809 Liberty Avenue,
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Harris Theater (Official)
Architects: Drew Eberson, John Adolph Emil Eberson
Functions: Movies (Independent)
Styles: Streamline Moderne
Previous Names: Avenue Cinema, Art Cinema, Harris Theatre
The Avenue Cinema was opened September 14, 1931 showing on the screen “Der Foersterchrist” a German talking & singing operetta. It specialized in showing ‘unusual and artistic films from other lands’. It was renamed Art Cinema on September 16, 1935, screening Brian Aherne in “The Constant Nymph”. On November 9, 1995, the Harris Theatre was officially opened to the public. The Harris Theatre represented the cornerstone of the redevelopment of Liberty Avenue.
Located in the nationally known and locally registered Penn-Library Historic District, the Harris Theatre was the first moving picture house in Pittsburgh to commercially show “art movies” until competition from other city theatres led to its conversion to an adult, pornographic movie house in the 1960’s.
The theatre’s marquee was restored, and the theatre seats 194 for movies and 178 for live performances. The Harris Theatre was closed in December 2019. It had reopened by July 2022.
The Harris Theatre was named through a gift from the Buhl Foundation after John P. Harris, co-founder of Nickelodeon - the first theatre solely dedication to the showing of motion pictures- and a Pennsylvania State Senator.
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Recent comments (view all 25 comments)
Yes, Gerald DeLuca (that’s me) still posts on CT. But I tend to specialize in cinemas of my area, the state of Rhode Island.
An article about the Harris with a picture of the auditorium: View link
I’ve been here a couple of times. As part of PGH Film Makers, it’s a good place to see fare that’s just a little out of the mainstream. I wish they’d do something with the exterior, though. That blue still reminds me of its days as a porno house.
I checked out a few porn flicks here dating back to the mid-70,s. A few years ago, I went to a screening of the Vincent Gallo film Brown Bunny. The name of the theatre may have changed, but hard-core sex content in(some of)their features was still around.
The “Operated By” (chain) should be Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
A better website for this theater is http://pfm.pittsburgharts.org/
While searching for performance dates for The Six Rockets, my grandmother’s all-girl vaudeville acrobatic act, I came across this article: http://www.inesitadasilva.com/images/PittburghPressDec9_1929.jpg which suggests the Harris was showing movies as early as December 1929 (see third column, fourth line from bottom). However, most sources suggest The Harris didn’t come into being until much later. Was my grandmother’s theatre therefore another Harris in Pittsburgh perhaps? For those curious, more on The Six Rockets here: http://www.inesitadasilva.com/index.php?page=Keith%27s-Theatre
The Harris Theater is scheduled to be closed by the end of 2019. According to a Trib-Live article, its owners are facing financial difficult. The Regent Square has already closed. https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/pittsburgh-center-for-arts-and-media-shutters-movie-theaters-closes-main-building/
Reopened as Art Cinema on September 16th, 1935. Grand opening ad posted.
Currently open in 2022