For 50 years, the Hampden and Ideal Theaters operated within a few doors of each other in the 900 block of 36th Street in Hampden. Julius Goodman, who ran the Ideal for many years, described the competition: “Well, we were friendly competitors. We split the product right down the middle. We had Metro and Warner Bros. and RKO; they were our basic majors. They had Paramount, Fox, and Columbia. And we had two minors, but they were very, very profitable; one was Republic Pictures who and Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and also John Wayne who made one or two pictures a year – I think the Sands of Iwo Jima was a Republic Picture, if I’m not mistaken – and Moongram Pictures with the Bowery Boys. So we split the product.”
The original Hampden Theater emerged in 1911 when Charles A. Hicks bought a tin shop for $1,500 and converted it into a theater. Like the Ideal, the Hampden Theater was a 21-day theater which means it would show movies 21 days after opening downtown. In April 1918 a series of patriotic meetings in support of the Third Liberty Loan (bonds sold to cover the expense of World War I) were held in several Baltimore theaters, including the Hampden. In 1926, architect George Schmidt designed a $70,000 updated theater. It was the only theater in Baltimore to feature a Gottfried Organ. The theater continued operating until 1976 when it was sold to local baker Bernard Breighner, who closed it 1978. Breighner converted the building into a mall and opened it in 1981. The mall has since closed and currently the old theatre is a commercial building that hosts a restaurant and yoga studio.
In 2013, the Baltimore Love Project painted its iconic mural on the front of the Hampden Theater.