The Charles offers unique cinematic escape

By RENEE SCAVONE | December 1, 2016


COURTESY OF VERONICA REARDON The theatre is known for showing indie, foreign and classic films.

As the weather cools off and the sun sets earlier, it can be hard to fight feelings of winter gloom. But hop on the southbound JHMI and in 10 minutes you can escape to a completely different world, beyond freezing wind and looming exams.

The Charles Theatre sits on North Charles Street, located between Lafayette Avenue and Lanvale Street A short walk from Penn Station, it lies in the heart of Baltimore’s arts district, Station North.

The building itself is historic; It started out as a cable car facility at the end of the 19th century.

And it doesn’t look like your typical movie theatre. This alternative presentation is fitting, however, as The Charles does not show typical movies. The theatre is a hotspot for independent works, foreign films and classic pictures. They even host an Anime Night, when they screen titles like Spirited Away and Akira.

Five films are currently being screened: A Man Called Ove, a Swedish drama nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film; Loving, a biopic of sorts based on the civil rights era interracial marriage Supreme Court case; Moonlight, an exploration of sexuality and race in the modern day American south; The Eagle Huntress, which follows a young girl’s journey to becoming the first female eagle hunter; and The Handmaiden, a Korean thriller that wowed audiences at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

Clearly, the theatre makes up for what it lacks in quantity of films with quality and diversity, and its frequent revivals of older films and low-budget documentary screenings mean that there is enough variety to intrigue even the most seasoned movie buff.

The very physicality of the space is unique. The rooms where the movies are shown are often uncommonly small, and their size creates an intimate movie-watching experience.

Beyond the actual screening rooms, The Charles is a quirky spot. Upon entering the building, you come face to face with a giant penguin guarding the old-fashioned ticket booth.

When it’s time to head toward your theatre, you run into odd sculptures. A particularly memorable one is a grotesque alien, four feet tall and three feet wide, with an open mouth ready to swallow up anyone who dares to text during the film.

At $9.50 per ticket ($7.50 for matinee showings before 6 p.m.), The Charles does not provide the least expensive date night options but can offer a classy alternative to rom-coms and Michael Bay explosions.

Met Opera is an ongoing program wherein the theatre shows footage of actual opera performances from the world renowned Metropolitan Opera in New York. It’s a great way to impress that special someone or just to become more cultured.

If you don’t fill up on popcorn, there are also several restaurants near the theatre offering everything from Spanish food to coffee to a greasy American breakfast. Stop by Tapas Teatro for small, Spanish cuisine-inspired plates. It’s conveniently located right next to The Charles, and it’s not uncommon to see people going their for dinner before or after watching their movies.

To grab a bite to eat before your midnight H.P. Lovecraft screening, head a few blocks north to the Lost City Diner, a BYOB vegan-friendly late-night restaurant famous for its burgers and wacky outer space theme! Finally, if you need a place to sip on some Earl Grey and contemplate a more artistic film, walk down Lanvale to Café Sage, a quaint bistro nearby.

Whatever your filmic or dining preferences, The Charles Theatre and the area surrounding it can provide an exciting escape from the December blues, and whatever movie you see will provide a unique perspective and fodder for conversation long after the credits roll.

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