Warner Theatre

332 Fifth Avenue,
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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rivest266
rivest266 on September 12, 2014 at 1:28 pm

December 31st, 1929 grand opening as Warner in photo section

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 21, 2013 at 6:36 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.

johnbarchibald1
johnbarchibald1 on November 21, 2013 at 3:52 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!

StarryGreen
StarryGreen on October 14, 2013 at 7:21 am

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

StarryGreen
StarryGreen on October 14, 2013 at 7:19 am

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

Cliff Carson
Cliff Carson on June 22, 2012 at 9:56 pm

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

WarnerChatham
WarnerChatham on May 9, 2012 at 3:48 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.

71dude
71dude on March 14, 2012 at 5:35 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.

rivoli157
rivoli157 on March 5, 2012 at 8:30 am

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

WarnerChatham
WarnerChatham on February 22, 2012 at 5:00 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 November 12, 2011 at 4:05 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

rivoli157
rivoli157 on November 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Ah The Warner, that beautiful marquee. Memories of The Exorcist, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Close Encounters. A beautiful theatre, now ruined and totally gone. I loved walking 5th Ave at night on my way home and seeing that marquee all lit up!

k2
k2 on June 18, 2011 at 6:56 am

Hi, Joe. I grew up in Pittsburgh during the 50’s and 60’s and some of my most cherished memories are of going to the Warner Theater for their reserved seat engagements. I checked out the pictures on that page and yes, that is the Warner but with some significant modifications. The beautifully carved proscenium arch was preserved but everything behind it was removed: the half dome, the screen, the cameo panels, the orchestra pit, the screen, the stage, even several front rows of seats. This was all replaced by a large stage. A solid deep red curtain hung down behind the arch across the width of the stage. It seemed to come down to the base of the half dome. One can see from the picture where they obtained the stage depth to be able to hold a Cinerama screen, which stretched in an impressive arch from one end of the stage to the other. A curved deep red curtain was also in place masking the screen. Now for regular 70mm productions like “Ben-Hur”. a normal flat screen was used, stretching across the entire stage with its own deep red curtain. I believe the boxes on the side were kept but they were mostly for show. I never saw anyone actually sitting there. The primary colors were beige and deep red. The carpeting and the seats matched the curtains. The deep red of the stage curtains was reinforced by a row of lights with red cels that were attached to the front wall of the balcony. I believe the foyer was much larger than in the picture because I don’t remember looking down on the last rows of the orchestra, so they must have removed several rows nd created a wall to contain the auditorium. Yes, that chandelier was there and the design of that dome resembled the main one in the auditorium itself, just without the chandelier. I don’t remember any furniture being there. I was hoping for some interior pictures of the theatre too, but thanks to linking to the pictures of The Grand. It brought back so many memories. I thought it was the most beautiful theater in the area, and it was well kept during that period so that it could show so many prestigious pictures.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 2, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I was hoping to see some interior photos of this theater here, so I could compare them with the photos of a Pittsburgh theater called the Grand, designed by C. Howard Crane and displayed on this page of the August, 1920, issue of the professional journal Architecture. As the Warner is the only Pittsburgh theater attributed to Crane at Cinema Treasures, I’m guessing that it must be the 1920 Grand. Maybe somebody who attended the Warner will recognize it in the photos and confirm my surmise.

Scroll down the page at Internet Archive to see a longitudinal section and floor plans of the Grand Theatre. Pages can be resized using the + and – signs in the toolbar at lower left, and the images can be dowloaded in the size you’ve chosen using your computer’s usual right click-save feature.

carolgrau
carolgrau on May 21, 2010 at 10:43 am

I know it broke my heart the day they finally took those Norelco projectors out of that upstairs booth….Just seeing them in that photo almost brought tears,, It was'nt long after that, they moved the Cinerama projectors downstairs….and very rarely ever used the booth upstairs again…

carolgrau
carolgrau on May 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

Great piture… Was also the first cinerama film I ever ran…I know your Grandfather,, but can’t for the life of me remember his name,,, What great memories,,, I was such a young buck then….

halthetool
halthetool on April 20, 2010 at 4:53 am

I am going through some olf family photos and thought some of you may appreciate these. These are of my grandfater during the run of How The West Was Won in 1963. He wa sa projectionist at the Warner back then.

http://i41.tinypic.com/magcgo.jpg

http://i39.tinypic.com/os52q0.jpg

carolgrau
carolgrau on March 22, 2010 at 11:05 am

One of my best memories was they used to keep popcorn in yellow bags in a room above my booth, one day they were dumping out a bag in the popcorn warmerm for 2 ladies who ordered some, and a large rat jumped out right at them. The one poor lady wet her pants scared the hell out of her, and they both let out a blood curdling scream…I have to laugh now just thinking about it… PS. I am also Dave Grau (Mungo)

edblank
edblank on February 4, 2010 at 8:14 am

The theater opened the evening of April 14, 1983, for its final screening – the invitational premiere of the locally made “Flashdance.”

A special guest at the premiere was Pittsburgh Police Officer Victor Cianca Sr., who made a cameo appearance in the picture directing traffic. Vic died Jan. 24, 2010. Vic had either just retired or was about to retire at age 65 when the picture screened.

71dude
71dude on February 4, 2010 at 7:56 am

1982:

01/01 Reds
01/29 Venom
02/12 Super Fuzz
02/19 Hell Night
02/26 Fighting Mad
03/12 Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip
04/02 Silent Rage
04/09 Quest for Fire
05/07 Swamp Thing
05/14 Conan the Barbarian
06/04 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
07/09 Tron
07/30 Funeral Home
08/06 Things Are Tough All Over
08/20 The Road Warrior
09/03 Tommy
09/10 Close Encounters of the Third Kind
09/17 Slumber Party Massacre
09/24 Bruce Lee’s Deadly Kung Fu/Fist Like Lee
10/01 7 Grandmasters/Return of the 7 Grandmasters
10/04 CLOSED
10/22 The Sender
10/29 Poltergeist
11/05 Just Before Dawn
11/12 Goin' All the Way
11/19 The Concrete Jungle
11/29 CLOSED
12/10 The Toy

1983:

01/07 Class of 1984
01/14 One Down, Two to Go
01/28 Fighting Dragon vs. Deadly Tiger
02/04 Flying Masters of Kung Fu
02/11 Let’s Spend the Night Together
02/18 The Lords of Discipline
03/11 Doctor Butcher, M.D.
03/18 One Dark Night
03/25 Eddie Macon’s Run
04/01 Bruce vs. Bill
04/08 – 04/14 Bruce vs. Bill/Bruce & Shaolin Kung Fu
END

71dude
71dude on January 26, 2010 at 6:57 am

Jan. – Oct. 1981:

01/01 The Jazz Singer
01/30 Blood Beach
02/06 Altered States
03/06 Bruce Is Loose
03/13 Hangar 18
03/20 The Final Conflict
04/10 Star Wars
04/24 The Howling
05/15 The Hand
05/22 Outland
06/19 Superman II
08/21 An Eye for an Eye
09/18 Savage Weekend
09/25 Return of the Dragon/Game of Death
10/09 Body Heat
10/30 Prince of the City

carolgrau
carolgrau on November 28, 2009 at 12:15 pm

The auditorium is gone, they tore it down, and redid it for store space.The Historical Society fought like mad to keep the lobby intact. They were very disapointed when they put an esculator right in the middle of the lobby. I am not sure if it’s still there, the last time I was there i don’t remember seeing it. I was surprised to find my old front door key still worked, but I just could'nt bring myself to go inside. It still hurts me alot.

Patsy
Patsy on November 28, 2009 at 7:18 am

To even find some brass poster cases and at least on chandelier is amazing though such a shame that the theatre has been basically lost to memory. I wonder what happened though I can almost piece together the reasons as it is usually the result of “urban renewal” and the advent of television, etc.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on November 27, 2009 at 7:10 pm

I was in what remains of the theater in late August and as far as I can tell, all there is is a section of the lobby which ends with a few steps up to a modernized section. Either the auditorium is gone or has been gutted out. Some terrific brass poster cases and at least one chandelier, but that is about it.