Cinema 4

3075 W. Liberty Avenue,
Dormont, PA 15126

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thespian110
thespian110 on March 30, 2007 at 12:51 pm

The Hollywood Theater opens tonight! Hopefully everyone who posts on this site will be there, I know that I will! Dreamgirls at 7:45, $3.00. Let’s show our local support!

thespian110
thespian110 on March 27, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Catherine,
Unfortunately, the time for general repairs has past. I have spent a great deal of time in the building over the last few months. We have had architects and engineers going over every inch of the buuilding. There are major issues with the “life systems” (fire suppression, electrical, plumbing, sewage)of the building. Also, there is a major leak in the roof, which has in turn destroyed most of the plasterwork in the house and created a major mold occurance. We are estimating the cost of just fixing the roof and bring the building to code at over a million dollars. We know that this will be a long process, but we are ready to roll up our sleeves and do it. It is the right thing for the community and especially our local youth. Take a look at our website at www.southhillstheatre.org

CatherineDiMartino
CatherineDiMartino on March 27, 2007 at 8:26 am

Even if someone could make general repairs, install new seating, etc. and continue to operate it as a “quad” (and do promotions) I betcha it would do well. It wouldn’t as good as a total restoration, but it would be better than demolition.

The LaGrange Theatre in LaGrange, IL is the same vintage as this theatre. It was “quadded” years ago, has somewhat limited parking, but gets good walk-in trade from the community. It does very well and is very crowded on weekends.

pghwurlitzer
pghwurlitzer on March 27, 2007 at 8:08 am

moviebuff,
I knew your father well in the 70s and early 80s. John was a nice man and always ready to share a story or two. I was saddenned when I heard of his loss. I was part of the group that presented the pipe organ concerts on the Style D Wurlitzer organ that was in the building since the mid 1920s. Jim Baker and Bob Stone were also great people to have known. They, of course, ran Mode-Art Pictures which was the parent company that was located in the offices upstairs. The movies provided a means to help pay the overhead on the building. Their main business was producing educational and documentary films for industry.

thespian110
thespian110 on March 25, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Angel4sam,
Thanks for the support! In updating our website today, I included a link to a weblog. I think it may be really helpful if everyone who sees this page puts a message of support on our blog. Thanks again and I will keep everyone posted on the progress!

thespian110
thespian110 on March 25, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Angel4sam,
Thanks for the support! In updating our website today, I included a link to a weblog. I think it may be really helpful if everyone who sees this page puts a message of support on our blog. Thanks again and I will keep everyone posted on the progress!

angel4sam
angel4sam on March 25, 2007 at 8:00 am

thespian110,

Thank you so much for posting that website! I had no knowledge of its existence. When I first saw the photo though, I said, nope that’s not the South Hills Theatre I’m thinking of, this must be another South Hills Theatre. So I referred to a recent photo of SHT and compared it to that one, and concluded it is the the same theater! I was amazed! I see both differences and similarities to the theater I remember from the 80’s. I would be absolutely devastated if a developer were to tear down that building. I realize it has deteriorated over the years, but I think it would serve the community better to restore it whether it be for 1st run movies, 2nd run movies or live shows. I will keep my eyes and ears open to see what happens. I’m hoping that since the Hollywood Theatre is about to re-open again that the same happens for the SHT.

angel4sam
angel4sam on March 25, 2007 at 7:48 am

mooviebuff,

You mentioned some things that also brought back memories for me! I remember Mr. Baker as well as Mr. Stone and Mr. Seng. I remember those nice offices upstairs, and if my memory is correct, there was even a shower up there! I remember Jo Lynn’s Pizza (but I forgot the name until you mentioned it). We would get their pizza A LOT during our break between matinee and evening shows. I also remember Isaly’s, I remember going there for milkshakes or ice cream.

I have to tell you this…when you mentioned that your dad played music that was piped into the theater, I remember that too! The reason why I remember is that one day, I heard a song played by your dad by a group called Yaz (or Yazoo). Yaz wasn’t a well known group because they weren’t “Top 40”, but I knew of them and had their album at home. I was so happy to hear that played over the loudspeakers before the movie started. I remember overhearing a customer nearby asking is this a disco? I laughed inside.

I also remember the theater periodically having organ concerts. I remember the name of the organist was Dennis, but cannot remember his last name. I remember talking with Dennis when he’d come to the concession stand.

I also remember there being a show, not a movie, but a live show of some sort and Mr. Fred Rogers (Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood) attended this show, accompanied by his bodyguards. I remember being thrilled to see him in person because I, like many others, watched him on TV when I was a little kid.

I could go on and on with my memories. It’s fun taking a trip down memory lane.

thespian110
thespian110 on March 24, 2007 at 10:23 pm

I’m not sure how to update information, but I have collected a lot of research on this theatre. The architect was a man named Charles R. Geisler. He was a local person, who also designed the Hollywood Theatre on Potomac. I have a lot more info included on our website: www.southhillstheatheatre.org
If anyone can tell me how to update the info, I will do it!

thespian110
thespian110 on March 24, 2007 at 10:16 pm

I’ve been reading the comments on this site for quite some time. I am so enthralled by all of the fond memories people have posted about the South Hills Theatre. I have been researching the building and the history and to that end I have enlisted people to help save the building. We are in the process of organizing a non-profit group to restore the theatre. We were informed yesterday that a developer is looking at the building (actually the land) and would eventually tear it down. Today, we began a petition campaign, enlisting citizens who support our plan of revitilazation. In a matter of hours we collected nearly 800 signatures. we are still trying to save and renovate this theatre. I need everyone who checks this page to look at our website and send and e-mail of support! Here’s the link: www.southhillstheatre.org

ewas
ewas on March 24, 2007 at 5:36 am

angel4sam,

Thank you so much for posting that message in regard to the night my father died. I did not think he died in the booth of the SHiT (as my father called it) but I wasn’t sure because I was young and never asked questions about that night until now. It was interesting to see what happened at the theater that night.

My father really did put his heart and soul into that old theater and I would probably feel very sad if I toured it in its current condition. I remember as a kid, Old Man Baker, had a beautiful office on the second floor. I can remember studying his office as a kid. It was adorned in what I think was natural wood and the detailing was superb. Baker was a collector of elephants for some reason. I remember his office was full of different elephant statues and sculptures.

I also remember being there every Saturday and Dormont had some very good places to go. We used to walk down the street and go down to Jo Lynn’s Pizza on West Liberty and get pizza and spaghetti (I still to this day haven’t been able to find pizza that good). We would also play video games there. Or sometimes we would go to Isaly’s and get some fresh cheese and chipped ham and bring it back to the booth where my father had a TV. We would watch shows like the Bob Newhart show, Hee Haw and professional wrestling while eating our chipped ham sandwiches. We always had soda to drink because he or we would go to the concession stand to get it. We had a season pass to the Dormont pool and often when we would come back from swimming, we would go onto the roof top of the theater and catch some rays.

My father would show us how to properly splice film and how to load a reel into the projector. He never missed a reel change. I remember in the early hours before the first matinee showing, my father would always play albums like ELO and Kansas and pipe it through the theater. I can remember being back stage and seeing how amazing it was; all the cables and wiring, etc. The stage itself had an elevator in the middle to raise and lower equipment. Of course, we rode this elevator a few times.

My last good memory of this great old theater was sometime in the late 80’s, my parents (my mom and stepdad) took me to a “Cowboy Junkies” concert there. It was such a great and intimate venue.

If this theater could be brought back to life to do exactly what it did in the 70’s and 80’s, there would be no end to the revenue stream. Of course it would take some creative marketing to compete with the big multi-plexes of today and parking would be an issue but, I remember full-houses there weekend after weekend—that was never an issue.

angel4sam
angel4sam on March 20, 2007 at 8:45 pm

mooviebuff,

When I was a teenager, I worked at the South Hills Theatre as a concession girl from 1982 to 1986. I worked, and was fairly acquainted, with your father while he was the projectionist there. My sympathies to you for losing your father in such a tragic way and at such a young age. I never heard that rumor that you saw on a blog. I can, however, share my experience of the night that your dad passed away. The theater had the movie “E.T.” showing, we had a full house (the floor and balcony were filled). Your dad was scheduled to work that night, but he never showed up and never called. The manager was concerned and called our boss at home and asked what to do. We were told that not just anyone can go up to the projection booth and play the movie, that it had to be someone from the union. They attempted to get a fill-in to replace your dad, but on such short notice, they were unable to do so. Therefore, the manager had to get up on the stage and announce to the audience that the movie is cancelled because we have no projectionist and they will issue refunds. The manager gave each customer a refund plus a free pass. Since there were so many people, it took a long time. I remember, when I got home that night, being completely devastated and filled with such sadness not to mention in shock that someone I knew and liked was now gone. As it turned out, in the four years that I worked at that theater, three people that I worked with passed away, your dad and two others.

I have fond memories of your dad from the times that I did work with him. Once he got the movie started, he would come down to the concession stand for a break and get some popcorn and a soft drink and he would tell us (concession girls, ushers and manager) funny (and often dirty) jokes. However, since I was so young, I didn’t always “get them” so someone in the group always had to explain the punchline to me. I didn’t know anything about his life outside the theater, only that he was a really nice guy to work with. I missed his presence around there during the remainder of my employment there.

Lastly, I saw that show “Things That Aren’t There Anymore” from beginning to end. Yes indeed they interviewed a man inside the theater before it was renovated for the C4. Seeing that short little scene with the theater that I was so familiar with in the background brought back so many fond memories for me.

I also hope that someone buys the theater and restores it to it’s former glory. If and when that ever happens, I’ll be there for it’s grand re-opening! (Keeping my fingers crossed)

Please feel free to share more of your memories of your dad or of the theater. I love reminiscing about things of the past that are near and dear to my heart and the South Hills Theatre is one of them.

ewas
ewas on March 20, 2007 at 5:49 pm

I am the son of the projectionist who used to work at South Hills Theater up until 1983. The fact is, my father killed himself in January of 1983. I was 12 years old when this happened so I don’t know much about his death. But, I was reading on a blog under the “Hollywood Theater” that my father committed this act in the booth of the theater. It is ironic how much this theater was my father’s life and love and his life tragically ended there.

On a brighter note, I spent a great deal of time at this old theater and I have a lot of great memories. I can remember the grand stage with high arched openings on each side. The auditorium had a balcony that was similar to the stadium seating of today. I spent a good deal of time in the projectionist booth as well as it was easily accessible from the balcony. As kids, we would often watch movies from the spotlight house at the center of the balcony. I can also remember a packed-house for 70’s film classics like Star Wars, Jaws and Animal House, to name a few.

I have noticed the ol' theater is for sale. I would love to see this theater restored to its original glory. In fact, I believe the theater was featured on a Rick Sebak special, “Things that aren’t there anymore.” I’m not completely sure it was this exact special, but I can remember an interview in a Sebak special in which a person was interviewed in that theater before it was turned into the C4. This person was interviewed from the balcony and the original stage and auditorium can be seen in the background.

I would love to talk more about my memories if anyone cares to talk about it.

ewas
ewas on March 20, 2007 at 5:45 pm

I am the son of the projectionist who used to work at South Hills Theater up until 1983. The fact is, my father killed himself in January of 1983. I was 12 years old when this happened so I don’t know much about his death. But, I was reading on a blog under the “Hollywood Theater” that my father committed this act in the booth of the theater. It is ironic how much this theater was my father’s life and love and his life tragically ended there.

On a brighter note, I spent a great deal of time at this old theater and I have a lot of great memories. I can remember the grand stage with high arched openings on each side. The auditorium had a balcony that was similar to the stadium seating of today. I spent a good deal of time in the projectionist booth as well as it was easily accessible from the balcony. As kids, we would often watch movies from the spotlight house at the center of the balcony. I can also remember a packed-house for 70’s film classics like Star Wars, Jaws and Animal House, to name a few.

I have noticed the ol' theater is for sale. I would love to see this theater restored to its original glory. In fact, I believe the theater was featured on a Rick Sebak special, “Things that aren’t there anymore.” I’m not completely sure it was this exact special, but I can remember an interview in a Sebak special in which a person was interviewed in that theater before it was turned into the C4. This person was interviewed from the balcony and the original stage and auditorium can be seen in the background.

I would love to talk more about my memories if anyone cares to talk about it.

RaneyOnline
RaneyOnline on January 3, 2007 at 4:23 am

I drove past the Cinema 4 today and was sad to see it in this condition. I noted that Dormont’s Liberty Ave was very much like a downtown Main Street in any number of communities accross the United States. I witnessed heavy traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) and very few empty storefronts. This area could support the re-opening of this theater if parking arraingments could be made with nearby church or other property owners. Residence should confront their community leaders and encourage them to build a parking garage.

angel4sam
angel4sam on December 27, 2006 at 8:56 pm

I used to work for the South Hills Theatre (Cinema 4) from 1982-1986. I really liked working there and have many fond memories of my time there. After reading a newspaper article saying that the Hollywood Theatre in Dormont is currently being renovated and will be opening up for business soon, it made me wonder what is going on with the South Hills Theatre, which eventually brought me here. I really hope that the same happens with the South Hills Theatre too as it breaks my heart to see it in its current condition when I drive past it. If I were given the opportunity to walk through it today, I would probably be really sad from reading comments pertaining to the description of the interior. I agree with Mad Monkey, I too would like to see it returned to its former glory.

MadMonkey13
MadMonkey13 on December 4, 2006 at 9:01 am

I would really like to return this theater to its former glory. Does anyone know somebody who specializes in theater restoration?

raubre
raubre on September 12, 2006 at 2:19 pm

Thanks for the updates JDR!!!

JOHNRUSKIN
JOHNRUSKIN on August 11, 2006 at 5:01 am

On an additional note, while rereading old posts, PI asked if the origional auditorium still exists, well that depends. First of all the space has been divided in half lengthwise, and the balcony and stage walled off to create the 4 screens. Second the plaster is soggy and crumbeling, one can see the plaster capitals on the pilasters in the auditrorium, but they are in bad shape. The two side boxes, if you could call them that since they were accessed from the stage bathrooms, (they probably were the organ pipe chambers), have been butchered up, and as it was walled off, I couldn’t see the processium, so who knows what shape it is in. From what I remember, back when it was the South Hills, the place had a Medieval/castle theme, but after my tour, I would say that the origional style was a simplified classsical look circa the 1920’s. Think a typical downtown movie palace, but with mostly plain walls. That said though, the interior may have been remodeled in the 1940’s-50’s and simplified, So who knows.

JOHNRUSKIN
JOHNRUSKIN on August 11, 2006 at 4:33 am

They are asking $300,000.

JOHNRUSKIN
JOHNRUSKIN on August 9, 2006 at 8:50 am

I got a tour from the realestate agent the other day; the roof is leaking and most of the plaster is wet, the 4 auditoriums especially smell mouldy. This theater was origionally the South Hills Theater, whose single auditorium had a balcony that came down to the main floor, sort of an early form of stadium seating. There is a decent sized stage, (presently walled off), with about 6 dressing rooms, 3 to a side. There are several large office/lounge rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors, two with large arched windows that overlook the mainstreet. With a lot of work, this could be a very nice theater again.

raubre
raubre on May 30, 2006 at 3:01 pm

Here are some pictures of the Cinema 4 (I think it used to be called the South Hills Theater as well)

View link

View link

View link

It needs some TLC, but can defenitely be reusable. I’m guessing the theater has been closed for about 5 years, since “Along Came a Spider” was released in 2001.

kingjohn
kingjohn on April 6, 2006 at 12:40 pm

Both the Cinema 4 and the Hollywood theaters in Dormont are ripe for revitalization. Dormont is a safe, established community (incorporated in 1909) with affordable and attractive older houses and easy access to the downtown Pittsburgh business community. In recent years it has been attracting younger residents because of these reasons. Yes, parking is somewhat of a problem but not impossible. The area is also incredibly accessible by public transportation. There are also numerous apartments & duplex rentals resulting in a high concentration of residents – who tend to patronize local businesses. Either of these could be a real money maker for someone with a little imagination and initiative.