Uptown Mount Lebanon has one of the best collections of Art Deco architecture in the area. These two buildings sit side by side on Washington Road at the corner of Alfred Street. With some confidence, old Pa Pitt identifies the Gothic fantasy on the right as an old movie theater, although he would be happy to be corrected.
Sometimes the back of a theater bears no resemblance at all to the front of it. That is certainly true of the Denis in Mount Lebanon. The main entrance is on Washington Road, and it looks like a small storefront. Walk around the corner and down Alfred Street, and you will find this massive wall, which the architect has identified as a theater by adding Art Deco stripes in the bricks.
The Warner was one of the great silent-movie palaces downtown, but it had the misfortune to be placed far from the theater district along Penn Avenue. In the 1980s most of it was demolished for a shopping arcade, leaving the classical façade on Fifth Avenue and the distinctive lighted sign, with the word “Theatre” replaced by “Centre,” because the shopping-arcade and movie-theater industries share an assumption that British spellings attract more customers. The shopping arcade, like most arcades downtown, gradually transitioned to mostly offices. But the sign still dominates the view down Fifth Avenue.
Though old Pa Pitt has not yet found any documentary evidence, he identifies this building with some confidence as an old neighborhood movie house. The marquee, the Hollywood Gothic fantasy terra-cotta front, and the shape of the building (it is fairly long from front to back) all suggest a movie theater of the silent era.