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Music without distractions

Movie theater provides intimate setting for concerts

Movie theater provides intimate setting for concerts

January 14, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

Guitarist and vocalist Steve Grisham has performed in his share of bars where people sit at a bar 100 feet away from the stage or watch TV.

At Leitersburg Concert Theatre northeast of Hagerstown, music fans can still sit 100 feet away if they like or they can sit just three to four feet from the stage.

"I loved being right on top of the people like that. You can see their face and see their reactions and interact with them," says Grisham, whose band Ghost Riders performed at the concert theater on New Year's Eve. George McCorkle, founding member of the Marshall Tucker Band, debuted that night as a member of Ghost Riders.

The venue probably sounds unusual - the concert theater is one of the large movie theaters at Hagerstown 10 Cineplex.

"I would rather play in a theater setting because people focus their attention completely on the band. In a bar people can watch TV," says Grisham, formerly with The Outlaws. Grisham also got to meet fans after the show.

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The intimate setting, especially for fans in the front rows, is a big selling point for fans and bands, says Alan Ackerman, who bought the movie theater in April 2006 and reopened it in May.

Ackerman started the concert theater in September with local bands such as Blue Sky Traffic, whose guitarist and bassist Stephen Britton is the son of the theater's in-house concerts and special events promoter, Jeff Britton.

The concert theater mostly hosts local and regional acts, including bands from Baltimore that do a lot of promoting for their own shows. Acts have included classic rock, contemporary rock, country, jazz and bluegrass.

Britton and Ackerman hope to bring more national acts, such as Ghost Riders, in occasionally as well. Britton is in negotiations with Leon Russell, a singer-songwriter who has performed with The Rolling Stones, Jerry Lee Lewis and George Harrison.

Rick Broyles, manager for Ghost Riders, says he hopes the band can return to headline another event at the theater.

Ackerman got the idea for a concert theater at the cineplex because Crossroads Church was already using theater No. 2, a 500-seat theater, for services and Christian contemporary rock performances when he bought the cineplex. The church had provided a stage with lighting and sound equipment.

The church and theater collaborated on improving the concert venue, which still shows movies except during Saturday night concerts.

Theater officials have worked through some kinks.

Early on, music from the concert was cranked a little too loudly so people in neighboring theater No. 1 could hear the music when a movie played.

Ackerman says that hasn't happened with recent concerts as the volume was adjusted. Most of the movie theaters - eight - are on the other side of the building so that was never a problem.

Except for a concert last fall, the music is for all ages. In that one instance, Ackerman discovered the lyrics might not be appropriate for all ages so he advertised it for ages 17 and older. Since then, he has made sure the music is suitable for all ages.

The concert theater is one of several projects Ackerman has started or is working on to generate revenue since movie theaters rely heavily on concession sales to operate. The percentage of box-office revenue local theaters receive from movies is set at a certain percentage by movie studios.

Horror at the Hager, a classic horror movie double feature, is shown drive-in style with an intermission and 1950s-style clips such as the dancing hot dog every Saturday night. The movies are shown indoors during winter and outdoors during warmer seasons.

The Hollywood Cafe, which will offer a movie and dinner with offerings such as crab cakes and pit beef, is expected to open in February.

The cineplex and Game Crazy will be holding occasional Xbox and PlayStation tournaments at the cineplex with the game shown on a 40-foot-wide movie screen. The first will be a 12-hour "Halo 2" tournament Saturday, Jan. 27.

The theater also will show the Super Bowl in high definition on a movie screen.

Starting with The Blue Vultures concert Jan. 20, the concert theater will be able to show live images of the band performing on the 40-foot-wide movie screen above the stage.




If you go...



WHAT: The Blues Vultures with former Kix member Ronnie Younkins, The Barn Burners, No Tell Motel, and Mr. Sheperd and the Teachers

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20

WHERE: Leitersburg Concert Theatre at Hagerstown 10 Cineplex, 20135 Leitersburg Pike, northeast of Hagerstown

COST: $8

MORE: The show is for all ages. Doors open at 7 p.m. Call 301-797-7270, or go to www.myspace.com/leitersburgtheatre.

By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Alan Ackerman, left, owns Hagerstown 10 Cineplex. He offers live music concerts in one of the larger theaters, dubbed Leitersburg Concert Theatre. At right is Jeff Britton, the venue's concert and special events promoter.

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