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Does anybody have any photos of this drive-in that they could post?
Thanks hispeed54 for the ad!
Does anyone have any old pictures of the original theatre that they could post?
Does anyone have any pictures of this drive-in that they could post?
I remember going here for several movies, including a double bill of “The Sting” and “The Hindenburg”. My Dad noticed there was a Hudson Truck parked behing the screen. Hudson built mostly cars, so this was a rare vehicle. It must of been owned by somebody that worked there.
Yes, the far-left theater was quartered when they wanted to add more screens.
Tinseltoes: Nice article on the old Whitehall Theatre. I lived in the area from 1967 to 1991, but I don’t remember the bowling alley. Where was it located?
Posted article on the Fiesta closing…..
This drive-in used to have a kids ferris wheel. My sister and I would ride it when we were kids. I was disappointed when they took it out years later. I understand it was because the insurance was too high.
When Bowser Pontiac took over this space, they left the screen up for a long time. It was finally torn down in 1992. For a while they used the concession stand building as a parts department.
I grew up in Whitehall and went to this theatre often. This was one of the trio of theatres on Brownsville Road. The others being the Melrose and the Mount Oliver.
When this theatre would get really crowded, I remember cars parking in the middle of the front parking lot, in addition to the regular side spaces. Later, they must of outlawed this because it would have made it tough for emergency vehicles to get through.
This was a great neighborhood theatre. In the 1980’s, they use to have a once a month free movie that was sponcered by the merchants in the shopping center. The hope was you would go to the movie and return the favor by shopping at one or more of the stores there.
While the Whitehall was part of the “Brentwood Whitehall Shopping Center”, it actually was located in Brentwood.
The Warner Theater was much bigger than what the public saw. There were secret passageways, a huge basement under the auditorium, and dressing rooms behind the stage. There were also three adjacent floors of an abandoned department store called “Frank & Cedar”, which I believed closed around 1960.
Part of the Warner Marquee had lights that no longer worked. There were a set of spot lights mounted on the side of the building that lighted the side of the marquee at night. The ushers had to go turn on a set of lights for the marquee that were known as the “Frank & Cedar” lights. The switch for the lights was in the first floor of the Frank & Cedar room, which was on the same level as the balcony. Going into the Frank & Cedar rooms were like stepping back in time. There were old style light fixtures, an old elevator, wood floors, and carved patterns on the walls. The first floor of the Frank & Cedar rooms would later be used for the food court of Warner Center.
To gain access to the huge basement under the auditorium, you walked down a stone set of spiral steps, sort of like being in a castle. The steps were adjacent to the stage behind the curtain. When you came into the basement, there were markings on the wall giving the water level of the 1937 St. Patrick’s Day flood in Pittsburgh. There were also “fallout shelter” items, like food supplies and water containers. These were probably left over from the “cold war” of the 1960’s. The basement is where the controls were for the heating and air conditioning. There was also a set of steps that led into the old Forbes Avenue box office, which had been long abandoned.
What really put this theatre on the map was they were the only theatre in Pittsburgh to play the original “Star Wars” movie in 1977 on a big screen. The Bank Cinema downtown later played this as well, but those theatres were smaller than the Showcase. The original Showcase had two big auditoriums and two small ones. I can recall going there in the summer of 1977 to see “Star Wars”. I remember standing in line for that movie for a long time, only to hear an usher come outside with a bull-horn and say “Single Seats Only”! I learned to come back earlier the next time.
The biggest problem this theatre had was the immediate area it was located. I spoke to a former employee of the Showcase West Cinema who told me the residents in the Wilkins Township area fought Showcase East “tooth and nail”. They prevented any further expansion of the original structure, so Redstone (the parent company) had to split the exisitng two big auditoriums into two in order to add more screens. Also, this theatre later lost money because the owners had to give the people who lived around it “lifetime” passes, to keep them happy. This perk was apparently taken advantage of too often.
I am so glad this drive-in reopened. We always go out a couple times a year. My kids really love it. Last year we went out on the night that Kennedy Township was shooting off July 4th fireworks. We watched the movie and saw fireworks above the screen. What a double feature!
Uploaded a seating chart for the Chatham Cinema….
This was a great place to see a movie. The main screen was slightly curved for Cinemascope features. I remember being able to see this drive-in from a distance as I climbed the big hill on the Thunderbolt at Kennywood. You could see the back of screen one (the curved one) and the front of screen 2 from the top of the Thunderbolt. In later years, they had five screens. We went there the last summer they were opened (1997) to see “Air Force One”. It is sorely missed.
For years, The Gateway was always the theatre in Pittsburgh where the James Bond movies would premiere.
I can remember sitting in the balcony the weekend “The Spy who Loved Me” opened in 1977.
I remember hearing a story about how Cinemette anticipated huge business for the first Roger Moore 007 movie “Live and Let Die” in 1973. They booked the movie at both the Gateway AND the Fulton. However, they only had one print of the movie. The spaced the start times about a half hour apart. This was long enough so that the ushers could run reels between the two theatres. Keep in mind the projection booths were at the top of each balcony, and the trip was a long one from booth to booth. The ushers had to be relieved when the business died down after the first couple of weeks, and the feature was just shown at the Gateway.
I am not old enough to ever see a movie here. However, I did see several live shows. I recall hearing a story that the premiere of the made-for-tv movie “Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story” (1980) was shown here. It was embarrassing however because one of the projectors broke down that night, and they had to resort to showing most of the movie with just one projector. This meant bring the house lights up for several minutes in between reels while the next part was threaded.
Longtime Warner Theatre manager Paul Fleming oversaw this twin theatre through most of its life. I remember going there in the late winter / early spring of 1980 to see a “MGM Showcase Series” made of up of re-releases of Dr. Zhivago, Gone with the Wind, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I heard when “The Exorcist” came out in 1973, Cinemette was orignally going to book it at The Stanley. The decision was later made to hold it at the Warner instead. Since the Warner auditorium could not hold as many people as The Stanley, waiting crowds would form outside and would draw attention from people passing by. The Stanley would have been able to accommodate the crowds better, but would have not created the “blockbuster” effect that The Warner did with this feature.
I remember the Fiesta was very long, narrow, and red. The Golden Spike next door had a doorway that connected the restaurant and the upper lobby of the theatre, near the escalators. Unlike the Chatham (which opened the year before) there was no entrance way from the parking garage. However, there was an exit from the auditorium that brought you out on one of the levels of the parking lot.
I did some fill-in work here, when I wasn’t working at the Warner or the Chatham. I remember seeing “Star Trek – The Motion Picture” here in 1979. I understand that movie was originally supposed to play at the Warner. However at the time Star Trek – TMP was released (December 7, 1979), the Warner was still doing good business with “Apocalypse Now” and they didn’t want to change features yet. The Warner ended up getting “The Black Hole” on December 21st for its 1979 Christmas release.
There was a modern elegance to this theatre. Very classy. One of the unique features of it was the entrance from the parking lot, in addition to the main entrance.
On my recent trip to Chatham Center, I tried to go to the theatre entrance from the parking lot. There was a wood barricade that blocked access from the parking area. There was a door in the barricade that allowed a view through a crack in the doorframe. You could see inside that they were using the rear entrance way as a junk area. There were paint cans, bags of sand, pieces of wood, etc. Very sad.
If the theatre were to be reopened, many people standing at the lower Washington Place gate at Consol Energy Center could not help but see it. It is right there. It could be potential draw of business.
@rivoli157. You’re welcome! I’m glad you like the pictures. I will be posting more.
I understand some people from Duquesne University were looking at the Chatham recently. It would be an ideal location for them. Of all of the theatres left downtown, it is the only one that hasn’t been gutted (like the Warner, Gateway, or the Fiesta). It still has the basic structure in place, even though it needs a lot of work. I know a group of people have recently re-opened the Hollywood in Dormont. Perhaps the same thing might happen for the Chatham Cinema. I would really like to see that happen.