The former Bally Sports Club, 119 6th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

In the last year, Downtown Pittsburgh gained new venues showcasing magic, music and theater. Coming soon: blockbuster movies.

This year, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will begin construction of a first-run multiplex cinema on Sixth Street in the heart of Downtown.

“The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is pleased to be moving forward with this new project, as part of its mission for cultural and economic revitalization of the Cultural District,” said Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, McMahon said breaking ground on a first-run theater has long been a goal for the organization.

“The new movie cineplex is a much asked about amenity for Downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, and continues to add to the District’s variety of entertainment options every day of the week for a growing population of Downtown residents and for visitors alike,” he said.

Alvin Theatre (1891-1940), located at 119 6th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Demolition of Bally’s fitness club, which has plenty of space for this project, is in the early stage.

McMahon said there will be at least six screens as well as “lounge chair style seating; state-of-the-art sound system and other amenities similar to high-industry movie theater standards.” That includes wine and beer.

The Trust owns the Harris Theater on Liberty Avenue which specializes in independent and international cinema. Staff from Pittsburgh Filmmakers is in charge of programming and day-to-day operations of the Harris, and McMahon said the Trust will work out a similar arrangement with another outside operator in the next several months.

The Trust has already provided $8 million of the estimated $11 million total construction cost. McMahon said the theater will be ready for its closeup sometime in 2021.

While the building on Sixth street was more recently a Bally’s fitness center, it has a long history as a hub for Pittsburgh cinephiles. From 1891-1940, it was the site of the Alvin Theater (pictured at the top).

“The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is pleased to continue in this history, by bringing first-run movie entertainment to the world-renowned Cultural District,” said McMahon.

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.