Hollywood Theater in Dormont on the ropes, plans craft show fund-raiser on Saturday

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

The Hollywood Theater in Dormont, attempting to keep the doors open in light of a harsh winter and shrinking patron base, will hold a Mother's Day craft show and fund-raiser May 1.

Local crafters and vendors, who will be set up in the lobbies, will donate a portion of proceeds to the theater. The event, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, will feature a bake sale, Chinese auction, basket raffle, sale of jewelry, dip mixes, hand-crocheted items, puppy scarves, homemade dog treats, hand-sewn pillows, Tupperware goods and other items.

Space for other vendors is available. If interested, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 412-344-1245.

In a call to arms to keep the doors open, organizers emphasize the theater has only two part-time employees. "The proceeds [of the event] will go toward operating expenses, enabling management to continue to serve up the diverse big screen expeience while developing survival strategies."

Operators say:   "Since the snowstorm, we have lost our audience. Often, only a handful of patrons come in. We were never in this for the money, but we have to cover our expenses. If not, we will have to shut down permanently."

The theater reopened in August 2009. Here's a Post-Gazette story from July 30 trumpeting the return:

       The Hollywood Theater in Dormont is ready for its much-anticipated second act.

On Saturday, the renovated theater at 1449 Potomac Ave. will open its doors, fire up its projector and popcorn machine, and welcome a new legion of fans. The 298-seat theater--which underwent $300,000 in renovations in 2007 and was previously operated as a second-run theater by the Bradley Center -- features a refurbished lobby and balcony, new seats and a new screen and projection booth with 35mm and Dolby digital capabilities.

The Hollywood is under new management by Motion Picture Heritage Corp., a nonprofit in Franklin, Ind., that rehabilitates and operates classic cinemas nationwide in partnership with local communities. The firm will sublease the space for two years, with the option for an additional six, from the Bradley Center, which leases the building from Hollywood Partners LLP.

"We don't want the Hollywood to be just a movie theater; we want it to be a complete experience," said Bill Dever, of Motion Picture Heritage.

"Potomac Avenue has a huge potential for restaurants and shops, so we want to help create foot traffic for our neighbors," he said. "We've seen situations like this where revitalized theaters have really improved local economies."

Mr. Dever said plans include a cafe, live music performances and eventually a liquor license. The theater will screen everything from Hollywood classics, cult horror and B movies to cutting-edge indies and contemporary major studio fare.

Scheduled events Saturday include a pre-party at 6 p.m. featuring a performance by local musician and B movie aficionado Weird Paul Petroskey.

Movies being screened on opening night include "Chopping Mall," "Vampire in Vegas" and "Cry of the Winged Serpent." Chopping Mall, a film remembered by anyone who rented videos in the 1980s, will be introduced by its director, Jim Wynorski. who will premier his latest film, "Vampire in Vegas" later that night.

"We are excited about the reopening of the Hollywood. This will mean that more people will be coming into Dormont and frequenting our businesses," said borough Manager Gino Rizza.

Opened in 1924, the historic theater is the last surviving single-screen theater in the South Hills. The building was gutted and rebuilt by Warner Bros. Theaters in the late 1940s. During the 1950s and 1960s, it became one of Stanley Warner's main second-run neighborhood houses in Pittsburgh and was a first-run house for a while.

The Hollywood was shuttered in 1998 and slowly deteriorated until March 2007, when it was restored with new roof, new seats and a refurbished balcony. The Bradley Center, a nonprofit organization, ran the theater as a way for at-risk youth to learn life skills. The theater closed again in May 2008.

The theater will be managed by Bruce Lentz, of Dormont, who is the owner of the video store, "Incredibly Strange Video," at 3049 W. Liberty Ave.

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