Originally published February 14th, 2017.
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The most magical event in Pittsburgh begins this Friday, February 16th at the Row House Cinemas in Lawrenceville: the Harry Potter Film and Culture Festival.
Row House Cinema is a single-screen theater on Butler Street that provides Pittsburghers with the opportunity to catch unique films and cult favorites on the big screen.
The theater is known for its quirky movie themes that change weekly and range from "Leonardo Dicaprio," to "Young Love," "Hitchcock," and even something along the lines of "French vs. Japanese New Wave" that my boyfriend once dragged me to.
Before I bury the lead, I have to add that there's a beer shop attached to the Row House Cinema, and patrons can bring drinks into the film. So yeah, that is pretty cool too.
For each theme, the theater shows 4 different movies, sometimes paired with accompanying events.
However, Row House is truly rolling out the red carpet for the boy who lived. For "Harry Potter Film and Culture Week," the theater is dedicating two weeks to the movies, and hosting over a dozen accompanying events.
So... where is Row House coming up with this stuff? Row House GM Theo Ackerson was kind enough to share insight on the movie selection process.
"The whole idea was the brain child of Brian Mendelssohn," says Ackerson. "He combined fulfilling a need with a passion project. Lawrenceville hasn't had a movie theater in 50 years, and it was kinda a childhood dream of his."
While the idea of the Row House is credited to Brian, the weekly themes are not the brainchild of a singular person.
"There are four or five people that have an equal share in trying to figure it out," says Ackerson. "We sit in an office and start with something. Sometimes it is a specific movie, and we try to build the week around that. Sometimes it might involve an actor or a director, and then we build upon that. Sometimes we get heated about certain things because people are passionate, which is fantastic."
The theater shows its movies in digital format, which Ackerson comments has advantages, and disadvantages.
"The advantage of it not being 35mm is that you can get ahold of things and source them from private collectors or museums. We are also limited because we are all digital. Somethings don't exist, and we have to get the rights to every movie. We have bagged whole weeks of movies because we couldn't get the keystone film."
At the adjoining Bierport bottle shop, patrons have the opportunity to try nearly one thousand different beers while enjoying their film. Just as the movies are selected with care, the beers are as well.
"One thing we pride ourselves on is the knowledge our staff has. We are able to help our customers so everyone leaves happy. We don't carry everything, but there are somethings where we have everything. We like to give every brewery a try, especially the new ones. The beauty of single bottles is you can buy just one "
For many people, Row House provides the opportunity to see movies on the big screen for the first time in years. Even with Harry Potter, most people haven't had the chance to see these movies in theater since the 7th film came out in 2011.
So, how does Row House decide which movies get an entire festivals? Well, it all depends.
"We take a look at the four movies. Maybe one movie is strong and will carry itself, but the other movies need something. That is when we do events. The Harry Potter festival just lent itself to more events than usual."