At the Movies: 7 of Our Favorite Pittsburgh-Area Theaters

Some of these movie houses are relatively new; others have been around for decades. But all offer something special to film fans.


 

A great film stands on it own. If you’re seeing a timeless classic or a potential Best Picture winner, it doesn’t really matter if you’re in a century-old movie palace or the stickiest strip-mall multiplex.

And conversely, a clunker of a flick can’t be helped, no matter how good the popcorn is.

But the place you go to see a movie can have a lot to do with how much you enjoy your evening. There’s a world of difference between a theater that’s comfortable, fun and thoughtful and a glorified concession stand staffed by kids who wouldn’t have been out of place in “The Breakfast Club.” Because we’re still in the heart of the summer-blockbuster season, here are our seven favorite places to see a movie.
 


 

AMC Loews Waterfront 22

Sometimes, bigger is better. The gargantuan theater in West Homestead raised the bar for local multiplexes when it opened in 2000; while other chains have followed suit, the Waterfront 22 has a big advantage in that number at the end of its name. With 22 screens, the theater usually has room for everything from the biggest blockbuster — often on several screens, warding off sellouts — to under-the-radar choices and trendy arthouse fare. Its loyalty program is the best in town, too.
 


photo courtesy of Cinemark Monroeville
 

Cinemark Monroeville Mall and XD

There are five Cinemark theaters in western Pennsylvania, three of which carry the “XD” branding (the chain’s in-house version of IMAX, with ridiculously crisp picture and powerful audio). Sure, they’re multiplexes, but numerous touches — including the convenient cafeteria-style concession stands and regularly-booked screenings of world theater, opera, ballet and more — raise them above the pack. The Monroeville location gets the nod for film history; the horror classic “Dawn of the Dead” was filmed in the mall, partially where the theater sits today.
 


photo courtesy dependable drive-in website
 

Dependable Drive-In

We’re lucky to still have a number of drive-in theaters in the Pittsburgh area, including North Vandergrift’s retro-cool Riverside Drive-In, the home of the twice-annual “Monster-Rama” retro spookshow fests. But Dependable Drive-In, in Moon Township, is our favorite; four screens of double features mean there’s nearly always something playing that you want to see, and the location makes it a more practical trip than the other area drive-ins. Plus, Dependable is open year-round, in case you get in the mood in the dead of winter. (Bring blankets.)
 


PHOTO BY JOSH GREENBERG

 

The Hollywood Theater

Dormont’s Hollywood, first opened in the 1920s for silent films, embodies the urban neighborhood theater, a bygone feature of mid-century cities. Grab a seat in the balcony for a restored classic, a truly under-the-radar indie or a local event like the annual 48 Hour Film Festival competition; before or after the show, hang out in Dormont for dinner or drinks. The Hollywood is also the current Pittsburgh-area home of midnight “Rocky Horror Picture Show” screenings.
 


photo courtesy of Manor theater
 

Manor Theater

Speaking of neighborhood theaters: Squirrel Hill’s mainstay was renovated in 2012. In addition to new carpets (goodbye, sticky popcorn sneakers) and comfortable seating, the additions included a bar, making the Manor one of the few theaters in town where you can enjoy beer, wine and cocktails with your film. What’s more, it’s a small enough theater that you can run for another round mid-movie without missing much. And to go with your drink, consider grabbing shoestring zucchini fries, pork and Napa cabbage pot stickers or hummus and pita chips from the most forward-thinking concession stand in town. (Don’t worry: They have popcorn, too.)
 


photo by john altdorfer
 

Regent Square Theater

The team at Pittsburgh Filmmakers operates three area houses: downtown’s Harris, the Regent Square Theater and the Melwood Screening Room at the Oakland headquarters. Regent Square is our favorite, largely due to its location; here, you can get dinner at Root 174, see an acclaimed foreign film and then grab drinks at D’s SixPax & Dogz without moving your car. We’re also big fans of the theater’s Sunday night classic series and their concession prices, which — in open defiance of every other theater in the world — are actually affordable.
 


photo by john altdorfer
 

Row House Cinema

With respect to all the fine theaters listed above, if this list could only include one theater, it would probably be Row House. Sure, you have to go somewhere else to catch “Jurassic World” or “Ant-Man,” but you can come to Lawrenceville for “The Big Lebowski,” “Easy Rider” or “Pulp Fiction,” depending on the theater’s weekly theme. Add in draft beer at the concession stand (or bottled brews from the attached Atlas Bottle Works), SMOKE Taco Mondays — when you’re free to bring in tacos from SMOKE BBQ Taqueria next door — and a bevy of special events, and the one-year-old cinema in Lawrenceville is emerging as Pittsburgh’s cinephile mothership.
 

 

Categories: Best of the ‘Burgh