Essential Pittsburgh
6:29 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Pittsburgh's Historic Theaters and a New Throwback to the Neighborhood Cinema

The Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville.
Credit Row House Cinema / Facebook

For generations theaters have been an important part of thriving cities and towns across the country. In recent years more people are seeing how theaters can be an economic engine of development.

The Conclave Theater tour is held every year in a different city. This year Pittsburgh hosts the tour, showcasing the region's contributions to theatrical architecture.

Rick Fosbrink, Executive Director of the Theatre Historical Society of America said this will be an opportunity to bring national attention to historic theaters of the region.

“Of course, the industrial heritage of the city of Pittsburgh is very important, and that sort of led to having lots of theater building and lots of entertainment because there were so many people here working. You know, you’ve got very interesting history in terms of this is the birthplace of the very first Nickelodeon on Smithfield street in Pittsburgh. There’s certainly a lot of influence to the film industry. Metro Pictures was started here. I mean, Pittsburgh is a fantastic town and there are a lot of great theater buildings.”

Return of the Neighborhood Theater

A brand new theater not shown on the Conclave Theater tour is the Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville, a new throwback to the old neighborhood movie theater.

By curating new and old classic films, they aim to attract cable-jaded people looking for walkable and unique attractions. 

“There’s a lot of things we have to do to compete against the suburban multi-chains, as well as just staying at home and sitting on a couch, because of the online entertainment that we have today." Real Estate Developer and owner, Brian Mendelssohn explained

"It’s endless, and so the way we look at it, we think, 'what can we create that’s different than what you could already experience?' And the word that keeps coming up is ‘magic.’ The movies is ‘magic.’”

The Row House serves craft beer and “all natural” popcorn for showings. Mendelssohn also said the theater is working to accommodate the visually impaired with descriptive movies within the next few weeks.

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