Pittsburgh is home to a number of historic theaters that are still operational, including the downtown Harris Theater and the Regent Square Theater. These establishments are preserved by passionate people with a love and appreciation for architechtural reminders of cinema’s past. Built in the 1920s, the Hollywood Theater was shut down in 1998, and after multiple failed reopenings, found new life under the direction of Friends of The Hollywood Theater. Located in Squirrel Hill’s business district, the 90-year-old Manor Theatre recently underwent renovations that added a bar and a new lobby. So it only makes sense that the Oaks Theater, itself a nearly eight decades-old single-screen theater, would pay tribute to these saviors by screening a documentary about old movie houses and the people who fight to keep them alive.
The Rep began its life as a five part web series centering around The Underground Cinema, a single-screen Toronto repertory cinema run by a gang of misfits who will stop at nothing to see their theater succeed. In the face of strong competition from big box theaters, local cinematheques and home video, it’s a constant struggle to stay afloat. Throw in 12-hour workdays, having no semblance of a personal life and all the normal stresses of working day in/day out with the same people, things couldn’t be much more of an uphill battle.
The Rep also takes a broader look at the world of repertory cinema in North America. Currently being devalued by studios, corporate theaters and patrons themselves, movies have become less of an experience and more of an activity. Watching a film is something you just do to pass the time, rather than the event and spectacle they once were. Repertory cinema is an ever-shrinking but ever-passionate world of film lovers trying to keep the experience of cinema alive. The question is, will a greater audience recognize their cultural value before it’s too late?
The film features interviews with theaters such as Film Forum in NYC, The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, The New Beverly Cinema in L.A., The Hollywood Theatre in Portland, The Bijou Art Cinemas in Eugene and Blue Sunshine in Montreal. It also features celebrity commentary from Kevin Smith, John Waters, Atom Egoyan, George A. Romero and many more.
The Rep screens at the Oaks on June 29th and July 3rd. Both showtimes are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 general admission, $6 for seniors 62 and over, youths 17 and under, and students with a valid ID.