Harris Theatre

809 Liberty Avenue,
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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Showing 22 comments

SusanD
SusanD on July 18, 2014 at 4:47 pm

A better website for this theater is http://pfm.pittsburgharts.org/

SusanD
SusanD on July 18, 2014 at 4:42 pm

The “Operated By” (chain) should be Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

ppherber
ppherber on March 17, 2013 at 3:55 am

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.

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on November 19, 2012 at 5:17 pm

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

SusanD
SusanD on April 1, 2012 at 1:58 am

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.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on February 17, 2011 at 3:33 am

An article about the Harris with a picture of the auditorium: View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 25, 2011 at 11:12 pm

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.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on November 17, 2008 at 2:33 am

It’s not Pittsburgh here, it’s Google. Their microfilming or whatever they do is horrible. If you go on the LA Times database or Newspaperarchive.com, no problem.

edblank
edblank on November 17, 2008 at 2:30 am

No idea why, Ken, but I, for one, can never read the copies posted here from Pittsburgh newspapers. The guys who post stuff from New York newspapers get imaculate copies with large type, which one can navigate from top to bottom and from left to right, but the Pittsburgh ones are always inky black and with tiny reproductions. Wish I understood what the problem here is. Thanks for trying.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on November 17, 2008 at 2:26 am

Here is an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dated 7/3/51:
http://tinyurl.com/5w49j6

edblank
edblank on August 24, 2008 at 2:41 pm

We need to sort out something here. The photo you’re discussing is of the wrong Harris theater. The one relating to this particular CT entry, at 809 Liberty Avenue, is functioning today as a moviehouse run by Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

The one in the photo(s) began as the Alvin, changed to the (John P.) Harris and finally became the Gateway. It has been a health club for about a quarter of a century. See separate entry under Gateway Theatre.

The theater on the left is the Byham, which functions today as a performance arts theater. (It’s listed in CT as the Byham.) In the era when the photo was taken, it was the Fulton, which was its identity for several decades. In the vaudeville/silent era, it was the Gayety.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on August 24, 2008 at 1:16 am

I’m not sure which one is in the foreground, and which one is in the background.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on August 24, 2008 at 1:09 am

There’s another theater down the street, but I can’t make out the name on the marquee.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on August 24, 2008 at 1:08 am

Sorry, Ed. It’s from the U of Pittsburgh digital collection. I’m not having any problem with it.

edblank
edblank on August 24, 2008 at 1:02 am

Can’t access that, Ken.

edblank
edblank on May 29, 2008 at 4:37 am

The theater dates to at least 1927. From then until 1936 it was known as the Avenue (one of at least five Avenue theaters in the Pittsburgh/McKeesport area in the early 20th Century).

The capacity in the early years was estimated at both 300 and 374.

In 1936 it became the Art Cinema, a name it retained until its 1995 refurbishing and reopening as the Harris.

The Art Cinema was the premiere art house (foreign, British and independent films) in Pittsburgh for about 17 years.

Its many classic films included “Paisan” (16 weeks), “The Red Shoes” (weeks 5 through 14 of its initial Downtown run), “Quartet,” “The Fallen Idol,” “The Bicycle Thief,” “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” “Bitter Rice” (a record 17 weeks, later returning for two more), “Cyrano de Bergerac,” “Trio,” “Kon-Tiki,” “Oliver Twist,” “The River,” “Rashomon,” “Manon,” “Devil in the Flesh” and many others.

The Art Cinema unfortunately lacked amenities, and when a wholly renovated Squirrel Hill Theatre reopened Christmas Day 1952 with “The Lavender Hill Mob,” the Art Cinema’s dominance as THE local art house began to fade.

As several other art theaters (the Shadyside, King’s Court, Forum, Guild) competed for product in the eastern suburbs, the Downtown Art Cinema lost its upscale audience.

Fow a while it continued to grab occasional important films (“Fanfan the Tulip,” “Forbidden Games”), but by 1954 its bill of fare vascilated among double bills of recent commercial hits (“From Here to Eternity” with “The Wild One”; “The Caine Mutiny” with “On the Waterfront”), nudist camp romps, saucy softcore sex films and a long-defunct series of striptease movies. Some, including “The Orgy at Lil’s Place” in the early 1960s, did some business, but the audience for them was finite – the “raincoat” crowd.

The theater became identified progressively more with harder-core porno in the 1970s and 1980s, and its condition deteriorated markedly over the decades. By the time it closed for renovation into the Harris, many seats were missing, and those remaining were in deplorable condition.

The Harris, though minimalist in amenities, is a great improvement in programming and comfort. Its one drawback is a peculiar acoustical problem.

monika
monika on June 8, 2007 at 6:49 pm

A photo of the Harris Theatre, taken summer 2006, can be seen here: View link

roxdude
roxdude on June 8, 2006 at 11:17 am

As a kid, I always wanted to sneek into the Art Cinema. It showed racy movies staring Jane Mansfield and the Immortal Mr. Teas series of movies. Big boobs, big tits and then some, from what I gathered from the marqee and movie posters. And it had some of the oldest broads sitting inside the ticket booth.

I still haven’t had time to see a movie in the renovated space. But that is on my “to do” list.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 18, 2005 at 9:01 am

A while after it had opened in New York in August of 1947, Vittorio De Sica’s film “Shoe Shine” played at the Art Cinema for several weeks. That shattering neo-realist movie about the aftermath of World War II and life in a boys' prison was distributed at the time by Lopert Films, Inc.