40 self-serve drinks, heated leather seats at new Warehouse Cinemas location in Baltimore

The new Warehouse Cinemas Rotunda in Baltimore. (Courtesy Louise Wheeler)
WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the new Warehouse Cinemas in Baltimore (Part 1)

When you say the word “warehouse” in Baltimore, Maryland, you might think of right field in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Now, it will mean moviegoing with the opening of the new Warehouse Cinemas Rotunda, a seven-screen venue located at 727 West 40th Street between the Baltimore Zoo and Johns Hopkins University. The new venue takes over the old theater, CinéBistro, which closed in 2020, and the next-door restaurant formerly called Growler USA.

“Elevated comfort food is the theme of our menu,” Warehouse Cinemas President and C.E.O. Rich Daughtridge told WTOP. “We have flatbread pizzas with a take on different flavors — four of those — and we have four gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches, so again, comfort food with one really fun flavor profiles there. Then we’re actually getting ready to launch a collaboration with Frito Lay to do these really fun corn dogs in Baltimore.”

You can wash it down with 40 self-serve drinks, including 80% local drafts on a W-shaped tap wall.

“There’s a really cool craft-beer scene in Baltimore,” Daughtridge said. “We have 40 beer, liquor, cocktails and wine that is self-serve, so you buy a prepaid card, it limits you the amount of ounces you can drink until you get re-carded, but in Baltimore we’ll have 40 taps, 32 beer, four cocktails, and four wines. You can basically try yourself per-ounce along the wall yourself, then when you’re ready, you just pull the (drink tap) you want.”

Once you carry your food and drink into the theater, you’ll enjoy cozy seats and a digital projection system.

“The biggest upgrade from an amenity perspective is we’ve ripped out all of the seats,” Daughtridge said. “We decided to take out all of the old red chairs that were in the former location and put in all new heated leather recliners. Our picture and sound is the best part of Warehouse Cinemas. In Baltimore it’s smaller auditoriums, so we don’t have the large premium-format screens, but it’s still a very high-quality, wall-to-wall screen.”

While many movie theaters closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Daughtridge remains bullish on the future of moviegoing as Hollywood pumps the breaks on day-and-date releases (theatrical and streaming simultaneously) to now release films like “Tetris” or “Air” in theaters first before dropping them on Apple TV+ or Amazon Prime.

“Theatrical is a major part of the economics to making a film work,” Daughtridge said. “It creates hype or buzz around a film that translates to streaming eventually. I’m bullish about it because, one, the traditional studios are recognizing the importance of theatrical, and two, we have new players in the mix like Apple, which just announced in March that they’re committing $1 billion this year to theatrical. … Amazon/MGM is also spending $1 billion.”

Daughtridge has predicted a blockbuster resurgence since launching his flagship location in Frederick in 2020, followed by a second site in Hagerstown and now a third in Baltimore this past weekend.

“We started construction in November 2019 on a $7 million project in Frederick,” Daughtridge said. “It was a slugfest, a number of headwinds with limited capacity restrictions. Maryland was the next-to-last state to open cinemas. … Then, Hollywood didn’t have content (and) there was a lot of experimentation around day-and-date releases. Fast forward: 2021 was better, 2022 was better but still not quite there, now 2023 we have a full slate of movies.”

While the Frederick Warehouse Cinemas is technically a secondary market an hour away from both D.C. and Baltimore, it consistently ranks in the Top 10% in nationwide film grosses on any given weekend.

“We compete with the big markets because honestly, Frederick has come out and really supported us, Hagerstown is following suit with our new renovation there, and then Baltimore, the momentum and buzz seems very similar to the other two locations,” Daughtridge said. “We think we have a unique product offering. We show movies as our main attraction, but then we layer in this food and beverage component and make it an evening out.”

His goal is to grow moviegoing throughout the region at all theaters, not just at his own cinemas.

“We want to grow markets,” Daughtridge said. “When we compare our 2021 numbers to 2019, we grew the Frederick market — us and Regal across town — by 60%. In 12 months, people changed their spending habits to go to the movies more as a result of Warehouse Cinemas being there. … That’s a healthier industry as a whole. It is a consolidated industry with the major players on top, but you have scrappy independents like us doing well.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the new Warehouse Cinemas in Baltimore (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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