In my short first month as the new managing director at the Hollywood Theater, I’ve already witnessed an incredibly diverse range of events and programming. FOUND Magazine made us their second stop on a 75-city tour. We held a joint birthday party for a couple who then surprised their audience (including their parents) by getting married on stage. We held our successful first “brunch and a movie,” with delicious food from Sugar Café. We had author/director Stephen Chbosky (Perks of Being a Wallflower) come and present his beloved Rocky Horror Picture Show to a sold out crowd. And this week I saw a lobby full of frightening zombies at the Zombie Shorts Film Festival.
My background as an archivist got me to thinking about the theater’s history. I know that in 1924 Murray’s Bowling and Billiards opened in our building, which became the Hollywood Bowling Alley in 1931. Just two years later it was transformed into the Hollywood Theater. But you can still see a few archeological clues in the dark corners of the theater’s basement. I recently discovered a panel that was for the old bowling ball return mechanism (I’d be happy to show you, just ask me).
In the 50s and 60s the Hollywood was one of Pittsburgh’s main second run theaters, and reportedly packed the house with neighborhood debuts of La Dolce Vita and West Side Story in 1962. As larger theaters, home video and cable TV eventually began to take their toll on smaller cinemas, the Hollywood struggled for many years. After numerous closures and valiant attempts to restart the theater, it was finally converted to a nonprofit organization in 2011 – a crucial change that will allow the community to have a say in whether the Hollywood continues.
The Hollywood Theater has been open for nearly 80 years now. I know exactly what has happened here over the last 30 days, but that leaves another 30,000 nights or so that aren’t accounted for. But perhaps you can fill in the gaps? How many of you have seen a movie or been to a great event at the Hollywood? Taken any photos? Have some special memories? We want to hear from you! Share them here, post on our Facebook page, send us an e-mail, or stop by and share. We’ll be gathering them all together in a makeshift archive of sorts and in a future display in our lobby. Thanks, and see you at the Hollywood!
For more information about the theater, please visit us at www.thehollywooddormont.org.