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April 17, 2010

Zelienople's Strand Theater and The Maltese Falcon

Strand Theater, Zelienople PASaturday evening we ventured into the Great North (Zelienople) to watch "The Maltese Falcon" at the Strand Theater, which is something I've wanted to do since they (re)opened in July 2009. (Yes, there was a Maltese Falcon before there was a Millenium Falcon.)

I've always been a fan of arthouse / college-town indy movie theaters - places that show an eclectic mix of great movies and foreign films, usually for one or two days each in a quick rotation. I've been missing that for a long time, since the Pittsburgh Playhouse got out of showing movies. I knew that the renovation of the old Strand Theater promised to bring that back.

The Strand Theater (wiki) was built in 1914 by Gioachino and Rosalia Sapienza, and featured silent films with live piano accompaniment as well as Vaudeville-style shows on its small stage. Unable to compete with multiplexes and VCR's, the Strand closed in the 1980's.

One of the side-effects of the Pittsburgh economy is that a lot of buildings in small towns can sit empty for a long period of time. In this case, the Strand sat unused for twenty-five years, and crossed over into a new period of utility.

The (new) Strand reopened in July 2009, and I had low expectations of the state of the theater - I assumed it would be the old theater with perhaps new seats. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the interior had been redesigned and the space re-engineered. It reminded me of the O'Reilly Public Theater downtown.

Strand Theater, Zelionople : Interior Renovation

This was a first: my children had never watched a movie from a balcony before. This was the classic movie experience which is rarely available anymore. Some movies are better on the big screen, and the fast-paced Maltese Falcon is one of them. After the show we had pizza at GoodFellas across the street, which was excellent.

The Strand is a first-class movie house. It's better that the new theaters that you'll see in places like the Waterfront.

I hope to go back in May for Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Holding true to the original presentation, the Strand will present this restored silent movie accompanied by live piano performance.


Anonymous said...

Just saw your blog post about The Strand. Thanks for the positive feedback. We hope to see you for the Silent Film Fest this weekend. Spreading the word is greatly appreciated.
Ron Carter, The Strand Theater

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