Squirrel Hill Theatre
5824 Forward Avenue,
5824 Forward Avenue,Pittsburgh, PA 15217
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Closed March 3, 2010. Demolished May 2021.
The building has been demolished.
Early this year plans were afoot to turn the Squirrel Hill Theatre into a live music venue, but they never cane to fruition. Then on June 29 the Pittsburgh Patch web site posted a brief article leading with this news:I’ve found nothing more recent about the redevelopment project, so it’s possible that the theater building is still standing, though if so it probably won’t be for long.
Some years ago the late rapper Mac Miller, who had once lived in the neighborhood, considered buying the theater for use as a live performance venue, but that plan too failed to materialize. The growing popularity of the neighborhood has probably made the site too valuable for theatrical use.
Whatever happened to this place? Was it ever demolished?
The obituary of Squirrel Hill architect Edgar A. Kwalwasser in the August 6, 1998, issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette listed alterations to the Squirrel Hill and Manor Theatres among his works. As Kwalwasser established his practice in 1951, the remodeling of the Squirrel Hill Theatre that he handled might have been the one for Stanley-Warner in 1956, or it might have been a later one.
February 2nd, 1937 grand opening ad in photo section.
I remember when “Becket” opened here in mid-1964. It kept playing into the fall until I believe they had to just stop it, despite its success, because they had to do a renovation to prepare for the roadshow of “My Fair Lady.” This renovation allowed them to concentrate on more roadshows such as “Doctor Zhivago,” “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” and “The Lion in Winter.” It was designed with gold curtains and gold walls. I don’t remember the color of the seats and carpets. It was a smaller theater in comparison to the downtown ones.
I only saw one film at this theater. I loved the setup and the neighborhood atmosphere but the presentation was terrible. Picture quality was extremely poor, the print was scratched, and an amp was blown. Sad to hear it closed, with some improvements it could have been very nice.
Back in high school I made regular Pittsburgh movie pilgrimages from Youngstown, and saw some classics at the Squirrel Hill: “Cries and Whispers” (April 1973); “Day for Night” (New Year’s Day 1974); “A Brief Vacation” (Memorial Day 1975); “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (Dec. ‘75); etc.
The theater had a very sophisticated, big city feel (similar to some NYC theaters of the time like the Coronet, Sutton and Paris), and I vaguely remember a nearby restaurant that we would go to while in Squirrel Hill (Poli’s maybe?) Great memories.
“I’m not sure why there is a preservation effort underway when the space where the theater sits is scheduled to be part of the redevelopment effort.”
It’s because some of us don’t like AMC and still appreciate the fare that smaller theatres like this, the Manor, and the Regent Square show. Besides, this country has gotten too over condo-ized and small businesses like these theatres provide welcome relief.
You are right though. They could have done a better job on the remodeling. There are independent cinemas that still hold their own against the big chains.
It is correct that the Squirrel Hill Theater had 6 auditoriums when it closed. However, I think one of the screens may not have been in use, but there were/are in fact 6 auditoriums. In the late 1990s (I think 1997) the theater was remodeled. It expanded further down the street and increased from 2 to 6 screens. I think it was ultimately a mistake to not include stadium seating in the upgrade, in addition to extremely small new auditoriums. This became apparent when the new Loews (now AMC) Waterfront Theater opened not to far away. Perhaps a more extensive upgrade was not financially viable.
It should also be noted that (from what I have heard in the community) the theater was going to have to close anyway due to a redevelopment effort at the corner of Murray Ave and Forward Ave, where a hotel, living space, and retail is going to (eventually) be added. I’m not sure why there is a preservation effort underway when the space where the theater sits is scheduled to be part of the redevelopment effort.
I’d like to see this theatre cleaned up and reopened. Even though this wasn’t the cleanest or most modern cinema, I used to like coming here. I really don’t like the AMC Loews Waterfront at all. I’m glad the Manor and Regent Square are still open (and within walking distance).
Joe, Thanks for clearing that up. I was running movies there one day and did some exploring and found some Stanley Warner signs, I thought it could be but was not sure, and of course no one who worked there did not know anything, they were'nt even born then…
I WAS A PROJECTIONIST FOR 54 YEARS NOW, AND I WORKED ALOT OF THEATRES ALL OVER THE COUNTRTY BUT PITTTSBURGH IS MY HOMETYOWN AND WE HAD THE BEST OF ALL, I WORKED IN NEW YORK ALOT TOO AND THEY HAD SOME GREAT ONES AS WELL….
I was born in 1977 so I don’t remember any of those theatres you listed. Still, what a rich movie going experience you’ve had.
February 21st, 1937 opening articles is at View link
Most people believe that this theatre had 5 screens when in fact it was a six plex when it closed.
According to this article, the owner and the real estate agent for the theater are making some effort to preserve it as a cinema: View link
Susan,,,,, Very sad indeed,,, I was telling my daughter about all the Theatres I worked and looks like they are all gone now.There is no secret The Warner was my all time favorite and my regular job. Then the Fulton, Chatham , Stanley, Nixon, and even Heinz Hall…The North Hills was also a very nice Theatre…Then in the Summer I would work The Fairgrounds Drive-In 5 nights a week, South Hills Drive-In once in awhile and the South Hills Theatre, also a very nice theatre, But that was then….. No more…
Boxoffice of April 24, 1937, said that Warner Bros. had recently opened its newly-constructed Squirrel Hill Theatre. It was the first new house built by Warner in the Pittsburgh area in six years.
Stanley Warner gave the Squirrel Hill an updating in 1956, according to Boxoffice of October 13 that year. The item said that the Squirrel Hill was the first art house in this district of Pittsburgh.
Thanks. While the Squirrel Hill had gotten run down, it was one of the few places in the ‘Burgh that would show art & indie licks as well as the mainstream ones. The others would be the Manor and the Regent Square, where my husband and I have seasons passes. I was very fortunate to have all three within walking distance to my house.
Don’t get me wrong, I like big budget mainstream films as much as the next person. Indeed me and my girlfriends got our “chick testosterone” up one niight and headed to the Dependable Drive-In to see “GI Joe”> But I really enjoy fare like “The Last Station”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, etc and venues that show what I like (and my husband likes) are disappearing.
Here’s a list I did on Pittsburgh area cinemas View link for another site. It’s sad how many have closed recently. Fortunately the Hollywood is up and running again and hopefully the Denis will be soon. But neither of these are close to my house.
Susan,, You are right,, what a shame..I worked this theatre many times in the 70s and 80s before I left Pgh. in 84. I really hate to read about this another one gone..
Yep, what a shame.
This article about the closing has a picture:
Another one gone.