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I have innumerable happy memories of this theater. And since I first ventured down there to see a live show, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” with its original cast, I have to admit mixed feelings that it’s a legitimate theater again. It certainly never was ideal for movies.
I’d seen dozens of double bills of classics there over the years before I arrived early enough once – and with no other patrons behind me in line – to get the gentleman in the box office (presumably Howard Otway) – to explain about the peculiar rear-screen projection process.
I was introduced to countless old movies there, always in imaginatively designed double bills.
My single fondest memory: I had seen “Sudden Fear” when it was new in 1952 and about eight years later on Pittsburgh TV. Then the picture disappeared – totally – even though it was never on those lists of films that had vanished from Planet Earth for decades back then (“Porgy & Bess,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” the 1956 version of “1984,” etc.)
Anyway, I phoned either Howard Otway or his son once to ask if he could send the next schedule a few days early to me in Pittsburgh because I feared missing it in transit as I headed for NYC. Somehow the subject of “Sudden Fear” came up (I no doubt was cataloging movies aloud), and Mr. Otway said, “But we’ve got it! We’re about to play it for the first time. It’s on the next schedule.” Turned out it was to play the day before I arrived with 100-some theatergoers I was shepherding to Broadway. I could not change my arrival date. Damned if he didn’t say, “Look, the schedules don’t go to the printer for a day or two. If you promise you’ll come to `Sudden Fear,‘ I’ll postpone it a couple of days for you.” He kept his word, and I got to see it for the first time in 30-some years. Not too long later, the film became available on laser disc and then DVD, both of which I bought. But what a kick that he made so kind a gesture for an out-of-towner. – Ed Blank
Was only in this theater three times, I think – two of them after the twinning. Can’t remember what I saw, but I do remember going back to the lobby during one visit to tell them it was so cold in the auditorium that I could see my own breath. I was already wearing a suit coat, overcoat, scarf and gloves. As I recall, they never did correct the problem. – Ed Blank
Thank you very much, Al. It’s unlikely I would have thought of “The Professionals.” I wonder how many cities had that festival and if we all had it the same night. I’ve gotta think there were only one or two usable prints of most of those films and that they moved around daily for a couple of weeks. I do remember they were shown in precise chronological sequence in Pittsburgh and that I helplessly dozed during the second and third ones, “Mr. Deeds” and “Mr. Smith.” Never imagined that a few years later I’d be able to buy all of them, and so many more, on VHS. – Ed Blank
SethLewis mentioned above, in 2004, that the Columbia I & II hosted a retrospective of Columbia classics to celebrate the studio’s 50th anniversary in 1974. We had that all-night show in Pittsburgh, too, at Squirrel Hill Theater. It consisted of 10 outstanding Columbia films, shown from oldest to newest. Do you New Yorkers have the same 10? Can you identify them, using my partial list as a starting point: From memory, they were “It Happened One Night,” “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “His Girl Friday” (not positive about that one), “From Here to Eternity,” “On the Waterfront,” “Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Funny Girl” (I think). And I’m missing at least one. (I don’t think “Oliver” or “Gilda” were part of it, but I’m tempted to say “Born Yesterday” or “A Man for All Seasons” were in there.) The program started at either 8 p.m. or midnight, and the 10th film ended at about 7 p.m. the next evening. The theater emptied for a two-hour (or less) dinner break. We all headed for nearby eateries and then returned for the 11th feature, which was a premiere of Columbia’s latest, “The Odessa File.” Does this marathon sound familiar to Seth and others who might have caught it in Manhattan? – Ed Blank
The starting times for movies here always seemed to be inordinately spaced out, with breaks of maybe an hour with nothing on the screen. And attendance never was good in my experience. — Ed Blank
This theater, under its various identities, has yielded an eclectic variety of bookings over the years. I saw Disney’s “The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit” on one visit and “I Am Curious (Yellow)” on another – both first-runs. My fondest memory is of a period when the theater was running double features of great contemporary films at midnight on weekends. I caught a bill consisting of “A Thousand Clowns” and a great personal favorite, “Lord Love a Duck.” – Ed Blank
Have many of you noted that many/most of the photos and newspaper pages entered into Cinema Treasures under Photobucket.com expire, or for whatever reason become inaccessible, after a year or two? I’ve found that’s true in a hundred different moviehouse blogs on the Cinema Treasures site. – Ed Blank
Ken, Sure would appreciate it if you’d take a photo of what’s left of Steel Pier and open the blog on Steel Pier with it. I’m sure many of us would like to contribute to that link. It had three moviehouses within it(though only two were used for films during the second part of the 20th Century), so it should be eligible. – Ed Blank
Saw “White Witch Doctor” here in the summer of 1953. A memorably beautiful theater. – Ed Blank
Am I correct in remembering that this was the nicest theater in Ocean City, NJ, in the mid-1950s? If so, it’s where I saw “To Catch a Thief” in the summer of 1955. – Ed Blank
I liked the Roxy a lot. I remember seeing “A Hole in the Head” there in the summer of 1959. Can’t remember any other specific films I saw there, and I don’t know when it closed. – Ed Blank
Another late, lamented Manhattan movie landmark. I have fond memories of “Raging Bull,” “Network” and many other attractions there. – Ed Blank
The address I have for the Triangle is 6276 Frankstown Avenue. – Ed Blank
The Triangle opened April 3, 1920. It was the only one of the seven East Liberty theaters operating in the 1940s that was not on Penn Avenue. It was one short block off Penn, at 6276 Frankstown Avenue, The rear of the Triangle was not far from the rear of the Liberty on Penn Avenue. The Triangle began with 800-900 seats. A trade paper news story at the time of the theater’s opening said it cost $75,000 and contained 1000 seats, but neither figure appears anywhere else; the numbers probably were inflated – certainly rounded off. The Triangle played double features, two of three changes of program a week, and was dead-last in playing films in East Liberty. Perhaps mainly by virtue of its location within East Liberty, it became a theater more heavily frequented by black audiences than by whites, though its programming never reflected that balance. As the East Liberty theaters began to close one by one, the independently owned and operated Triangle struggled to hang on but finally closed in 1959 and soon was razed in what became the failed effort to revitalize East Liberty through the construction of Penn Circle. Side note: If its final stages of operation, the Triangle tried programming Italian language movies – not the name-brand Italian “art movies” of Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Vittorio deSica but the sort of obscure Italian movies that wouldn’t have been known at all outside the Italian-speaking community. It’s hard to be sure precisely when the theater closed because it dropped out of the newspaper theater directories prematurely. – Ed Blank
The Wal-Mart and its parking lot occupy much/most of the site of the old Greater Pittsburgh Drive-In. However, when the short-lived, ill-fated Loew’s North Versailles opened on property adjacent to the Wal-Mart, I asked several key people if the Loew’s parking lot, in stretching toward the Wal-Mart, did not also cover some of the land formerly occupied by the drive-in. The concensus was that it did. Those five drive-in lots occupied a fair amount of acreage up there. Sorry it’s all lost to us now. – Ed Blank
The Airport Theater at the now-razed Greater Pittsburgh International Airport was straight ahead as you entered the main entrance. It was the farthest destination inside the building through the main corridor. It was razed when the airport was greatly expanded in – what? – the late 1960s or early 1970s.
Like many drive-in theaters, the Airport Theater distributed weekly playbills, with the present attraction on the front cover and about three forthcoming movies advertised on Pages 2, 3 and 4.
I was always intrigued by the theater and went there once or twice
before it closed, notably for a re-release combination of Hitchcock’s “Marnie” and “The Birds.” (Normally the theater had played late-run single features, so this program was quite unusual.) Two major disadvantages of the Airport Theater: (1) You had to pay airport parking rates just to be on the premises, and (2) The cinema wasn’t nearly well enough insulated from the deafening noise of planes taking off just beyond the walls. – Ed Blank
The Eastwood was an unusually nice, family-operated theater on the border of urban and suburban Pittsburgh. It played early-neighborhood-run movies, usually in double bills (“Charade” and “Lilies of the Field”), usually with two changes the week. It was owned and operated throughout its existence by the Navari family of Penn Hills. Rudy, the patriarch, maintained it very well with the help of his wife, son Rudy, daughter Norina and especially eldest son Joel (Joseph L.). Joel took over more and more of the theater’s operation during his college years in the early 1960s and booked several move-over art films as well as the highest quality commercial releases. No junk at all. Unfortunately, by the late 1960s, it was trapped in a neighborhood that was succumbing to crime, which began to impact on the audience the Eastwood served. Even the nearby East Hills strip mall succumbed. The Eastwood’s final movie before closing in 1969 was “Krakatoa, East of Java.”
Thank you for that photo, Lost Memory. I’d never imagine what building I was looking at. I got to Augusta one time in my post-Army years – 1970, I think – and the town already was changing. – Ed Blank
Saw a lot of movies at the Imperial when I was stationed at Fort Gordon in 1965-66. Among them was the national re-release of “Shane” and a double bill of then-recent Columbia hits and awards contenders, “The Collector” and “Ship of Fools.” Most of all I can remember the theater’s localized making a big ndeal of the fact that the new Jimmy Stewart Civil War drama, “Shenandoah,” was filmed in “our own Shenandoah Valley” or words to that effect. I was aware that “Shenandoah” had played to good, slightly better-than-average business in other cities, including my hometown, Pittsburgh. (Stewart was born 50 miles from here in Indiana, PA, 100 years ago this week.) Anyway, at Augusta’s Imperial Theater, “Shenandoah” played to colossal business – lines around the block and advertising that called it the all-time record-breaker, which truly may have been the case. Most movies moved in and out in a week or two, even the bigger ones. But “Shenandoah” played at least four weeks and quite possibly more than a month. It was the first time I was aware of a picture being a regional sensational more than it was a national one. — Ed Blank
One of the pictures I caught there while stationed at Fort Gordon in 1965-66 was “The Group.” – Ed Blank
I remember this theater being by far the least attractive of Augusta’s four single-screen indoor theaters when I was stationed at Fort Gordon from August 1965 through May 1966. Unlike the Daniel Village, the Imperial and the Miller, the Modjeska was seedy and played late-run double bills. As I recall, the double bills unquestionably accented action to draw male audiences who were not concerned about the theater’s disrepair. I remember going in only once to catch a favorite from several months earlier, “The Train.” – Ed Blank
I was delighted when the ubiquitous Frank Rowley began programming this theater with classics and disheartened when his era ended here, as it had at the Regency. What a loss!
Thank you very much for that start, VEYoung. Every year from 1954 through 1961 or maybe 1962, I spent a week in Atlantic City with my folks. I always went straight to the Steel Pier to get that week’s schedule and to work out a one-day itinerary so we could see the diving horse, the main movie, which was always in the Casino, the secondary movie, which played the larger Music Hall with that week’s name attraction (Guy Mitchell with his leg in a cast one year, a pairing of June Valli and Jean Carroll another year), as well as the water show at the end of the pier featuring the diving horse. For whatever reason, we never bothered with “Tony Grant’s Stars of Tomorrow” show, which was in a third theater. The Grant show might have been in the auditorium you refer to as the Ocean. I sure wish Steel Pier had a Cinema Treasures entry. – Ed Blank
As I recall, in 1978 this theater played a festival of Katharine Hepburn movies in double bills. I caught up with a lot that were hard to find at the time, including the lesser RKO Hepburns of the 1930s – the ones that got her labled “box-office poison.” – Ed Blank
Does anyone remember which distributor fed films to this theater when it was the Surf? – Ed Blank