Chris Rock received mixed reviews, but the Hippodrome Theatre wins for best location

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  • Published on March 6, 2023
  • Last Updated May 15, 2023
  • In Culture

Chris Rock's 'Selective Outrage' comedy special was a hit or miss for some, but the historical location it streamed from was a win for Baltimore.

Chris Rock’s comedy special “Selective Outrage” broadcast live on Netflix Saturday, making it the streaming platform’s first live streamed event. Rock performed at the historic Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland.

As expected, Rock mentioned “slapgate,” the infamous on-stage altercation between him and Oscar-award-winning actor Will Smith. Critics gave mixed reviews to the hour-long special and boiled it down to being an extended rant against the Smiths. Some even mentioned it was either audacity or intention that made the comic make snide remarks about Pinkett-Smith in her hometown.

Although the content of Rock’s show was questionable, no one second-guessed the validity of the location. The Hippodrome Theatre is one of the most well-known landmarks in B-More. The theater has been the scene for all entertainment sectors in the city for over 100 years.

When the theater opened in November 1914, it served as a moviehouse and performance stage for jugglers and circus performers. According to Explore Baltimore Heritage, on opening night, “3,000 seats were full, as the lucky guests viewed a screening of the film ‘The Iron Master,’ vaudeville acts, a man juggling a barrel with his feet, and a group of four performing elephants.”

By the mid-1920s, the theater’s golden walls held over 30,000 people per week. It would show up to three shows daily, along with weekly special performances. The theater went through a dry spell and was re-sold to Philadelphia businessman L. Edward Goldman for $14,000.

Under Goldman’s ownership, the Hippodrome became a hotbed for talent again. Throughout the 1930s-1950s, it saw various top talent, including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Jack Benny and many others.

With the rise in television shows and traveling concerts, the demand for large theater shows became scarce. After hanging on for several more decades, the theater closed its doors in 1990.

The location was revived in 2004 as the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center. The newly constructed building includes the additions of the Western National Bank and the Eutaw Savings Bank.

The Hippodrome has once again become the hub of performing arts for Baltimore. Chris Rock kicked off March’s lineup; future shows include a six-day run of “To Kill A Mockingbird” and the variety musical “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.,” a celebration of Aretha Franklin’s music.


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