Another act for the cultural scene

The economy did the arts no favor. The volatile stock market and then the decade-ending recession wreaked havoc on endowments and grants, and left many ticket-buyers thinking they'd better cut back on luxuries.

But there were happy endings, too.

After a death scene more prolonged than any Hollywood melodrama, The Senator, the last of Baltimore's old-time movie houses, was auctioned off. And Landmark Theatres opened a multiplex with cushiony seats and bar service at Harbor East.

It was over for the blocky and dour Mechanic Theatre, for years the signature destination for theater-goers in the region. A few blocks over, however, the restored Hippodrome Theatre opened, a gleaming, gilded beauty with room for bigger productions.

Baltimore lost its opera company, but the hiring of energetic conductor Marin Alsop infused new life into the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. With more affordable tickets, pop culture references and a recording nominated for a Grammy, Alsop fought to shake off the symphony's stodgy image.

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