Pittsburgh Hollywood Theater gives audiences retro films, food

By Larissa Gula

Hollywood Theatre Feature

“Julie and Julia”

Sunday, Feb. 28 at 6… Hollywood Theatre Feature

“Julie and Julia”

Sunday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m.

$30 per person — includes food, dessert, movie

RSVP by Friday, Feb. 26

If you want to see Leonardo DiCaprio in a mental institution this weekend, then don’t plan a trip to the Hollywood Theatre.

Located in Dormont, a community approximately seven miles from campus, the Hollywood doesn’t show the newest movies, like DiCaprio’s “Shutter Island.” Instead, the theater screens older films like “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

“We’re a repertory film theater,” Jordan Paley, assistant manager, said. “We operate a nonprofit theater, so it’s easier for us to get older movies that way. Would we have been able to afford [first runs]? It depends on who comes and how many people show up at the doors.”

And it’s not just a movie that the theater offers. This weekend you can see “Julia and Julia” and eat a specially prepared meal from Enrico Biscotti, a Pittsburgh restaurant.

The film tells the tale of two women, one of whom is Julia Child. Both women experiment with cooking at different points in time, and the narrative shifts between the two.

The dinner includes cassoulet, roasted root vegetables, brioche with an orange butter, salad and macaroons — a menu that may sound familiar to previous viewers.

“We try to tailor the menu to fit the movie,” Paley said. “We basically try to cater the meal to work in conjunction with the film.”

The Hollywood makes up for not running recent releases by heightening the experience of going to a theater, hosting events that consist of dinner and a movie. Paley said he hopes the theater gives movie-goers “the older style feeling of going to a movie and an event rather than just something to do” for entertainment.

“It’s a feeling for people who went to the theater in the ’50s, and who went to watch cartoons on screen before their film and went for dinner and got drinks before and after,” Paley said. “It’s the feeling of something to be remembered versus something to do.”

Previous events featured films such as “A Christmas Story” and “The Godfather,” and Paley said they plan to continue hosting the event with a new film and meal once a month. The dinners mark one of the ways the theater has changed with the times.

All of this is due to this classic old theater reopening with a new concept.

The original Hollywood Theatre opened in 1933 and over the decades underwent several modifications, including one by Warner Brothers Theaters in the 1940s. The theater managed to stay open until 1998, according to Paley.

The theater was reopened in 2007, but closed again in 2008. It reopened yet again in 2009. Motion Picture Heritage Corp. currently sublets the theater from the Bradley Center.

The theater’s website describes the past décor of the theater, particularly during the ’50s and ’60s, as artful, with a small 100-seat balcony, and furniture and a TV in the lobby.

In 2006, the Bradley Center outfitted the theater with Dolby Digital sound, added seating and updated the projection booth.

Ideas for future restorations and improvements include a café, a liquor license and live music performances. Film ideas, however, are easily influenced by the public.

“We have a suggestion box in our lobby, so as people suggest movies, we put them up as they get requested,” Paley said.

Currently “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is reported as being in high demand at the theater. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is a popular film as well.

Hollywood Theatre workers also have plans to play the entire “Indiana Jones” trilogy onscreen during a single day. This date is not yet finalized.

In addition, Saturday nights tend to be more of a cult movie night “so everyone can have a really weird, fun time,” Paley said.

The theater has also made plans to host independent film festivals when possible.

“We plan to bring independent film festival films and films not given regular distribution the chance to play in theater,” Paley said. “We’d like to have directors there for Q&A afterwards. Not a lot of independent filmmakers get to see their films on the screens.”

Beyond their special events, the Hollywood operates much like a normal theater during the week. Its prices vary from $4 to $6, and it sells food and drink to go with its films.

“The plan is to just give the best program we possibly can to everyone in the city,” Paley said. “We feel strongly the concept of a movie as an event will make people love our theater and will keep people coming to the movies again.”