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Grab a nickel and hit Light Up Night's 'Pop-Up Nickelodeon'

Shirley McMarlin
| Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 12:09 p.m.
Pittsburgh's Nickelodeon opened in 1905 on Smithfield Street, ushering in the age of the commercial movie theater.
Pittsburgh's Nickelodeon opened in 1905 on Smithfield Street, ushering in the age of the commercial movie theater.

Heralding its move to Pittsburgh, the Theatre Historical Society of America is constructing a Pop-Up Nickelodeon theater in Pittsburgh's Cultural District .

The theater will open Nov. 17 at 811 Liberty Ave., when movies will be shown from 5 to 9 p.m. in conjunction with Light Up Night.

The theater will continue to screen silent movies through Dec. 31. Admission will be 5 cents.

Features will include classic films from the Nickelodeon era, such as Edwin S. Porte's "The Great Train Robbery" and Georges Melies' "A Trip to the Moon," as well as short films introducing the Theatre Historical Society of America and its mission.

Pittsburgh was the site of the world's first stand-alone movie theatre, the Nickelodeon on Smithfield Street that opened in 1905 , and the pop-up will recall those earliest days of commercial cinema.

"We're calling it a 'Pop-Up Nickelodeon,' but essentially, that's what it was in 1905," said THS Executive Director Richard Fosbrink in a press release. "It's a storefront, exactly what Nickelodeons were. It was an idea: 'Let's just charge people to see movies.' They never thought it would last."

The term "nickelodeon" was a combination of "nickel," for the admission fee charged, and the Greek "odeon," a building used for musical performances.

Usually set up in converted storefronts, these small, simple theaters flourished from 1905 to about 1915.

Following its move from Chicago, THS is currently housed in the Senator John Heinz Regional History Center's annex.

Founded in 1969, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to celebrating the architectural, cultural and social history of America's historic theaters. Through preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive and educational programming, THS works to increase awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of American theaters.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, or via Twitter @shirley_trib.

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