John P. Harris Memorial Theatre

210 Fifth Avenue,
McKeesport, PA 15132

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dallasmovietheaters on August 3, 2022 at 6:07 pm

This venue opened as J.P. Harris Memorial Theatre on April 26, 1929. It wasn’t changed until Associated Theaters dropped the J.P Harris to simply the Memorial Theatre in the 1960s. It was then converted to a twin-screen venue called the McKees Cinemas 1 & 2. It is assumed that it went out of business on May 21, 1976 when it was damaged by a fire that destroyed two blocks of Tube City’s downtown.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 22, 2013 at 12:17 am

Also, there are photos of the Harris State Theatre on page 36 of McKeesport, by Michelle Tryon Wardle-Eggers and John W. Barna (Google Books preview.) An earlier photo of the building appears on page 34. The building was originally a saloon called Altmeyers, but had been converted into a theater by 1908, when it became part of the Harris Amusement Company. It was located on 5th Avenue between Market and Walnut Streets.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 21, 2013 at 11:45 pm

TivFan: John P. Harris might have been the person who coined the name Nickelodeon, which was the name of the five-cent movie house he opened with his brother-in-law, Harry Davis, at Pittsburgh in 1905. Before his death in 1926, Harris parlayed his small theatre into a substantial regional chain. There were houses called the Harris Theatre throughout western Pennsylvania. Here is a 1934 newspaper article about the Harris Amusement Company.

TivFan on February 11, 2013 at 3:53 am

It seems the Peoples Building is at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Walnut Street, and has a Walnut Street address. In the satellite shot, it looks like a building exists where the State was located. This may not be the original structure. Anybody know? Thanks.

TivFan on February 11, 2013 at 3:37 am

Who is J.P. Harris? There apppears to have been two other McKeesport theaters with the “Harris” name. I’ve heard of Sam Harris. On the site there is a picture of a theater with a large vertical HARRIS sign. This building looks nothing like the State or the Memorial. This building (the Hippodrome, but only the HARRIS sign identifies it) was partially demolished in 1943 for a Ford car dealership. The basement and part of the first/ground floor were retained and incorporated into the building. It is stated on the site that this building still “survives”.

TivFan on February 11, 2013 at 3:00 am

Does anybody know about the Harris State Theater? I have a McKeesport post card showing “Fifth Avenue, looking East” which is postmarked l932. The cars in the photo look earlier than 1932. The sign on the theater show 15 cents, over the Harris name. The theater is on the left side in the picture, and the Peoples Building is shown beyond this on the corner of the next block of Fifth Avenue. The Peoples Building was built in 1906 as the headquarters for the Peoples Bank and Trust Company. It still exists. This section of Fifth Avenue is not accessable on the Google street view.

nonsportsnut on July 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm

The Three Stooges Fan Club is trying to confirm the date of a personal appearance of the Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Joe DeRita), possibly with Paul Shannon, and in conjunction with the release of their feature fim “The Outlaws is Comin”, which features Shannon as one of the “outlaws”. Thanks,

Frank Reighter

Chuck48 on March 7, 2012 at 10:18 am

I worked there as an usher in the late 50’s-early 60’s. Made $.65 an hr. Isley’s was next door and they had the best butterscotch sundays.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner on December 8, 2010 at 10:47 pm

To all past members of the Memorial “family."
It was an honor to serve there as manager for a while in the late 60’s.

BTW, anyone out there who was a part of the Memorial family interested in a long, long, long overdue reunion, please get in touch.
Jack Oberleitner, .com

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 13, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Thanks for Ad,ken mc.always great to see.

atmos on October 26, 2009 at 5:16 am

After visiting the THSA archives recently I discovered that this theatre opened on 26 April 1929.

kencmcintyre on November 28, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Listed as a Stanley-Warner theater in the 1955 yellow pages. Address given was 212 Fifth Avenue. Phone number was NOrth 4-4760.

EdithLMWingate on January 22, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Hi, Lost Memory I thank you for the pictures. I sure wish I could find some old pictures of the theatres in McKeesport. I also want to thank Jerry B. for the names of the theatrew in McKeesport. I do not know or remember where 9th street was but maybe you remember where May Street was located. I did go to 5th Ave. school for 2 yrs. before going to St. Mary’s German school. Do not remember the address but can remember how to get there. We were close to a YMCA & the bus stop. I was 6 yrs. old when you were born. Edith L. M. Wingate

EdithLMWingate on June 24, 2007 at 1:55 am

I lived in McKeesport during 1945 & 1950 with my sister, mom, dad & grandparents. We lived at 729 May Street. It no longer is there & neither is the house we lived in. Myself, my sister & our friends use to walked down the long flight of stairs that connected our street with 5th ave. We then either took the street car or walked to the theatre. There were 4 theatres at the time. I believe one was called the Capital Theatre. The Memorial was the one at the other end of 5th ave so it was quite a walk but we enjoyed the walk. We paid 10 cents to see a double feature, cartoons, & news reel. I believe coke was 5 cents & pop corn 10 cents. We watch a lot of singing cowboy movies, musicals, & scary movies.(Frankinstein, The Thing). We had a lot of fun & if I had known then what I know now I would have been sure to take a lot of pictures. As they say hind sight is better than foresight. I am truly sorry to hear about The Memorial Theatre. McKeesport has changed a lot since I lived there. Even the steel mill is gone. I wish I could remember the other names of the theatres. Just about everyone I know that would remember the names is dead.

Cordicron on June 10, 2007 at 12:18 pm

From the “Tube City Almanac” by Jason Togyer View link
And the Memorial Theater, once a showplace in the style of the major urban movie palaces of the 1920s, had become an albatross instead of an asset. The gloomy, boarded-up hulk loomed over pedestrians going to and from the Sixth Avenue parking garage.

Except for some emergency repairs, the soot-blackened walls of its massive auditorium looked much the same as they had the morning after the fireâ€"except that they were deteriorating with each passing year.

Yet when the Memorial Theater was finally demolished, nine years after the fire, a few people stood on Fifth Avenue and wept againâ€"just as they had on the night of May 21, 1976.

They cried because the cranes ripping down the Memorial’s walls had revealed a surprising, somewhat distressing secret.

It seemed that the remodeling effort to create the two “McKee Cinemas” inside the Memorial’s auditorium had left its ornate 1920s details largely intact.

False walls and ceilings had been erected inside the originals. But above the cheap wallboard and fiber ceiling tiles, gilded grape vines still climbed Moorish columns. The mighty proscenium arch, though injured in a few places, was otherwise as strong and graceful as ever.

And if you squinted through the swirling clouds of dust and debris, you could make out the pale blue ceiling, once decorated with hundreds of twinkling light bulbs to simulate stars.

It was as if the past glories of McKeesportâ€"wiped away first by a massive fire, then by a decade of corporate indifferenceâ€"had come back to taunt the city’s people, one last time.

Patsy on January 10, 2005 at 8:54 am

Another very sad demolition theatre story! The fact that it is a demolished Eberson-atmospheric theatre is a very hard pill to swallow!

KRYPTONCOWBOY on December 5, 2004 at 9:48 pm

The Memorial Theatre was split into a twin and renamed Mckee Cinemas in the late 60’s or very early 70’s. It was destroyed by a fire that wiped out a large chunk of the downtown business district in the mid 70’s.