Dormont’s Hollywood Theater Joins the Row House Family

The popular Lawrenceville theater will run the historical neighborhood cinema, with plans to renovate — but first, some movies.


After a tumultuous decade and several months of silence, the beloved Hollywood Theater in Dormont is about to reopen — with the team behind another local cinema at the helm.

Row House Cinema announced today that they will reopen the historical neighborhood cinema this month, with special programming continuing through the end of the year. In early 2024, the Hollywood will close for extensive renovations aimed at restoring the former grandeur of the Potomac Avenue theater.

“The town is a very supportive town,” says Brian Mendelssohn, owner of Row House Cinema. “I think Dormont is just a great place to be to make this kind of investment. The theater’s history is awesome … it still has the structure that we can make it into something that’s incredible.”

The news comes just a week after Row House announced a partnership with the Denis Theatre Foundation, the group that has been shepherding the gradual rehabilitation of the former Denis Theatre in Mount Lebanon. Following further fundraising and renovations, the foundation will lease the new three-screen Denis to Row House for regular screenings and special programming.

Within a week, the Row House brand has gone from one screen in one cinema to a near future that will see them operating five screens and additional event spaces in three locations.

“I love the movie business; the staff loves it,” Mendelssohn. “Expanding what we do just allows us to have more fun with it.”

The renovations to the Hollywood will involve extensive improvements to the lobby, the theater’s basement — which will be used for additional programming and private events — and the theater itself, with the aim of restoring its “atmospheric theater” status from the mid-1900s. That designation, Mendelssohn explains, was a once-popular trend meant to feel “like you’re sitting in an outdoor courtyard when you’re watching a movie.” The Hollywood was the only cinema in Pittsburgh with such a design.

In the meantime, the Hollywood will host a series of screenings and special events aimed at previewing the kind of programming neighbors and cineastes can expect in the future. A non-ticketed open house on Oct. 1 will formally welcome guests back to the theater. On Oct. 21, director Richard Kelly will answer questions at a double-feature screening of his films “Donnie Darko” and “Southland Tales.” Torch singer Rebekah del Rio will appear at a screening of “Mulholland Drive” on Nov. 4, and an all-day science fiction festival will be held on Nov. 25.

Tickets for the latter three events will go on sale today.

After renovations are complete at both theaters, Mendelssohn says he envisions a thriving network of programming across the three locations — a mix of arthouse favorites and hits at the Denis, continued themed repertory programming at Row House, and 70-millimeter screenings of current prestige cinema at the Hollywood, to give some examples.

Above all, however, the Row House team is excited to bring life back to the Hollywood.

“When you walk in the doors, it’s beautiful, it’s exciting, it’s magical,” says Mendelssohn. “I think it’s going to be an exciting place, and it’s going to have a certain energy that you won’t find at a standard multiplex.”

Categories: The 412