Seeing older movies on a movie theater screen, in the size that they were intended to be seen, can be a real treat.
Have you ever seen Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” on the big screen (not the 55-inch large-screen television in your living room, but on the one in a movie theater)? The apartments that Jimmy Stewart’s character voyeuristically peers into each night are fully decorated with touches specific to each fictional resident, but those specific details aren’t easy to see on a television screen. Watch the film in a movie theater, and those details are much easier to spot.
Seeing older movies on a movie theater screen, in the size that they were intended to be seen, can be a real treat. Throughout Pennsylvania, there are several movie theaters, many of them nonprofits, that show older films, and they often do it in creative and educational ways. Here are five of them.
Bryn Mawr Film Institute
Located in what was the historic Seville Theater in Bryn Mawr, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute is a nonprofit innovative film exhibition and education center with four state-of-the-art theaters, classrooms, community gathering space, a café, and a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The theater shows current art and independent films plus a variety of older movies shown as one-offs, themed film series, and family matinees. A special film studies series showcases noteworthy classics and other older films, followed by discussions about the movie just viewed. A sign of the times, the Film Institute also hosts VacCinema on Mondays, when only fully Covid-19 vaccinated moviegoers may attend.
Upcoming classic films include “Rocky” and “Meet Me in St. Louis.”
Location: 824 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County
Showing a combination of new releases and older films, Doylestown’s County Theater is a nonprofit, community-based movie theater that specializes in independent, art, and foreign films. The theater opened in 1938 and it thrived until the early 1970s, but attendance at the older theater waned. It closed in the early 90s but reopened in 1993.
Movie lovers can now enjoy a variety of films in the renovated arthouse theater. In addition to current, mostly-independent films, cult classics, classic cinema, and screenings of live performances, the theater has once-a-month Saturday family matinees, and during the holiday season, those matinees happen weekly with family-favorite holiday films.
Upcoming classic films include “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Annie,” and “Christmas in Connecticut.”
Location: 20 E State St., Doylestown, Bucks County
Row House Cinema
With just 84 seats, Row House Cinema is an intimate, single-screen theater located in a historic loft building in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood. Its mission is to not just show films but to build a stronger film community in Pittsburgh. The theater shows over 250 new, old, popular, weird, amazing, and obscure films each year. Many films have just one showing.
Throughout the year, special events include Brew & Views with themed beers served at key points in a film and Cereal Cinemas in the morning with an all-you-can-eat cereal bar. Each week, the theater chooses a theme and shows movies that match the theme. Example: Tight Pants Week, films where the male leads wear iconically tight pants. The theater also sells an extensive selection of craft beer bottles and drafts.
Upcoming classic films include a week of nothing but “Star Wars: A New Hope,” “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” A $32 pass includes admission to every showing during the week.
Location: 4115 Butler St., Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
The Erie location of Tinseltown USA participates in the Fathom Events’ TCM Big Screen Classics. Throughout the year, the theater shows iconic classic films accompanied by commentary from TCM hosts who discuss the history of the film and offer insights into its making. Tinseltown is a modern theater with reserved, recliner seating and the option to order snacks ahead of time and have them delivered to the reserved seats.
Several movie theaters throughout the state participate in the program, and other theaters can be found on the TCM Big Screen Classics website with a quick search by zip code.
Upcoming classic films include “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Location: 1910 Rotunda Dr, Erie, Erie County
West Shore Theatre
The motto at West Shore Theatre in New Cumberland is, “Big-time entertainment. Small-town charm.” This single-screen, nonprofit theater’s mission is to be the center for cultural arts in the town and surrounding communities, by offering high-quality, diverse, affordable entertainment. That entertainment often takes the form of modern classic movies.
A unique feature at West Shore is the high-top tables that seat two at the back of the theater or the booths along the sides of the theater that seat four to six, making it easy to enjoy the concessions. The theater also accommodates small-scale theatrical, comedy, and musical performances.
Upcoming classic films include “Mama Mia! Sing Along” and “American Sniper.”
Location: 317 Bridge St., New Cumberland, Cumberland County