To Batman, From Pittsburgh, With Love

The behind-the-scenes story of how the bat signal shined over Pittsburgh.

Photos courtesy of

I don’t need to tell you that Pittsburgh has become gripped with Gotham-fever. Or maybe Dark Knight-fever. Batman-fever? In my case, Christian Bale-is-so-cute-fever.

Call it what you will, but from the moment director Christopher Nolan was spotted on the sidewalks of downtown Pittsburgh last winter scoping out shooting locations to the official announcement that yes, the third installment of the Batman reboot would be filmed right here Gotham, Pennsylvania, we the ‘Burghers have been agog.

The emails and Tweets and phone calls came pouring in: BATMAN IS COMING!

The night before the majority of the cast and crew was set to arrive into town, a strange three-story-high shape appeared on Fifth Avenue Place, informally known as the Highmark Building.

The bat signal. Projected via lasers right onto the facade. Pittsburgh noticed and then the questions started. Who put it there? Where did it come from? Why? HOW? YES!

YES! because Pittsburgh loved it. YES! because ‘Burghers took their superhero-loving children downtown to see it. YES! because we’re still excited when movies come to town to film.

I queried the Pittsburgh Film Office to find out the particulars and discovered how several entities came together to welcome Batman to Pittsburgh with breathtaking, stunning visual effect.

It was Saul Markowitz from Markowitz Communications who first came up with the idea and brought it to Dawn Keezer, the executive director of the Pittsburgh Film Office. Naturally loving the idea, she then turned to the Idea Foundry, an economic development and innovation firm serving western Pennsylvania by transforming innovating technologies into viable businesses, to talk to them about how to make it happen. The Idea Foundry found the perfect local company—Lightwave International, headquartered in Bridgeville—who actually built the signal and technology.

Lightwave, whose work can be seen in the Transformers movies or even a Rhianna or Madonna concert, set up in a room at the Wyndham Hotel and from there via a bank of laptops and equipment, projected the signal two nights in a row.

As for Highmark’s involvement, the building was perfect in terms of it being in the immediate line of sight upon exiting the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Highmark President and CEO Kenneth R. Melani, M.D., called it "an honor not only because [Fifth Avenue Place] is an anchor of the Pittsburgh skyline, but also because we are positioned at the gateway to the city’s Cultural District and nothing could be more of a cultural attraction than a Hollywood film.”

It wasn’t just regular ‘Burghers who found the signal to be worth a look; the film office told me that some of the cast and crew made a point to go and view their very special welcome sign, with producer Emma Thomas telling Dawn they were thrilled with it.

Four local entities putting their ideas and resources together to give a warm neighborly welcome in a very cutting-edge way.

When will Pittsburgh stop surprising me?

I hope never.

Categories: PittGirl