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Flickering Treasures

, 320 pages

90 color photos, 83 b&w photos

August 2017



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Flickering Treasures

Rediscovering Baltimore's Forgotten Movie Theaters


Baltimore has been home to hundreds of theaters since the first moving pictures flickered across muslin sheets. These monuments to popular culture, adorned with grandiose architectural flourishes, seemed an everlasting part of Baltimore’s landscape. By 1950, when the city’s population peaked, Baltimore’s movie fans could choose from among 119 theaters. But by 2016, the number of cinemas had dwindled to only three. Today, many of the city’s theaters are boarded up, even burned out, while others hang on with varying degrees of dignity as churches or stores.

In Flickering Treasures, Amy Davis, an award-winning photojournalist for the Baltimore Sun, pairs vintage black-and-white images of opulent downtown movie palaces and modest neighborhood theaters with her own contemporary full-color photographs, inviting us to imagine Charm City’s past as we confront today’s neglected urban landscape. Punctuated by engaging stories and interviews with local moviegoers, theater owners, ushers, and cashiers, plus commentary from celebrated Baltimore filmmakers Barry Levinson and John Waters, the book brings each theater and decade vividly to life.

From Electric Park, the Century, and the Hippodrome to the Royal, the Parkway, the Senator, and scores of other beloved venues, the book delves into Baltimore’s history, including its troubling legacy of racial segregation. The descriptions of the technological and cultural changes that have shaped both American cities and the business of movie exhibition will trigger affectionate memories for many readers. A map and timeline reveal the one-time presence of movie houses in every corner of the city, and fact boxes include the years of operation, address, architect, and seating capacity for each of the 72 theaters profiled, along with a brief description of each theater’s distinct character.

Highlighting the emotional resonance of film and the loyalty of Baltimoreans to their neighborhoods, Flickering Treasures is a profound story of change, loss, and rebirth.

Amy Davis has worked as a staff photographer at the Baltimore Sun since 1987.

"A sweeping, almost encyclopedic portrait of the movie theaters of Baltimore, Flickering Treasures should be well-received by general readers for its rich combination of background profiles and engaging interviews. Equally impressive, a virtually complete set of matching historic and modern photos chronicles both decay and adaptive reuse. Captivating."

"Both a celebration of the splendid glory of what was once the Baltimore movie palace experience and a funereal dirge for what became of those grand old bijoux as the passing of time pulled them toward squalor. To behold the book is, in some sense, to behold the arc of America's cities in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries."

"Juxtaposing current conditions with historical photos, Davis shows how much time has altered the face of our city. Her book is a comment on this transition, and a reminder that change is the only constant."

"Flickering Treasures is not only a collection of beautiful and evocative photos, but a sociological journey through twentieth-century America. Having Baltimore-bred filmmaker Barry Levinson contribute a foreword is icing on the cake."

"This is the finest coffee table book about a local subject that I’ve seen... This is amazing."

"... [Flickering Treasures] would make a nice gift for anyone who loves movies, architecture, or the city of Baltimore."

"Amy Davis, a photojournalist for the Baltimore Sun, combines vintage with modern color image contrasts to document these urban wonders, considering the social, economic, technological, and political influences on their rise and fall as she crafts a beautiful, iconic collection that will appear to readers far beyond Baltimore City's borders."

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