This article was written by Pittsburgh freelancer, Adam Ridge.
After Covid wiped out ticket sales, and streaming platforms surged in popularity, several Pittsburgh independent movie theaters closed in recent years, including the Regent Square Theater and Melwood Screening Room. But many still remain, an important place for friends to meet, celebrate the art of cinema, and chow down on popcorn and candy.
The holiday season is a wonderful time to hit an independent theater, their marquees’ mixed with Oscar-seeking studio releases and nostalgic holiday classics alike.
As the temperature drops and the sun gets shy, here are some Pittsburgh independent movie theaters to fit any mood.
SQUIRREL HILL: Manor Theatre. 1729 Murray Ave.
The Manor Theatre is the place for new releases, from major and indie studios alike. Action-packed blockbusters as well as slow-burning dramas share four screens inside a century-old building in the heart of Squirrel Hill. The M Bar in the lobby provides movie-themed libations as well as classic cocktails. Coming Soon: Avatar: The Way of Water in 3D, or watch David Harbour play a naughty Santa in Violent Night.
LAWRENCEVILLE: Row House Cinema. 4115 Butler St.
Row House Cinema is the place for classics of all eras and occasionally more contemporary films. They show holiday films all December, from Polar Express to Gremlins, and yes, even Die Hard (absolutely a Christmas movie)! They regularly host special screenings and events, such as a special Troegs holiday-beer tasting before The Muppet Christmas Carol. But you can always grab a beer from Bierport, a taproom connected to the theater, and bring it right to your seat.
DOWNTOWN: Harris Theater. 809 Liberty Ave.
The Harris Theater, operated by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, is one of the few remaining cinemas focused almost exclusively on art films. Here you’ll find acclaimed movies that you won’t see anywhere else, like this year’s widely celebrated EO, a Polish film about the misadventures of a circus donkey. Enthusiasts will appreciate that they still regularly use a 35mm projector, and everyone can appreciate that the theater is BYOB.
OAKMONT: Oaks Theater. 310 Allegheny River Blvd.
The Oaks Theater, with its restored, animated marquee and classic art deco style, has been entertaining Oakmont since 1938. It hosts film screenings as well as live events – Adrian Belew played there this summer! This year, get that warm nostalgic holiday feeling from live Christmas concerts, holiday movie trivia and a White Christmas wine tasting.
DORMONT: Hollywood Theater. 1449 Potomac Ave.
The Hollywood Theater in Dormont has seen its fair share of drama, and not just on the screen. Beloved by the community, in 2018 the theater was taken over, some say hostilely, by the Theatre Historical Society of America. They’re home to a longrunning, raucously interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as certain new releases.
MCKEES ROCKS: Parkway Theater & Film Lounge. 644 Broadway Ave.
Parkway Theater regularly hosts a range of events from a lounge singing comedy variety show to holiday b-movie screenings, as well as trivia and karaoke. They frequently partner with indie movie advocates Jump Cut Theater, whose board includes exiles from the Hollywood Theater takeover. The theater is also home to Abjuration Brewing, who focus on American ales made from local ingredients.
MT. LEBANON: Denis Theatre. 685 Washington Rd.
Neighbors organized to revitalize this classic theater in 2007. Their work is ongoing. For now, they organize virtual screenings and other events to support their mission.
SEWICKLEY: Tull Family Theater. 418 Walnut St.
Modern, community-focused non-profit theater showing a wide range of films, including modern releases. They also focus on accessibility, including sensory-friendly screenings and a workshop series for middle schoolers.
VANDERGRIFT: Riverside Drive In Theatre. 1114 Lees Lake Ln.
Closed for the season. Classic destination for after-dark double features and backseat make out sessions.