Arcade Theater

1915 E. Carson Street,
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Rowland and Clark Theaters, Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.

Previous Names: South Side Hippodrome Theater, Grand Theater, New Arcade Theater

Nearby Theaters

1921 photo via Donna Gutton.

The South Side Hippodrome Theater opened in 1907. In 1915 it was renamed Grand Theater. Around 1922 it became the Arcade Theater. In 1929 it was the first theater outside of downtown Pittsburgh to have sound and air-conditioning. Following an extensive remodel in 1939 the seating capacity was increased to 1,400.

The Arcade Theater closed on February 4, 1984 with Richard Farnsworth in “The Grey Fox”. Five hours after closing the theater was destroyed by fire in an arson attack. An Eckerd pharmacy sits on the site of the theater.

Contributed by Rick Aubrey

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

zombie913 on November 29, 2006 at 7:21 am

The southside arsonist did not burn this theater down. The owner turned out to be the one who torched it. I was a teen and my dad was an electrician. I went with him on a bid to rewire the theater and I loved being in the arcade alone. I thought it was cool. They had secret rooms up in the balcony area

edblank on May 28, 2008 at 6:02 pm

The Arcade was at 1915 East Carson Street.

My records indicatde it opened in 1923 with 1,248 seats.

It was an ordinary neighborhood theater until owner Stanley (“Zundy”) Kramer took great pride in turning it into an art house. Although he once played a series of film classics that included “Good News,” most of the Kramer-Arcade years hosted such independent and foreign films as “I Sent a Letter to My Love,” “The Tin Drum,” “`Breaker' Morant” and “Sandakan 8.”

Jean-Luc Godard made an appearance here for one of his movies.

Zundy Kramer took great pride in the prestige associated with running a local art theater and seemed to distribute as many passes to local dignitaries as he sold tickets.

The fire that destroyed the theater robbed the South Side community of a significant asset.

kencmcintyre on December 13, 2008 at 6:56 pm

From Boxoffice magazine, February 1955:

Dorothea Abbott, cashier at the Arcade Theater, south side, at a police standup, identified Thomas Murray, 45, as the gunman who held up the theater January 29 and made off with $45. He was held on a charge of armed robbery despite his denials that he was the bespectacled gunman.

abimarie on December 20, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Looking for information on the building, which is still standing, 1923 east carson st.

If anyone has any information on this building please let me know.

edblank on April 7, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I miss visiting the Arcade. Final owner Stanley “Zundy” Kramer still lives in the area. Nice guy. And a true “character” in the traditional sense of colorful people who are quoted and remembered favorably.

DavidZornig on January 20, 2020 at 8:19 pm

Summer 1962 photo added credit Robert Riley. Streamline facade. Courtesy Baltimore Chapter, National Railway Historical Society.

dallasmovietheaters on August 21, 2022 at 6:01 pm

The diminutive 250-seat South Side Hippodrome opened at this address in 1907. A neighboring confectionery - the only such confectionery in a three block radius (according to its operator) - appears to have been the S.S. Hipp’s de facto concession stand. The Southern Lanes duckpin bowling center was also housed here. The Hipp became the Grand Theatre under William Schell in 1915.

In 1920, all four buildings - 1915, 1917, 1919, and 1921 Carson Street were sold including the Grand Theatre and became home to the All-Nations Arcade Company. The arcade operation housed the Arcade Theater at least as of 1922, the Arcade Music Company, and the Arcade Drug Company and Confectionery - which became a de facto concession stand for the early days of the Arcade Theatre through the mid-1930s. Duckpin bowling also continued on another floor of the building in the 1920s and 1930s. The Arcade also housed religious services as of early 1923.

The Arcade Theater added sound and air conditioning in 1929 under an arrangement with Rowland and Clark. Manager William Finkel was offered the venue outright in 1935 by Warner Bros. Circuit. Finkel took sole possession of the venue and gave it another extensive remodeling in 1939 relaunching as the New Arcade Theatre on October 30th with Bing Crosby in “The Star Maker” for Finkel’s Carson Amusement Company. (That opening ad is in photos.) The theater was expanded to 1,400 seats and its transfer away from an arcade seems to spell the end of the music shop and the drug store/confectionery. The bowling center, however, reportedly survived until 1963. An impressive run.

Finkel twice sold the operation in the 1970s. The second and final operator, Stanley “Zundy” Kramer, reopened it with live entertainment and second-run films on April 12, 1979. He switched to art and foreign films in 1980 starting with “The Tin Drum” and even hosting Jean Luc-Goddard with a live, in person appearance for “Every Man for Himself” in 1981. The theatre’s run ended with “The Grey Fox” on February 4, 1984. The theatre burned down about five hours after that show on February 5, 1984 and was razed.

There was a arsonist loose in the neighborhood. Finkel, in debt to the City of Pittsburgh for $30,000 in amusement taxes came up with a final act for the Arcade. He paid a man $10,000 to make it look like a torch job. A subpar job of breaking and entering combined with the use of paint thinner as an accelerant gave the fire chief all of the evidence needed to claim arson. The police arrested two folks pinning the arsons on them. In a bad TV episode-like twist, the person who actually paid the $10,000 Arcade job then testified against the pair in court. But the case went sideways quickly and the two folks falsely accused were cleared during the trial. The case then boomeranged back to the perjured finger-pointer who went to jail for the arson he doesn’t appear to have committed.

In the final act related to the fire at the Arcade in 1993, a new appeal freed the presumed arsonist after serving eight years toward his multi-decade term. The picture seemed much clearer to the judges involved in the two different cases - one criminal of arson and one civil on insurance collection. The judge in the civil case “overwhelmingly” denied Kramer’s final appeal to have a new trial for the insurance money denied and conclusions about the real story of the Arcade fire seemed to now go in one direction to the courts. The singular bottom line here was that the Arcade - whose roots dated back almost 80 years as the Southside Hippodrome - was no more. And based on the evidence, there would be no insurance paid out.

dallasmovietheaters on August 21, 2022 at 6:01 pm

Became the Grand Theatre in 1915

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