Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Quiet Persistence of Pittsburgh Filmmakers Cinema

Amid a completely changed movie-theater landscape, the three cinemas run by Pittsburgh Filmmakers provide consistent quality.




photos by sean collier
 

Last night, I went to the Harris Theater to see a French film, “Evolution.”

To be honest, it wasn’t very good.

It was quite different from anything I’ve seen recently, to be sure, and had plenty of atmosphere — and gorgeous, undersea photography. But it was slow for the sake of being slow, too stingy with its dialogue and ultimately much more style than substance.

I’m thrilled, however, that I had the chance to see it.

It’s a chance I only can receive at one of the three cinemas run by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, the film nonprofit which today comprises half of PF/PCA along with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

“Evolution,” a bizarre and thoroughly unsettling foreign art film, would simply never find a home at any other movie theater in town. If it had an internet-buzz generation hook, something sort of like it might land at the Hollywood in Dormont; if it were thirty years old and infamous for one reason or another, it might pop up at Row House. But even the few theaters in town that dabble in fare well outside the mainstream would never dig this deep.

Long before repertory screenings were common coin around the city, the Filmmakers theaters — the Harris, Regent Square Cinema and the tiny Melwood Screening Room, inside the group’s Oakland headquarters — were bringing classics and works of influential import back to the big screen. Before multiplexes got so big that they could afford to throw a bone to indies or top international hits on a few screens, the Filmmakers cinemas were bringing the unheralded, uncanny and unseen to Steel City cinephiles.

The moviegoing experience in these rooms is little changed from when I first discovered them as a teenager. The ticket prices are a hair beneath what you’ll pay at the chains; the concession prices, well below. The seats are movie seats — not plush armchairs, not reclining marvels of ergonomic joy, but movie seats.

Do I want to sit in them three times a week? No. Do I want to slide into them every now and then for a flashback to the filmgoing chairs of yore? Oh yeah.

In addition to hosting regular screenings of independent, foreign and local films, the theaters serve as primary venues in a number of local festivals — including the long-running annual Three Rivers Film Festival, a signature Filmmakers event (now under the guidance of Film Pittsburgh but still presented in partnership with the group).

Last October, I made two trips to Regent Square as the theater revived selections from the classic Universal Monsters pictures; I watched near-century-old horror icons as they were meant to be seen. Earlier in the year, I coped with the death of Gene Wilder by going to the same theater for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Anytime I’m free on a Sunday night, Regent Square Cinema is a fine bet; their weekly series, presented along a different theme each month, are carefully curated and always enjoyable.

The remarkable thing, to me, about these three theaters is their sheer persistence. I started visiting this trio nearly 15 years ago; I can’t count the number of theaters that have closed and opened since that time. So much about going to the movies has changed: how they’re shown, the way they look and sound, what I eat and drink. (Definitely what I pay.)

But here, things stay the same. Always providing a needed service to serious film fans in Pittsburgh, quietly, persistently.

With any luck, permanently.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

The building that now houses a $1.05 million dollar penthouse was first used for a much less exciting purpose.

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

USPS will dedicate a new forever stamp to Fred Rogers and celebrate with a party in March.

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Heningin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Peters Township Native Wins Silver Medal in Speed Skating

After swine flu kept him from competing in Sochi in 2014, short track speed skater John-Henry Krueger finally won a spot on the podium at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

Perspectives: A Better Life

A former Pittsburgh television reporter recounts the lessons taught to him by his grandfather who spent more than four decades as a Pullman Porter.

Pittsburgh MultiStories: Phipps Legacy – The Fulton Building

With its distinctive seven-story archway, the Fulton Building (now the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel) remains a beloved Pittsburgh landmark.

Kick Back and Relax with a Baby Sloth

For $150 you can book an up-close hang out session with Vivien the two-toed sloth.

Jack Kerouac: Manager of the Pittsburgh Plymouths

In a league of his own making, the famous writer cast himself as the skipper of a (fantasy) Pittsburgh ball club.

Bucking the Trend: Gallagher’s Groovy Growing

Megan Gallagher is part of a small cadre of young farmers bucking demographic trends.

Meet the Woman bringing Dignity and Diversity to Twitter

As Twitter's vice president of intersectionality, culture and diversity, Candi Castleberry Singleton, who splits her time between Pittsburgh and San Francisco, works tirelessly to bring inclusion and respect to companies.

Where's the Flu Bug Biting Hardest? There's an App for That

The Doctors Report Illness Tracker has the scoop on germ hotspots all over the region and beyond.

Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Reviews of "Black Panther" and "Early Man," plus local movie news and notes.