Maryland State Sen. Roy N. Staten (D-Baltimore) today urged the state to buy a movie theater that faces the State House "to preserve the integrity" of the historic area.

Senate Majority Leader Staten said he fears that the 600-seat Circle Theater might be converted into a pornographic film house by the owners in an effort to offset declining income.

Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, one of three members of the Works Board, opposed the idea, saying the $275,000 proposed sale price is "an awful price to pay for this lemon," noting that the property is appraised for tax purposes at only $60,200.

Staten said he did not know how much the building is worth, but added, "How do you put a value on property on the circle?" referring to the State Circle.

The resolution supported by Staten calls for the state to buy the theater under a law that authorizes the acquisition of properities near the State House and then requires that they be resold with restrictions on their future use.

The Annapolis Fine Arts Foundation would be a possible buyer, Staten said, but it probably would seek a subsidy from the state in return for limiting its use to acceptable purposes.

"Art touches all our lives," Staten told Goldstein and fellow board members, acting Gov. Blair Lee and treasurer William S. James Staten predicted that all 50 states soon will have to get involved in preserving and encouraging the arts because "costs are so high that it is almost impossible for the private sector to do the job."

Staten said he became worried about the future of the movie house while examining the property as chairman of a commission that was seeking a location for an all-purpose center for the performing arts here. The commission subsequently found a site on the campus of St. John's College.