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.
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.
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.
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.