The marquee at Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville now reads “We will get through this Pittsburgh.”
Row House has long been a beacon of great film in Pittsburgh. So what does a small independent — and always creative — theater do when nobody can to go to the movies?
Owner Brian Mendelssohn has some big ideas.
“We will have an online streaming Row House Cinema,” says Mendelssohn. “We are working with distributors to bring films that would normally be in cinemas, available for a cinema-like streaming experience (you buy a ticket, you can then watch it on your computer, TV, Apple TV, Roku, etc.). We split the ticket with distributors just like we normally would if we are showing it on the big screen.”
They’re starting soon with two movies, “so we’ll be a two-screen theater for a bit,” says Mendelssohn.
That includes “Corpus Christi,” a Polish film about an ex-con who has a spiritual awakening and starts impersonating a priest in a small town, helping it heal after a terrible accident.
The second is “The Wild Goose Lake.”
“It was a massive hit in China a year ago — it’s a gangland crime thriller, but incredibly stylized and very beautiful,” says Mendelssohn.
Row House is also going to start a video podcast, reviewing four films each week, in about 22 minutes. “It’s in the same style as the classic ‘Siskel & Ebert’ show on TV,” explains Mendelssohn. “This will be Row House style, so it will focus on classic films that are available online, guiding you through the crazy amount of films online. It will be fun; it will have special Pittsburgh guests joining us for the week.”
Expect one of the first movies featured to be the Robert Redford baseball classic “The Natural” (1984), since this is right around the time baseball season should be starting.
“I’m very curious to see how it holds up,” he says.
Since kids are stuck at home — and likely watching lots of movies like the rest of us — there will be special programming for them. Called “Kids & Cinema,” it will be like taking a film class with your family, with a discussion following.
It will have three tracks, for elementary school, middle school and high school students. High schoolers will get more mature fare, like Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (1989). Films will be chosen for their potential for discussion, like the science fiction movie “Contact” (1987), about the attempt to find extraterrestrial life.
“My wife ’s a teacher, so I’m going to be picking her brain a lot,” says Mendelssohn. “We’re taking the approach — if you’re a parent, your kids are at home, this is a good way to have a teach-at-home moment. We’ll have a guide for parents to have a discussion — key points and questions to ask.”
Finally, expect a return of one of Row House Cinema’s most popular programs, “Pittsburgh’s Pretty Kitties,” part of the annual Cat Film Festival since 2017.
“We will want everyone in the Pittsburgh region to film their adorable cats doing adorable things (with the phone turned sideways like a movie screen),” explains Mendelssohn. “We will put them all together into a fun film. This will be the film we will open with whenever that time will come when we are going to re-open. This gives people something to do while they are home … and a great way to bring us all back together when that time comes.”