Tag: Theaters

  • Harris Theater

    Harris theater

    This little movie house, built as the Avenue Cinema in 1931, became the Art Cinema in 1935; from the 1960s until the 1990s, it showed “adult movies,” which old Pa Pitt assumed meant that all the films were over 21 years old. But it had begun life as an art-film house, and in 1995 it resumed that role under the name “Harris,” after one of the founders of the movie-theater business—John P. Harris, who with his brother-in-law opened the world’s first movie theater, the Nickelodeon, which was on Smithfield Street (a plaque marks the site today). Movies had been shown in theaters before, but the Nickelodeon was the first to show only movies. The idea caught on with amazing rapidity, and “Nickelodeons” sprouted everywhere.

  • Stephen Foster Memorial

    Stephen Foster Memorial

    One of the cluster of Gothic buildings by Charles Z. Klauder at the heart of the University of Pittsburgh, this looks like the baptistery for the Cathedral of Learning. It houses a museum of Stephen Foster, two theaters, and the Ethelbert Nevin Collection. There was a time when Ethelbert Nevin might have got a museum of his own, but he missed his chance, and now he is an appendix to Stephen Foster.

  • Art Deco Masks

    The auditorium of Allegheny High School on the North Side was built in 1936, at the height of the Art Deco era. There are three exits, and the architect’s scheme demanded a relief over each one. So we have Art Deco interpretations of the three masks of the classical theater: Comedy. Tragedy, and Meh.


  • Pittsburgh Playhouse

    The Pittsburgh Playhouse building on Forbes Avenue is a harmonious addition to the streetscape. It manages the unusual feat of looking 21st-century and classical at the same time.

  • Liberty Theater (Baum Building)

    Like many buildings on the southeast side of Liberty Avenue, where the two grids of our eighteenth-century street plan collide, the Baum Building is forced into a triangle. It began its life as the Liberty Theater, but it lasted for only a few years before being turned into offices. Now, under the ownership of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, it has gone back into the entertainment business as an art gallery.

  • Stanley Photoplays

    The Stanley was the most magnificent theater ever built in Pittsburgh, and as the Benedum Center it continues to be one of the busiest. It was built to designs by the Hoffman-Henon Co. of Philadelphia at the very end of the silent era, opening in 1928. The old animated sign on the Penn Avenue side is lovingly maintained.

    Maurice Spitalny directed the house orchestra here in the late 1930s and into the 1940s. His brother Phil was more famous nationally for his all-girl Hour of Charm Orchestra, but Maurice had a long and successful career. He wrote one song that everyone in America has heard: “Start the Day Right,” which is used in at least a dozen different Warner Brothers cartoons.

  • Chandelier at the Benedum Center

    The chandelier at the Benedum Center, which began life as Pittsburgh’s most splendid movie palace, the Stanley.

  • Decoration on the Liberty Theater

    The classical building at Liberty Avenue and Strawberry Way was built originally as the Liberty Theater in 1913. It lasted only ten years as a theater before being converted to office space as the Baum Building.

  • Heinz Hall

    One of the first great silent movie palaces (the old Loew’s Penn) to be turned into a concert hall, Heinz Hall set a trend, both here and elsewhere. With the old Stanley and Fulton (now the Benedum and Byham), it is one of the three large anchors of the theater district downtown.

  • Strand Theatre Building, Oakland

    [Update: We have more on the history of this building, which was the Natatorium Building before it became a theater.]

    This once-splendid movie house on Forbes Avenue was designed by Harry S. Bair, a specialist in neighborhood movie palaces who also designed the Regent in East Liberty. According to comments on Cinematreasures.org, it was built with the screen at the street end: you had to walk up a long hall to come in at the rear of the theater. Thus it took advantage of the hillside location to make a naturally sloped auditorium. The building ceased to be a theater about four decades ago; it is now retail stores and apartments.

    The picture above is a composite of four photographs.