Brian Mendelssohn has always dreamed of opening an old-timey movie theater. When he came across the space at 4115 Butler Street in Lawrenceville, he knew he’d found his location.
“When this building came along, it felt so right,” says Mendelssohn, a principal with Lawrenceville’s Botero Development
. “It’s a single-screen neighborhood movie theater, as if we were opening this up in the 1920s. It’s going to have an intimate feel with modern amenities. We’re trying to imagine what it would look like if Bette Davis designed it.”
Construction is about 65 percent complete on Row House Cinema, a single-screen theater for all breeds of film buffs, which is slated to open in December.
In addition to modern amenities such as stadium seating, a state-of-the-art sound system, completely digital projection and gourmet concessions, the theater will have something entirely new to Pittsburgh.
The adjoining building will house sister business Atlas Bottle Works, which Mendelssohn aims to make “the best beer store in Western Pennsylvania.”
Moviegoers will have the option of buying draft beer at the theater’s concession stand or choosing from the expansive selection next door. Atlas Bottle Works will start out carrying 500 varieties of beer — no macrobrews — and the selection will expand from there.
As for the theater, don’t go to Row House expecting any first-run movies.
“We’re trying to do a new business model we’re calling marathon programming,” Mendelssohn says. Screenings at Row House will revolve around genres, themes and directors. Showings, he says, will occur in back-to-back marathon format (like a single-day “Lord of the Rings” marathon), or over the course of several days, and will touch on everything from sci-fi, horror and zombie films to popular directors, such as the Coen Brothers and Alfred Hitchcock.
The theater, which will seat about 90 people, will also host Q&A and discussion sessions with people from all reaches of the movie industry.
Row House Cinema is currently staging an indiegogo campaign
to help cover the costs of installing its picture and sound systems, and rewards for donors, which include choosing movies to be screened, show that local movie fans’ voices will be heard when it comes to programming.
“The community will have a strong influence about who we are and what we’re doing,” Mendelssohn added. “If we had a tagline,” Mendelssohn says, “it would be, ‘Like Netflix, only curated.’”
You can follow Row House Cinema’s progress on Facebook
Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Brian Mendelssohn