Standing near a large, state-of-the-art movie screen, Izzy Patoka looked out at the hushed crowd seated in a darkened cinema of The Pikes Theatre and yelled out, “Hey, anyone ever been here on a date before?”
After the laughter subsided, someone replied quite enthusiastically in the affirmative, to which Patoka, the affable Baltimore County Councilman representing the 2nd District, responded, “Wonderful, wonderful.” Following a short pause, he then asked, “And was it a good date?”
An informal sense of community filled the air as approximately 40 residents of the Pikesville area, business leaders and government officials attended the March 27 grand reopening of the historic movie house at 921 Reisterstown Road as an independent boutique theater. (The theater opened to the community on March 7.)
Jessica Normington, president of the Pikesville Owings Mills Regional Chamber of Commerce, thanked attendees for coming to the event and said the reopening of The Pikes marked a new chapter for the community.
“The chamber and the community are very excited to have the theater open once again,” she said. “It shows that there is a need in our community, and we look forward to their success. Their concept of dining and watching a movie is unique, and we hope that draws people to our area and provides support for the entire corridor.”
The 3,000-square-foot, Art Deco-style facility — which initially operated from 1938 to 1984, and later reopened from 2013 to 2016 – recently underwent an extensive renovation and is now operated by the Reisterstown-based NextAct Cinemas.
The theater’s modern, upscale ambiance features new in-theater seating and screens; a new concession area with digital menu screens; and the addition of a lobby bar decorated with a full glass mirror, hardwood floors and movie-themed canvas posters for “Back to the Future” and “The Shining.”
In the concession area, wine and beer are available as well as such traditional movie fare as popcorn, candy and soft drinks. In addition, gourmet meals are available, prepared by the adjacent Pikes Cinema Bar and Grill, and delivered by the theater’s wait staff.
The theater — which employs a staff of seven — will offer a variety of options, including new foreign-language films, afternoon showings of children’s movies and themed movie events.
The five-month demolition and renovation of The Pikes was designed by Levin/Brown & Architects of Owings Mills and executed by the Towson-based American Contracting Services.
The reopening’s program featured a short reception offering food and drinks, as well as time for socializing. Attendees included Stan Jacobs, chief financial officer of the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development; Sara Trenery, business development representative for the Baltimore County Department of Economy and Workforce Development; Norma Bosley, community representative for Del. Dana M. Stein (D-11th); and former Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond (D-2nd).
Also in attendance were Robert Wright, co-owner and operator of NextAct Cinemas, and his wife, Melinda; and Wil Reich, a longtime Pikesville businessman and owner of the Pikes Cinema Bar and Grill.
As representative of the 2nd District that includes Pikesville, Patoka presented a citation to the Wrights and NextAct Cinema, offering “best wishes … for family-oriented entertainment for generations of movie-goers.”
Patoka noted that he received a tour of the new theater during its renovation before the implementation of new movie screens. “I knew something exciting was coming,” he said. “Thank you for what you are doing here.”
That theme of gratitude was echoed by Trenery. “Thank you for your investment in this project and the Pikesville community,” she said. “You’re providing opportunities for our local residents, and we look forward to coming back here again and again. Congratulations.”
As a personal aside, Rebecca Levin Kent, project architect for Levin/Brown, noted that her father worked at The Pikes in the 1960s.
“This building is an important piece of architecture, the only one of its kind in this area,” she said. “We’re so glad that it all worked out, and we’re really honored to be part of it all. You’ve put your vision to reality. Thank you for keeping this building alive.”
Prior to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, David Uhlfelder of the Pikesville Chamber welcomed the theater’s owners to the community and into membership of the nonprofit organization.
“When you look out [from the theater’s lobby] and see all of these restaurants and shops, [The Pikes] will be the focal point of entertainment and dining in this area,” Uhlfelder said. “This will be the center of the wheel for this corridor, and we’re looking forward to your success.”
During the ribbon-cutting in front of the structure, the Wrights were presented a framed and encased metal reinforcement beam that was part of The Pikes’ original infrastructure.
“Thank you all for coming out today and welcoming us,” Robert Wright said. “We’re very excited.”
Added Melinda Wright: “It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot sleepless nights, but we’re here and excited to be here. Everyone’s been so very welcoming and friendly.”
For information, visit nextactcinema.com.