Warner Theatre

332 Fifth Avenue,
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Unfavorite 14 people favorited this theater

Warner Marquee December 1980

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This beautiful movie palace was a major theatre in Pittsburgh. It opened as the Grand Theatre on March 7, 1918 with Douglas Fairbanks in “Headin' South” and Winifred Westover in “Her Husband’s Wife”.

Renamed Warner Theatre on January 2, 1930. From October 1953, it was converted into a Cinerama theatre. It showed many of the reserved seat engagements during the 1960’s, such as "Ben-Hur," "The Alamo," "Exodus,".

The elaborate interior was primarily beige with deep red carpeting and curtains. Its large marquee posted huge mylars on its side, depicting the poster artwork for the current film. This made the theatre a special focus in the downtown center, especially at night.

The theatre was later left to deteriorate. I remember an article in the 1980’s about a poor woman who was hit by a portion of the ceiling while watching a film. Not long after, the theatre was closed on April 14, 1983 with a special benefit premiere of Jennifer Beals in “Flashdance”.

The auditorium was demolished, and a two story shopping center named Warner Center was built on the site. Today you can see the beautiful doors and a portion of the huge lobby which was retained.

Contributed by Kenneth Kunkel

Recent comments (view all 83 comments)

rivoli157
rivoli157 on November 12, 2011 at 6:05 pm

it is a shame that this theatre and all the others are now no longer, either torn down, or in another use. At least some of them are still in use as legit theatres. When I lived downtown I of course always went to these theatres,but even when I lived in Shadyside or East Liberty I came downtown to go to the movies.It was always so much more special. I understand progress and all but it is a shame when a downtown area of a city is devoid of any movie theatre, the multiplexes really ruined it all

WarnerChatham
WarnerChatham on February 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm

I used to work at both the Warner and the Chatham in the early 1980’s. I will be adding some pictures soon of both of these great old theatres, along with the other downtown movie houses. I also have some old photos of the Greater Pittsburgh Drive-In I will be adding.

rivoli157
rivoli157 on March 5, 2012 at 10:30 am

again WarnerChatham, great shots. Sad to see the pacman and other early video games in the lobby,a sign of things to come

71dude
71dude on March 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Thanks for all the pictures of the Chatham and Warner. I’m too young to have gone to any of these sites but they looked like great theaters.

WarnerChatham
WarnerChatham on May 9, 2012 at 6:48 pm

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.

Cliff Carson
Cliff Carson on June 23, 2012 at 12:56 am

I saw many films here, THE WAY WE WERE. EARTHQUAKE, DRUM

StarryGreen
StarryGreen on October 14, 2013 at 10:19 am

Joe Vogel, the article states that the Warner Theater started out as the Grand.

StarryGreen
StarryGreen on October 14, 2013 at 10:21 am

I would have loved to go the Warner when it was open. Can anyone confirm that the theater is haunted?

johnbarchibald1
johnbarchibald1 on November 21, 2013 at 5:52 pm

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!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 21, 2013 at 8:36 pm

StarryGreen: Yes, the description now states that the Warner opened as the Grand Theatre, but it didn’t say that at the time I asked the question. When I first visited Cinema Treasures I wondered why so many comments just repeated things that were already stated in the theater descriptions, but it turned out to be the other way around.

The descriptions are periodically updated by the site’s editor with new information that is posted in comments, such as K2’s reply to my question, confirming my suspicion that this house was once the Grand. Be sure to check back now and then to see if something new has been discovered about the theater.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater