Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 5 Best Movie Theaters in Pittsburgh

A movie-going experience is about more than just the movie. PM Film Critic Sean Collier takes a break from movie reviews and shares the best spots for cocktails, classics and comfort.




Photo via flickr creative commons
 

I don’t just love movies; I love movie theaters.

I’ll frequently fit in a movie on vacation, just to see what the theater looks like. I can name the multiplex or arthouse where I saw many of my favorite movies (I watched both halves of “Kill Bill” back-to-back at the Oaks) and even plenty of movies I hated (I walked out halfway through “Team America: World Police” at the bygone Cinema 6 in State College). I’m still sad about the demolition of the Northway Mall cinemas, with its incongruous, ancient-Egyptian wall art and bizarre tunnel of Christmas lights.

The cinema landscape in the Pittsburgh area is always in flux. The slow decline of neighborhood theaters began in the early ’80s, as smaller multiplexes — the four-to-six screen theaters you used to find in most decent strip malls — began to dominate, only to eventually be vanquished themselves by gigantic mega-theaters with double-digit screen counts. Even now, those buildings are changing to remain competitive in a world with streaming options, adding food choices and seating that rivals first class on an international flight.

Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent theaters around. The following five choices are not only great all-around theaters, they each lead the pack by a different measure of success. Even if these theaters are a bit more out-of-the-way for you, it’s worth driving the extra miles to see a new release or old favorite in style.
 

Best Programming — Row House Cinema


Photo by John Altdorfer
 

Row House’s weekly themes have been a long-awaited game changer for the film landscape in Pittsburgh. While other local theaters have shown repertory content (and even the larger multiplexes usually trot out a classic once per week), having a theater dedicated solely to a week full of, say, magical realism, or the works of David Lynch, or a celebration of witches (that one’s upcoming: “Hocus Pocus,” “The Craft,” “The Witch” and “Suspiria,” starting Oct. 12) is something Pittsburgh was lacking for ... all of cinema history until Row House arrived in Lawrenceville. With periodic first-run content like global animation, new documentaries and locally made films, Row House’s programming is the best in town by a wide margin.
 

Best Value — Penn Hills Cinema


Photo via Facebook
 

When smaller, affordable multiplexes started to vanish in the early 2000s, Penn Hills Cinema persisted. The four-screen, old-school movie theater has some of the best prices — for both tickets and snacks — in town. They supplant their already-low prices with special offers most nights of the week: BOGO popcorn and snacks on Wednesdays, $5 for a new-release ticket and a popcorn on Thursdays. If you miss the era when a trip to the movie theater put a much smaller dent in your wallet, skip the ever-increasing prices at the big houses and head to Penn Hills.
 

Best Picture and Sound — Cinemark Pittsburgh Mills


Photo via flickr Creative Commons
 

The Cinemark chain generally boasts top-notch presentation; any of its many regional outposts will show a crisp, vivid image, particularly if you pay the extra couple bucks for the chain’s XD houses. The best everyday movie screen in the region, however, remains the IMAX theater at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills. If you’re pumped for a new entry in the Marvel or Star Wars franchise, this is the place to go; it’s also one of the only screens around where 3-D images actually pop the way they should. The rest of the theaters at the Mills aren’t shabby, either, and it remains the only venue in town with D-Box motion seats. (One note: The Rangos Giant Cinema at the Carnegie Science Center is definitely a few notches above the Mills’ IMAX screen, but they don’t show feature presentations on a daily basis. If something you’d like to see in eye-popping glory is playing at the Science Center, make a point of going.)
 

Best Comfort — Century Square Luxury Cinemas


Photo via Facebook
 

From the ashes of a longstanding second-run theater (another beloved institution now wholly absent from western Pennsylvania) rose this bastion of comfort in the wilds of West Mifflin: Century Square Luxury Cinemas. Other theaters have since added the sprawling, armchair-style recliners that the Luxury Cinemas introduced to the local market, but at no other theater is there so much space for each and every moviegoer to spread out. Add a decent selection of beer and wine at the snack bar, and this is the place to truly relax and watch a movie. Just don’t nod off in your seat mid-film. I speak from experience.
 

Best Moviegoing Experience — The Manor Theater


Photo by David Kelly
 

At a time when many of its peers (including the neighborhood counterpart on Forward Avenue) were closing up shop, the Manor remodeled and reinvented itself. Now, a trip to the Manor involves visiting one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, selecting from a wide variety of snacks — including healthy options you won’t find at any other cinema in town — and ordering a movie-themed cocktail, then seeing an indie hit or thoughtful blockbuster among serious moviegoers. Historic, amenable and vibrant, the Manor is a perennial sure thing.
 

Honorable Mentions: Waterworks Cinemas; Regent Square Theater; Chartiers Valley Stadium 18; Dependable Drive-In; Tull Family Theater.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

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

The Latest

Spirit Plans Sensory Bending Benefit Dinner

Pittsburgh chefs, bartenders, artists and musicians will help kick-off the Lawrenceville bar's Vault 3.0 with a benefit for its rooftop garden project.

Build or Remodel in 2018? Submit Your Home to Our Best of Design Contest

Categories include Best New and Best Renovated homes, Best Kitchens and Best Outdoor Space.

HGTV's Leanne Ford Partners With PPG on Perfect White Paints

Known for her signature "white on white" aesthetic, the star of "Restored by the Fords" shares her "fail proof" color choices.

Halloween in Pittsburgh: How to Embrace the Fright

From haunted houses and scary movies to pumpkin patches and zombie bars –– we are here to help you experience as much of the ghoulish holiday as you dare.

Perspectives: Mourning Without a Road Map

A 30-year-old woman “who had lost her father too soon” learns the importance of following a plan when saying goodbye.

On Fitness: Peace and Posture Instead of No Pain, No Gain

Client by client, personal trainer Ian Riggins is dismantling the aggressive side of the fitness industry.

Angling for Tranquility: The Lure of Kayak Fishing

Kayak fishing is growing in popularity as anglers discover the peaceful joys of casting a line from the water's surface.

MultiStories: Pittsburgh's Art Deco Obelisk – The Gulf Building

As the Gulf Building rose into Pittsburgh skyline in the early 1930s, the prospects of its owner were headed in the opposite direction.

“First Man” Author to Appear at Heinz History Center

James R. Hansen, author of the authorized Neil Armstrong biography, will speak about the astronaut’s life on Nov. 1.

Results Are In: Jobs are Plentiful in Pittsburgh

Glassdoor’s newly released city shortlist for hot jobs ranks Pittsburgh #1.

The 400-Word Review: The Old Man and the Gun

Robert Redford's alleged final performance is a quiet, fitting farewell.

Sandwich, Helmet, Teammates Await Bell’s Return to Steelers

Le’Veon Bell reportedly intends to return to the Steelers before the second Browns game on Oct. 28, but hasn’t yet. But that didn’t stop some of his teammates from trying to have some fun with Bell at the media’s expense.

A New Day for Craft Beer in Pittsburgh

Day Bracey, along with Ed Bailey and Mike Potter, forges a more inclusive approach to craft brewing.

Southern Cuisine Served with a Big Side of Hospitality

Sugar and Smoke owner Andrea Robinson not only wants to feed customers of her new eatery in Bloomfield –– she wants to know their names.

Meet Pittsburgh's 40 Under 40 Honorees for 2018

For two decades, Pittsburgh Magazine and PUMP have presented the annual 40 Under 40 list. And every year, 40 people who have been alive for less than four decades are chosen because of their career accomplishments, dogged volunteer work and commitment to the Pittsburgh region. This year is no different. Read on to learn more about some of our very best neighbors.