Hands Off The Hollywood Theater - Keep Our Local Theater Out of National Hands!
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We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the Theatre Historical Society and Kelly-Rielly-Nell-Barna Associates mutually agree to cancel the pending sale of the Hollywood Theater, and leave it in the hands of the Friends of the Hollywood Theater while they work toward purchasing the building themselves. After news of the sale broke, the response from the community on social media and in person was clear: Keep the Hollywood Weird!
With the stated goal of showing second-run films at the theater and programming being handled by someone out-of-state, the purchase would change the theater's integration into the fabric of the local community; without the one-of-a-kind films FOHT routinely screens, or the availability of the space for citizens to hold birthday parties, weddings, or fundraisers for other non-profits, Dormont (and Pittsburgh as a whole) would lose a cherished community space.
Whether giving those inside Dormont a neighborhood gem of which to be proud, or giving people outside of Dormont a reason to enjoy all of what Potomac Avenue has to offer, the Hollywood Theater under the direction of FOHT has given the community a true cultural and economic anchor. With so few art house theaters remaining in Pittsburgh, and a poor track record for second-run theaters in the region, it is imperative that the Theater continue to operate as it has.
Richard Fosbrink, the executive director of THS, has said he wants to focus on what is 'successful'. But we believe that the true success of art and community are not dictated by profit, but rather the extent to which they engage the hearts and minds of those who experience them. FOHT has realized that success, which is why we want its stewardship of the theater to continue unabated.
Why the Hollywood Theater Matters To Me:
My story of the Hollywood Theater began over 50 years ago. In the 1950s and 60s, my paternal grandfather lived with his 8 siblings on Espy Avenue just a few yards from the theater. On Saturdays, they would attend the morning cartoons and feature show. In the 1970s, my dad lived on Kelton Avenue nearby and he would attend movies weekly with my paternal grandfather at the Hollywood and at the now demolished South Hills Theater.
In 2008, I moved with my family back to my dad’s childhood home on Kelton. Just after I moved to Pittsburgh in 2009, the Friends of the Hollywood Theater reopened the theater. It was not long before I was going to see movies with my dad which included Jaws, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Sorcerer. As I got older, I started to go to the Hollywood more often by myself. Over time, I went more and more and got to know the staff. The theater became almost like a second home. The Friends of the Hollywood Theater have been successfully running the theater and they were planning on buying the theater this year.
This beloved theater of mine and of many is now in danger. The national non-profit organization Theatre Historical Society (THS) is planning to buy the building. The announcement was sprung on the Friends without warning.
Richard Fosbrink, executive director of THS, was originally on the Friends of the Hollywood Theater board. He proposed that the theater play second-run films. As such, we have reason to believe that he continues to want this. This plan would kill the theater.
Consider this: Do you know any second-run theaters in Pittsburgh? No? That is because every time a theater goes second-run, it fails. There is no need or want for such a theater. We have Netflix and MoviePass. The time between theatrical release and physical/digital release is shortening. People come to the Hollywood Theater not for a month-old Transformers movie but for the unique and eclectic programming that is only available at the Hollywood. Not only does the Hollywood provide a unique lineup of films but it is influenced and fueled by the people who visit.
If the sale goes through, the programming at the Hollywood will be handled by THS board member Joe Masher, who does not even live in Pittsburgh. Currently, the programming is set by Joseph Morrison, who lives in Pittsburgh and is often working at the theater during screenings. Morrison understands what local movie fans want to see, and is loyal to the Pittsburgh community.
The plan of showing second-run films is not their only problem. The members of THS have started a Change.org petition against the purchase of the theater and the overall transparency of the board. The board refuses to show anything about their financials to their members. This can mean one of two things: either they have little money and are going to ruin the group by buying and maintaining the expensive theater, or they have a lot of money which they refuse to talk about. Both possibilities are shady and bothersome to locals worried about the purchase.
We must take action now to help save the beloved Hollywood Theater. Don’t let it fall into the wrong hands, and ruin the theater that so many of us have come to cherish. Please sign this petition, and let your voice be heard.
Please join in solidarity with the Friends of Hollywood Theater and the current staff of the Hollywood Theater. If the current purchase of the Hollywood Theater by THS goes through, fans of the theater will not support it until it is returned to owners with the best interest of local movie fans at heart.
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