Communities bring old theaters back to life
Walking into the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, Brenden Clark was eager for a fun night out with friends to watch “Christmas Vacation” on the big screen.
“It's nice to have a small theater to come to. It's nice to come with friends and hang out right down the street,” said Clark, 47, of Brookline. “When I was a kid, I came here all the time.”
The Hollywood is one of a few neighborhood theaters that reopened — or is reopening — under the control of a nonprofit with a goal of rebranding to compete for movie-loving customers.
Smaller theaters such as the Hollywood, the Denis Theatre in Mt. Lebanon and the Parkway Theater in Stowe hope to draw patrons by showing movie classics and live performances.
“It's happening all over the country and it's something we support very much. We hope for faithful restorations of theaters, although we understand that's not always possible,” said Rick Fosbrink, executive director of the Chicago-based Theater Historical Society of America.
“There's a lot of interest in saving places. Theaters are integral to the community and there's a lot of nostalgia associated with them. People will say, ‘I went on my first date there.'”
Fosbrink, who grew up in Connellsville, said his organization will host an event in June to tour old theaters in Western Pennsylvania, including the Roxian Theater in McKees Rocks, which is being renovated, and the New Granada Theater in the Hill District. He expects about 150 people to tour about 30 old theaters.
In Stowe, Aaron Stubna and his wife, Jackie, are spearheading the effort to raise money for the Parkway Theater on Broadway Avenue.
They are awaiting approval of nonprofit status. In the meantime, the Parkway opens periodically to show movies and host events. It closed about 25 years ago and later was owned by a church.
Aaron Stubna opened a coffee shop in the lobby that is open daily except Thursdays and Fridays, and hopes to open a bar and restaurant there. He said he needs to raise about $600,000 to renovate the building, which he hopes could be a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization.
“It's a typical coffee shop, but we wanted to draw attention to the theater. We plan on having movies and live music,” said Stubna, 42, of Kennedy. “We want to promote local filmmakers and give them a venue, as well as classics and foreign films.”
Stubna, who purchased the theater in 2011, works as a barber in his family-owned Lincoln Barbershop in Bellevue for his “real job.”
“I've always had a passion for film. I'm a big movie buff and an amateur filmmaker myself,” Stubna said. “There's really no money in the movie theater business. It's more of a passion project.”
The Denis Theatre Foundation is in the midst of a fundraising campaign for its theater, which closed in 2004. The foundation has raised more than $2 million in cash and pledges and hopes to raise another $1 million.
The nonprofit was formed in 2007 to support the eventual reopening, and in 2010 it purchased the building. Organizers hope to have two theaters inside that can seat 200 people and 100 people.
“We will focus on independent and foreign films and documentaries. And we can have lectures, panel discussions, and small scale musical performances,” said Penny Richichi, co-director of the foundation.
“It spurs economic development in the area and people still want to go out and see a movie in a theater,” Richichi said. “Specifically with a nonprofit community theater, you're a part of the fabric of the community. It's more than just a movie theater.”
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Young Achiever: Derica Sanchez
- Mt. Lebanon’s artificial turf plan hits a snag
- Wexford I-79 interchange in need of repair
- Dormont market to reopen this fall
- Runners prepare for Pittsburgh’s Great Race by analyzing their form
- Events with alcohol help libraries raise funds for extras