Looking for info on past Pittsburgh Theaters

posted by raubre on April 17, 2006 at 6:04 am

Does anyone have any info on any of the following theaters in the Pittsburgh area? (Addresses, when they closed, what they are now, if anything…)

The Fiesta (Downtown, near Heinz Hall?)
The Forum (Squirrel Hill area)
Sewickley
Parkway
Cinemette South (Greentree area)
Fairmont (Braddock) (may be the wrong name. Later became Alexander’s supermarket)
Airport

Thank you very much!

Comments (27)

Patsy
Patsy on April 17, 2006 at 2:21 pm

As you know there are 25 theatres listed for Pittsburgh. One of them is the Warner which according to CT is closed. I wish you luck as many CT members will certainly be able to help you.

Bartstar
Bartstar on April 17, 2006 at 6:25 pm

The Fiesta theatre was directly across from Heinz Hall (former Loews Penn). It was in the lower level of the parking garage with first floor retail on Sixth Street. This structure sits on the site of the old Rosenbaums department store. The entrance to the theatre was on Sixth Street. You entered a small foyer and there were escalators that took you down to the lower level where the theatre entrance was located. You could also enter this lower level entrance lobby directly from the parking garage.

I saw many films there but the first one that comes to mind is seeing “Murder on the Orient Express”. Not sure when the theatre closed, but it was probably in the 80’s.

The Forum theatre in Squirrel Hill was on the north side of Forbes Avenue between Murray avenue and Shady Avenue. I’m not exactly sure of the address. There is a terra cotta facade on one buiding that looks suspicously like a theatre facade, but I’ve also been told that it was torn down and replaced by several one story shops closer to Shady Avenue.

I remember seeing Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation ” there. If you’ve never seem the movie, it’s about wiretapping and the beginning of the movie has distored sound like a poor quality wiretap.
Well, several patrons, not realizing this was a sound effect from the movie, jumped up and ran into the lobby to complain about the poor sound!

I believe the Airport theatre was actually in the old PIttsburgh airport. I was never there but I’ve been told that it ran full length films for people who were waiting for their connecting flights. This is back when Pittsburgh was a major hub for the former Allegheny Airlines (now known as USAIR). Of course, back then everybody referred to them as Agony Airlines.

carolgrau
carolgrau on April 18, 2006 at 5:44 am

You covered it pretty well, I useed to work allot of them I miss the Warner most of all.
Norelco

Patsy
Patsy on April 18, 2006 at 7:20 am

I, too, miss any Warner theatre that is no longer with us. And speaking of the name WARNER. If anyone is close to New Castle and Slippery Rock PA, you can get an opportunity to meet Cass Warner who is the granddaughter of Harry M. Warner. She is at a silent film festival and will be signing her book, Hollywood Be Thy Name from 5-6 at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in New Castle. Her book can be purchased through Amazon. The website for the festival is http://academics.sru.edu/warner/index.htm

RayKaufman
RayKaufman on April 19, 2006 at 7:45 am

There were a gazillion community theatres all around Pittsburgh in many of the Boroughs. You already mentioned The Sewickley, but, Baden, Ambridge, Alliquipa, Coraopolis, McKees Rocks, Mt. Oliver, Bellvue, Avalon, New Kensington, Penn Hills, Shadyside, E. Liberty, Bloomfield and Crafton all had there own, (I believe independents, as I know Coraopolis’s was,)and of course, the outter lying areas, including Paoli, Chicora, Butler, Brady’s Bend, East Brady and Oil City can be included. All of western PA was covered with these smallish “shows” as we used to call them. If memory serves, most had from 400 to 600 seats and they were fairly older houses. It could well be they were converted store fronts as Pittsburgh played a big part in the development of the film exhibition business.

Ron3853
Ron3853 on April 19, 2006 at 8:35 am

The Fiesta was on Sixth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. After it closed it was later used by the Art Institute of Pittsburgh as classrooms for the school’s video department. The school moved up to the Boulevard of the Allies between Smithfield and Grant and now the Fiesta is empty again, although it could be used by the Casablanca Restaurant next door for storage.

The Forum on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill later bacame a bagel shop. I haven’t been on that block in a while, so I’m not sure what exactly it is now. It closed around 1978 or 1979.

The others are neighborhood theaters that closed at different times. If you have access to a library that has or can get microfilms of old Pittsburgh Press newspapers via Inter-Library Loan, you may want to check out the Sunday Arts & Leisure sections that were published in July 1983. One of them has an article by then-film critic Ed Blank about the old theaters in the Pittsburgh area and what became of them. Mr. Blank rode through almost every neighborhood, got out and talked to the old-timers he could find about their locations and later history. Addresses are given for most. I have a copy but it’s not with me at present, so I don’t know the exact date, other than a Sunday in July 1983.

Patsy
Patsy on April 19, 2006 at 9:34 am

Rick: I’m glad to see that you are receiving many posts/memories about theatres in the Pittsburgh area. Good luck with your theatre research. Once you get the ‘theatre bug’ it’s hard to shake!

raubre
raubre on April 19, 2006 at 10:36 am

Thanks for the help guys!

I used to go o the Mt. Oliver and Whitehall Theaters a lot when I was a kid. Bothe are now closed (Mt. Oliver is a church of some sort now and the Whitehall is now a Giant Eagle grocery store.) :(

carolgrau
carolgrau on April 21, 2006 at 5:21 am

I remember the old Mt. Oliver, you had to take a broom with you and beat the rats and bats silly just to get up in the booth, and when you got there, don`t dare let the booth door open. After work you repeated the prosses going down, and left the broom there for the morning shift projectionist to use going up.
Norelco

carolgrau
carolgrau on April 21, 2006 at 5:29 am

I remember when we twined the Penn Hills and opened with E T, a fun time was had by all. While we were twinning it the 700 club`s offices were rught across the hall from the booth. One day the preacher came over and wanted to know who was in charge, everyone said I was. So he started in my direction, when I said he is going to tell us to watch our f——-g language. He stopped turned around and never said a word to any of us.
Norelco

carolgrau
carolgrau on April 21, 2006 at 5:40 am

I also miss the Chatham cinema I think the big movie there was Raiders Of The Lost Ark, after that it did not do so well.

another thing I want to put to rest is there was a rumor that the ceiling of the Warner fell on a lady. Yes it did fall on her, a piece of it anyway. BUT this would not have happened if a certain Usher had not been up on the catwalk above the auditorium, stepped off the catwalk and knocked down the plaster. To this day I hate him was tthe beginning of the end for my favorite Theatre of all time. When I die you will find me fondly and lovingly haunting the Warner in Pittsburgh, Pa. My home Town.
Norelco

Patsy
Patsy on April 21, 2006 at 5:16 pm

Was there a Warner Theatre in Pittsburgh?

RayKaufman
RayKaufman on April 21, 2006 at 6:44 pm

Absolutely, there was a Warner Bros. in downtown Pittsburgh. It was 20 plus years ago gutted and turned into a three level mall, which has been shuttered for over three years now. A total and complete waste and testament that these types of ‘adaptative reuses’ seldom if ever succeed. Rehabilitation and restoration can and do work. The real pity is that the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has come to the rescue of no fewer than three downtown theatres including the Byhum/Fulton Theatre, Heinz Hall/Loews Theatre and the Harris, which was one of the longest running XXX theatres in the country. These together with The Benedum Center/Penn Theatre and the new O'Reilly Theatre make up quite the cultural destination that goes a long way in revitalizing Pittsburgh’s downtown. Unfortunately, the destructive makeover of the incredible Warner is located too far away from the cluster of the other theatres and the damage was long prior to the makeover of the them.

The last movie I saw at the Warner was the road show version of 2001 A.S.O in the summer of 1968. (Dang, that was a long time ago.)

raubre
raubre on April 22, 2006 at 1:44 am

The Warner Theater is now Warner Center

raubre
raubre on April 22, 2006 at 9:50 am

Here is a picture of Warner Center (formerly the Warner Theater). The marquee is similar to what it used to be. The building is now sadly vacant as stated above.

View link

Patsy
Patsy on April 22, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Rick: Thahks for the wonderful photo as the vertical WARNER sign was beautiful and so was the exterior of the theatre. For a city the size of Pittsburgh that building shouldn’t be sadly vacant, but restored and a theatre once again!

mediumarmadillo
mediumarmadillo on April 25, 2006 at 8:38 am

Maybe someone reading this thread on Pgh theatres can help with my question…A co-worker and I are arguing over McKnight Rd theatres. I remember only one theater formerly on McKnight, near the North Hills Village Mall (it is now a Staples) while she swears that there was also a theatre in the shopping plaza where Damon’s and Jo Ann Fabrics currently reside. Does anyone remember a theatre there? thanks!

mediumarmadillo
mediumarmadillo on April 25, 2006 at 8:49 am

Oh, and I just noticed that someone was asking about the Wexford Theatre. I remember seeing “The Muppets Take Manhattan” there, which was in 1984, (I was 7, so my memory isn’t that great). I believe it closed shortly after that. I think it was a 1 screen. It was in Wexford Plaza, roughly around where the Hallmark store is now. My mom remembers that it was called the “Jerry Lewis Cinema” and was owned by the Fabak (sp?) Brothers. hope this helps…

RayKaufman
RayKaufman on April 25, 2006 at 12:55 pm

Patsy,you wrote “For a city the size of Pittsburgh that building shouldn’t be sadly vacant, but restored and a theatre once again!” Unfortunately, it went through a transformation, one that wasn’t ‘adaptive reuse,’ but a gutting of the building, except for a portion of the massive lobby. Within the shell of the gutted facade, three to four new floors of shops were constructed, creating an indoor mall. Nothing of the original interior was saved. Needless to say the real shame is that even that makeover is now dormant.

This and similar redos have occurred across the country. A notable and successful venture saved the facade only of the former Edwards Theatre on Third St. in Santa Monica. Around that, was built a new multiplex with condos above, heralding the rejuvination of today’s Third Street Promenade. The question is, will it last as the new theatre wasn’t a ‘megaplex?’ Time will tell.

Personally, I dislike calling what happened to the Warner’s makeover “adaptive reuse.” I’d save that term for the remake of theatres into other performance spaces, whether film or live. Gutting the space to make them into completely unrecognizable retail or living spaces is not adaptive but a stripping to rebuild something wholly new.

carolgrau
carolgrau on April 29, 2006 at 9:20 am

Take it easy on my friend Patsy,she has no idea just what a wonderfull Theatre the Warner was. It was probably the best acoustical, Theatre ever built, no matter were you sat, you could hear everything perfectly. The screen was 140 by 65, with a 23 foot deep curve, for cinerama. No one misses this Theatre more than me, I was the last projectionist who ever worked there, I still choke up just sitting here right now thinking of this great old beauty.
Norelco
I LOVE YOU WARNER,AND ALWAYS WILL MISS YOU DEEPLY.
e-mail me at
would liketo hear from anyone.

raubre
raubre on April 30, 2006 at 11:43 am

Ron, I got the newspaper article. Very helpful! Thank you!

RayKaufman
RayKaufman on April 30, 2006 at 1:10 pm

Norelco / Dave,

Was not at all bagging on Patsy, and am sorry if that’s what’s thought. My comment was to the point that gutting a theatre the way the Warner was, DESTROYS completely and should never be called adaptive reuse.

carolgrau
carolgrau on May 10, 2006 at 6:01 am

Sorry Pal, it is just the Warner is still a touchy subject with me, even after all these years. Cinemette was looking for any excuse to do in the Warner, and that stupid usher who stepped off that plank gave them what they were looking for. The same time there was a shop off to the right of the front entrance on 5th, Ave. that they also owned and wanted out of the Warner building. One night right after the ceiling incident, Jewish lightning hit the shop and burned it out. That was the end.You would think they would know after the failure of the Bank Cinema tower mall, witch they also ran, why would anyone think Pittsburgh needed another tower mall.Money was the real downfall of the Warner. I hope they all rot in hell.
Norelco

carolgrau
carolgrau on May 10, 2006 at 7:22 pm

Ron, thanks pal, I just read your post above and went back in time. I left Pittsburgh, in 84 or 83, cant really recall, but one of my jobs for local # 171 was running screenings at Cinnemettes office that was in the building beside the Fulton theatre on 6th, Ave. I would be requested by Ed Blank to be his projectionist. He used to say I was the only one who could run perfect movies for him. I think he was lying, but was nice of him. He & I would sit and talk after the movie and trade thoughts on the movie, sometimes for more than an hour. Brought allot of good memories back to me.
Thanks Again.
Norelco

Delana
Delana on July 6, 2006 at 9:05 am

I recently listed the “Parkway Theatre” located in the heart of West Park, Stowe Twp. PA. It is located just minutes from downtown, Pgh. I did have a potential buyer who wanted to restore the theater for 2nd run movies, performances, conferences, etc. to help strengthen the community but unfornately is relocating to another part of the country. As a real estate agent, I have had the opportunity to speak with many people who grew up in this area then raised their children and grandchildren. Stowe Twp. & the Parkway Theater has a wonderful history that many people still brag about today.

The Parkway Theatre is currently owned by a church. They have replaced the chairs, roof, installed 2 new furnaces/AC systems. Electrical & plumbing has also been updated.
It is still up for sale. We are hoping to find a buyer that can appreciate its history and use it to strengthen the community. If you are interested or know anyone who might be interested, please contact me at (). Thanks!

raubre
raubre on July 6, 2006 at 1:25 pm

The Parkway Theater has a listing on CT. I wasn’t sure if it was located in Stowe Twp or McKees Rocks.

/theaters/16562/

Delana
Delana on July 7, 2006 at 4:28 am

It is located in Stowe Twp. If you or anyone else has an interest in the theater, please let me know. I would also appreciate any ideas you may have on how I can further market this property. It is a wonderful theater and hold many special memories for a lot of people. I would love to see it continue to be an asset to the community. Thanks!

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