Showing 9 comments
I saw many, many movies at the Sewickley Theatre; it was really the primary movie theatre for me growing up in the area. It had a balcony, which only adults could sit in; a child had to be accompanied by an adult. Mr. Wheat, the owner, would actually give away one-sheet posters after a film’s run. (Would I still had but a small percentage of those today… Lost to time.)
No specific design details, except the interior had curved circular doors to the men’s room, kind of Art Deco streamline, and, on one lobby wall, next to the staircase to the balcony, there was a painting of a full-figured woman, sitting on a cloud, holding a film reel, whom I used to refer to as the “Goddess of the Film Cans.” Wonder if she’s still there.
All the Disney releases played the Stanley in the 1950’s. My father would take us in to Pittsburgh, where my older brothers and I would clamor for him to let us sit through the picture twice. (You could do that in those days.) So we saw “Lady and the Tramp” (1956) in its original release, not to mention all the other reissues, such as “Cinderella,” “Music Land,” and live-action films, like “Swiss Family Robinson.” Later, when I was older, I also went there to see more adult films, like “The Innocents,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” That place holds a lot of memories for me. I’m glad it’s still being used as a theatre.
I saw a lot of movies at the old Loew’s Penn, including the original roadshow release of “Cleopatra” (1963), which I saw there several times, sometimes when there were only maybe 20 or 30 people, at most, in that cavernous space, clustered in the central section of the orchestra seats downstairs. Perhaps the last hurrah for business there was the Christmas 1963 release of Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone,” which was very popular. After that, it played mostly reissues. I think I saw “South Pacific” there, sometime in early 1964. After that, it was empty, with the name of its last attraction, “Ensign Pulver,” lingering on the marquee for years.
I can remember seeing a “sneak preview” of “The Time Machine,” in 1960, at what was then called the J.P.Harris Theatre, along with the main scheduled feature, “Let’s Make Love,” which starred Marilyn Monroe, and which I thought was too dull for words. I was 11. But I loved “Time Machine” and still do! I seem to remember other films there, too, like “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” and “The Mysterious Island,” which usually appeared around the holidays.
As I recall, the Liberty Theatre had a giant electric sign of an American flag, in neon and sparkling lights, above the marquee. Very imposing.
The father of my then-best friend used to take us out to out-of-the way local theatres to movies. I remember his taking us to a local showing of “The Fall of the Roman Empire” there, probably in mid-to-late 1964. It did seem like a movie palace at the time, set amids what must have once been a major shopping area, but which, even in 1964, had clearly seen better days. I suspected the electric American flag had been added in the 40’s, but I could be wrong. (Many local theatres had Art Deco facelifts in the 30’s and 40’s.)
Yes, the design of this theatre was unique. You entered the theatre, then had to walk either right or left, to reach a long aisle, sloping upward, to reach the back of the theatre. The whole thing was built into the side of a hill, and used the elevation as a natural element in raking the audience.
For some reason, I saw a lot of MGM reissues there, like “Brigadoon,” and “Quo Vadis,” mostly in the mid-to-late-60’s.
I saw a lot of movies at the Warner, mostly first-run roadshows, from “Seven Wonders of the World,” in 1957, up to “The Exorcist,” in 1973. The Warner was the only theatre in Pittsburgh that had the Cinerama franchise, with the 3-projector system of showing those extravaganzas. So, I saw “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm,” “How the West Was Won,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” and “2001” all there. I also saw “Ben-Hur” there many times, first in its original release, in early 1960, and later for its reissue, in 1969. I even saw a re-issue there of Disney’s “Fantasia,” in 1964, which had been stretched out to imitate widescreen. Weird. (Although, that was the last time the good folks at Disney included the original, uncut version of “The Pastoral Symphony,” with the little pickaninny, black centaurette, named “Sunflower,” who was disappeared from the next reissue, in 1970, and whose existence the studio has more or less disowned ever since. But that, as they say, is another story.)
I still recall the long lobby connecting the street entrance to the Warner auditorium, where you entered in about the middle of the audience, and had to walk to your left to get up to the back of the downstairs seating.
I miss all those movie palaces of yore!
I loved the Airport Theatre, and went there often. It was one of the best places to see wide-screen films, because it wider than it was deep. Only appeared to have about 400 seats or so, all on one level, which sloped down toward the screen. My father would drop me and my older brothers off at the airport, then pick us up after the show. (We only lived a couple of miles away.) I can remember seeing 2 different releases of “The King and I” there, one in about 1957, and another during a re-release in the 60’s. Saw Disney’s “Peter Pan” there, in 1953, as well as many others, such as “Flower Drum Song,” “A Majority of One” (both 1961), “The Counterfeit Traitor,” Taras Bulba" (both 1962),“Kings of the Sun” (1963), and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (1966), which may well have been the last film I ever saw there. The theatre, as stated above, was at the end of the central corridor of the airport. A small boxoffice was on the right, and the popcorn stand on the left. The boxoffice person would also sell the snacks. I remember the popcorn tasting more oily than the popcorn I got at the Sewickley and Coraopolis Theatres, possibly because they only warmed up previously popped corn, while the Airport Theatre popped their own. They also had drinks, like orange and cherry Crush, which I also never saw anywhere else.
As I said, the theatre was great for widescreen films. I remember the sound being pretty good, too.
Some years later, I realized the theatre had been razed for an airport expansion. However, the central aisle between gates, still sloped upward, in the same angle as the interior of the theatre, then sloped downward again, indicating the ghost of the structure it had overtaken.