview's owner, Joseph Y.Einbinder of Hagerstown, recently decided to close the Westview and lease the property to Circuit City Inc., which plans to level the building and begin construction of a store about July 1.

The theater's demise mirrors that of another movie landmark that used to be next door -- the towering Edmondson Drive-In, which opened in 1953. The drive-in was converted into a weekend flea market after outdoor movies went out of vogue and was knocked down to make way for a Home Depot store.

Bertram L. Potemken, an attorney who represents Einbinder, said that long after the Westview has been razed, residents will remember it as a cultural focal point in Catonsville.

"It's a sad day for everybody; it's nostalgic," Potemken said, adding a party would be held for the employees Tuesday at which they would receive bonus checks. "We spared no expense in building it; even our seats were the best," he said.

Yesterday, as she bought her ticket to see "Grosse Pointe Blank," retired teacher Anne Thiessen recalled the day she brought an entire third-grade class to the Westview on a field trip.

"We came to see 'Charlotte's Web.' It was in the days before video, when we had to take the whole class into a movie theater," Thiessen said.

Her friend Lois Finnin, also a retired teacher, shook her head in disbelief at the closing of the theater.

"I think it's a great loss," she said. "I can't believe it."

Pub Date: 5/30/97

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