Hippodrome Theatre France-Merrick Performing Arts Center

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18th July 2023

Hippodrome Theatre France-Merrick Performing Arts Center

Hippdrome Theatre History

The infamous Hippodrome Theatre was designed by theatre architect Thomas Lamb for exhibitors Pearce and Scheck. It was constructed on the site of the old Eutaw House, built in 1835 formin a luxurious hotel.

The Hippodrome opened on November 23, 1914 as a movie palace that also showcased audacious performances. The theatre seated 3,000 and in 1920 the average weekly attendance was 30,000. Sound for the movies was provided by piano with an orchestra. The Hippodrome was part of the Loew’s Theatre chain from 1917 until 1924, when it became part of the Keith chain.

New management in 1931 installed a huge new marquee and other facelift items such as new seats. In 1931 the Hippodrome had 3 price levels – 25 cents before noon, 35 cents between noon and 6 pm, and 50 cents after 6 pm. Under the management of Isidor M. Rappaport, which began in 1931, the Hippodrome gained a reputation as a top vaudeville house, presenting such notables as Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Benny Goodman and his orchestra, Dinah Shore, Martha Raye, , the Andrews Sisters and Morey Amsterdam during Rappaport’s 30-year tenure.

It was in The Hippodrome Theatre that Frank Sinatra first appeared with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and in 1939 with Harry James’ band. Movies were combined with vaudeville entertainment through 1950. The Hippodrome Theatre was one of the first stages to present Vaudeville and motion pictures and maintained a house orchestra at the theatre well into the 1950’s. Business remained strong from the 30’s through the 1950’s with the last stage shows presented around 1959. Another major renovation occurred in 1963 in preparation for the regional premiere of “Cleopatra”. In 1969 the Hippodrome was the site of the world premiere of “Slaves”. Business dropped off during the 70’s and 80’s, and the Hippodrome closed in 1990, when it was the last operating movie theatre in downtown Baltimore.

Now the curtain rises again at The France-Merrick Performing Arts Center at the Hippodrome.

This was due to serious construction and restoration project transforming the historic buildings and one newly constructed building into a cutting edge showcase. These landmarks are the Western National Bank built in 1887, the Eutaw Savings Bank built in 1888, the Hippodrome Theatre, and a new building at the corner of Baltimore and Eutaw Streets. Programming at this world-class venue will include touring Broadway shows and the best of the performing arts.

Hippdorome Theatre 2004 and onwards

The Realization of Vision In early 2004, the curtain rose again at the legendary Hippodrome Theatre.

Reborn as the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, it is the centerpiece not only of world-class stage performances, but of a totally revitalized West Side of Baltimore, with an impact unbounded by geography.

A Unique Partnership Achieving what one imagines requires creativity, determination, and truly new thinking. The non-profit Hippodrome Foundation (formerly the Baltimore Center for Performing Arts) was established to reach for and attain that vision. The Foundation, in turn, sought out public and private entities with the foresight to see “what might be.” Of course, our most important partners are the private citizens who gave their unwavering support and contributions.

The Hippodrome Box Office is located on the corner of Eutaw St. and Baltimore St. Hours are Monday- Friday, 11 am-3 pm or through intermission on performance days. Let the Curtain Rise We are helping to build the future. That isn’t one building or one street or one show on stage. It means an on-going dedication to creating an environment that belongs to all of the people of Baltimore, to revitalize the city, in action and in spirit. The Hippodrome Foundation says, “let the curtain rise.” This is just Act One.

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