December 3, 2009
Eric Villard

flag-boxFlagship Cinemas 6, located behind Carrolltown Center, has shut its doors because of safety concerns.

Any patrons going to the theater since Tuesday have found the interior dark with various pieces of theater furnishings stacked just inside the doors in the lobby. The movie posters have all been torn down, leaving empty, backlit cases. The box office has what looks to be a hastily penned handwritten sign simply saying “Theater closed until further notice.”


But what happened?

The movie theater suffered from a leaking roof, said Flagship 6 employee Jim Barb, who on Thursday was helping to remove some of the fixtures from the theater’s interior and place them into a Uhaul truck outside. He mentioned that Black Oak Associates, who owns the Carrolltown property, was not willing to pay for renovations to the theater. He added that this choice was justified because of the development firm’s plans to renovate the entire mall. Flagship Cinemas, which owned the theater, was not willing to pay for repairs because the building was rented, Barb mentioned.

In the end, he said the choice to end Flagship’s reign as the only theater in Eldersburg was with theater patrons in mind. “We were not willing to run a theater where people are sitting in the rain.”

Barb also mentioned that the theater’s lease was going to be up in August. Flagship Cinemas could not by reached by 12 p.m. on Thursday for their comment. Flagship Vice President Paul Wenger did not return calls made to his cell phone by that time.

What does this mean for Eldersburg?

The loss of the establishment leaves Eldersburg without a theater, but will it have that much of an impact? While the theater certainly did business, it was minimal at best. The parking lot was often empty even during prime hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

Reviews of the theater are rarely in praise. Kim B. wrote in a review on Inside Pages , “This is a rundown movie theatre in need of renovations. However, it is the only one in town so community is limited. Please fix it up! The popcorn was even stale.” Mary L. wrote on the same site, “So many of the theaters in larger cities have a much better lineup. No fancy seats, popcorn is just ok, and I found this particular theater not that clean.”

Many Eldersburg residents go to the movies elsewhere, whether it is Columbia’s AMC 14 or its United Artists Snowden Square 14, both larger theaters with considerably more amenities that are roughly only a 30-minute drive from Eldersburg.

Mort Shuman, a community resident actively involved in many Eldersburg groups including the Carrolltowne Elementary PTA, had no well wishes for the theater. In a comment on the Carroll County Times’ recent article on the theater closing, Shuman wrote through his online alias mdduckman, “I, for one, am GLAD the movie theater is closing ... it's about time. I would drive out of my way to Columbia or Westminster to see a movie, and I live right around the corner!” He added, “The theater was disgusting, and when the originally said that Flagship would be ‘investing’ money into it, I didn't realize that meant putting up some decorations to make it look like a ship.”

Not all reviews were so critical. Mavis M. wrote in a comment on Inside Pages, “This movie theatre is the best kept secret in Maryland. Yes it is an older slightly worn one, but the popcorn is fresh, the staff friendly, and the prices reasonable.”

The theater

Flagship 6’s mother company, Flagship Cinemas, has been in business since 1995 and is headquartered outside of Boston, Mass. They have 12 theaters throughout the North East in Maine, MAssachutesettes, New Hampshire, Maryland and Pennsyvania. They also have a theater in Florida. Flagship 6 was one of only two Flagship theaters in Maryland, the other located in Bel Air. The Eldersburg theater was overseen by Paul Wenger, who is also the vice president of Flagship Cinemas.

Flagship 6 lacked the amenities of many of the other theaters in the franchise. The Flagship Cinemas Web site boasts that their theaters have features such as stadium seating, which Eldersburg’s theater lacked. A new theater in Mechanicsburg, Pa. has these features as well as others such as digital 3D movies.

Other links:
See what an Eldersburg blogger had to say about the theater closing
See Flagship Cinemas on Facebook

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