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Organizers move ahead with Carnegie theater plans

| Friday, April 27, 2018, 11:57 p.m.

Bringing a movie theater to Carnegie will be challenging but doable, organizers say. With a proposal generally well received by council members, organizers now work to conceptualize what that theater will look like and what programming it will offer.

Melanie Luke, owner of The Flying Squirrel, said she already has met with an architect to discuss how a one-screen theater might fit into her shop after she closes it in May.

“It is a little bit of a challenge in this (building), because it is such a row-house style of architecture. So (the building is) not as wide as (it is) long,” Luke said.

The theater would be a new front for Jump Cut Theater, formerly known as the Friends of the Hollywood Theater, which lost its space in Dormont to an outside group in February. It would sport one screen and seat roughly 40 to 50 people.

Jump Cut board President Susan Mazur said the new location would carry the same style of independent film programming as its prior location. Movies would be screened from the late afternoon into the evening with special events held on the weekends.

“It's important to us,” Mazur said. “That was our main reason at the Hollywood, to bring things to Pittsburgh.”

The Flying Squirrel is made up of adjoined buildings at 239 and 241 E. Main St. Luke said the side occupying 241 is being eyed for the theater, which would require its renovation.

Luke said she hopes for the other side, which houses an ice cream shop, to continue operating into the summer. It would eventually be used as a concession area for the theater that Mazur said could stay open during the business day.

Unused apartments on the building's upper floors, Luke said, would be remodeled for use as a projection room and multipurpose space. Luke said she plans for now to lease the buildings to Jump Cut.

The new theater would be smaller than the old, which seats more than 280, but Mazur and Luke said it could make for a more intimate viewing experience. Mazur added that it would be cheaper to operate and easier to sell out.

Borough zoning ordinances would prevent a movie theater from opening where the Flying Squirrel stands now, but members of council said they supported Luke and Jump Cut's concept. Mayor Stacie Riley said the borough's zoning board would need to discuss the idea before an ordinance altering downtown zoning could be prepared.

The ordinance also would be subject to a public hearing and a review by Allegheny County, all of which could take several months. Riley said that while steps need to be taken before a theater could open in Carnegie, she did not think the opportunity was one the borough should pass up.

“It appeals to families, to kids, to couples. It's something that can only make Carnegie better,” Riley said.

Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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