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The Advent of Local Movie Houses in the 1900's

History of small movie theaters in Pittsburgh

Think back to when movie houses were present on many street corners in America. The very first thriving movie house in the country was in Pittsburgh.  In 1905, John P. Harris and Harry David opened on Smithfield Street a theater called the Nickelodeon. The Nickelodeon offered an entertainment site that was readily accessible to both the laboring class and a city’s white-collar class.  The low nickel admission fee created a growing audience for film.

 A person did not have to go far to see a film in Pittsburgh as there were hundreds of 5 cent movie houses in the region.  The city had sharply defined geographic and cultural landscape, and each theater’s patrons would have been overwhelmingly from the surrounding community.

Nickelodeons were successful in drawing a local crowd with frequent program changes to suit all the needs of the patrons.   The theater was a building that collectively belonged to the community and served as a gathering place.   Sewickley had a movie house called the Sewickley Theater that opened in 1915.  

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