Luxury movie theater planned for closed Bally’s fitness in Pittsburgh’s Downtown |

Luxury movie theater planned for closed Bally’s fitness in Pittsburgh’s Downtown

Bob Bauder
Bob Bauder | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is planning a six-screen movie theater for a building that previously housed Bally Total Fitness Club on Sixth Street, Downtown. The building served as a movie house for decades before becoming a health club in the 1980s.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is planning a six-screen movie theater in a Downtown building that had a long history as a cinema before it was turned into a health club.

Kevin McMahon, who heads the cultural trust, said the organization is renovating the building at 115 Sixth St. with plans to open the multiplex showing first-run movies within two years. The trust has so far raised $8 million of an estimated $11 million needed for the project, McMahon said Friday.

“Obviously $3 million is a lot of money, but we’ve been pretty successful so far, and we’re moving forward. We think this is a great opportunity to further increase the offerings of the Cultural District,” McMahon said. “We want to make sure there is something in the Cultural District for everyone, and we see this as just another opportunity to bring more people into our Downtown.”

The building was built in 1891 as The Alvin Theater. The American movie industry was later born nearby on Pittsburgh’s Smithfield Street with the opening of the nation’s first nickelodeon in 1905.

It is unclear when the Alvin began showing movies. The building later housed the Shubert-Alvin Theater, the J.P. Harris Theater and finally the Gateway, according to the Heinz History Center’s Detre Library & Archives. The Gateway closed in 1980.

Bally Total Fitness Club, which has been closed for years, was the most recent building occupant, McMahon said.

Renovations include the removal of a track, handball and racquetball courts and a swimming pool, according to McMahon.

“We’re filling in the swimming pool,” he said. “Unfortunately nothing from the original theater that was built in the 1890s is left. The inside of the building was completely gutted.”

He said plans call for an intimate theater setting with about 100 large seats per screen, a state-of-art sound system and a concession serving food, wine and cocktails.

In addition to first-run movies, the trust is hoping to include other film genres.

“We’ve been talking — no agreements — with some of the film festivals that have been around for many years,” McMahon said.

John Valentine, president of the Downtown Community Development Corp., said the theater has been long needed in the business district.

“Honestly, it’s really, really good for so many reasons,” he said. “Obviously, it’s another amenity, but people love to go to the movies. Right now, if you want to go to the movies, and you’re a Downtown resident, you’ve got to get to your car and drive. I think Downtown residents are going to flock to this.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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