Gateway Theatre

119 6th Street,
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Associated Theatres, Harris Amusement Co.

Architects: Drew Eberson, John Adolph Emil Eberson

Functions: Gymnasium

Styles: Art Deco

Previous Names: Alvin Theatre, Shubert-Alvin Theatre, Harris Alvin Theatre, J. P. Harris Theatre

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News About This Theater

The Gateway Theater

The Gateway Theatre was located in downtown Pittsburgh in what is now the city’s Cultural District. It was built on the site of the Alvin Theatre which opened September 21, 1891, and closed in 1933. Architect Edward B. Lee was employed to revamp the theatre which reopened August 30, 1934 with Shirly Temple in “Baby Take a Bow” & Harold Lloyd in “The Cats Paw”. It had a major roof collapse on November 14, 1940. It was rebuilt to the plans of architect John Eberson and reopened April 4, 1942 as the J. P. Harris Theatre, named after John P. Harris, who started the world’s first nickelodeon in Pittsburgh.

On December 30, 1960 the theatre was bought by George and Ernest Stern, whose Associated Theaters chain also included the Fulton Theatre, which was several doors away at 101 6th Street. They renamed the theatre the Gateway Theatre. It underwent a remodeling in the Autumn of 1967 and was dark for several weeks.

On June 11, 1980 the Gateway Theatre closed with “Friday the 13th”. The theatre was remodeled into a health club called the City Club. They turned the elegant inner lobby into a swimming pool. The rest of the auditorium was gutted, and turned into a two floor health club with a basement running track. The club was bought in 1999-2000 by the health club chain Bally’s who operated it until that chain folded.

The building was purchased by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, who has raised funds to convert it into a state of the art multi screen movie theater, which would be the first built in Downtown Pittsburgh in decades. The pandemic has stalled those plans, but the Trust is moving forward with their goal.

The interior has been demolished, the pool emptied of stagnant water, and plans are being discussed as of the Summer of 2022. They hope to get it open in late 2023, early 2024!

Contributed by Ron Miller

Recent comments (view all 42 comments)

johnbarchibald1 on November 21, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I can remember seeing a “sneak preview” of “The Time Machine,” in 1960, at what was then called the J.P.Harris Theatre, along with the main scheduled feature, “Let’s Make Love,” which starred Marilyn Monroe, and which I thought was too dull for words. I was 11. But I loved “Time Machine” and still do! I seem to remember other films there, too, like “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” and “The Mysterious Island,” which usually appeared around the holidays.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 21, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Regarding this paragraph in my comment of December 5, 2010:

“An advertisement for Philadelphia building contractors R.C. Ballinger & Co. in a 1907 edition of Sweet’s Catalog of Building Construction listed the Alvin Theatre among the projects the company had built, and said that the house was designed by an Indianapolis architectural firm called Reed Brothers. I’ve been unable to find any other references to that firm on the Internet.”
I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but “Reed Brothers” might have been an error by whoever put together the ad in Sweet’s Catalog. Before establishing their practice in San Francisco, that city’s noted theater architects James and Merritt Reid had operated an office in Evansville, Indiana, along with their younger brother Watson Reid. The Evansville office was sold in 1891, the same year the Alvin Theatre was built. The Reids then moved to California, though Watson eventually returned to their native Canada to practice architecture there.

This is probably not enough information to establish that San Francisco’s Reid Brothers designed the Alvin Theatre, but, if the Sweet’s ad got both the name and the city wrong, it opens the tantalizing possibility that they did. It would be interesting if their first theater design turned out to have been in Pittsburgh, and not in that other hill town where they became famous.

rivest266 on September 6, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Grand opening ad as Gateway December 30th, 1960 in photo section.

rivest266 on September 6, 2014 at 2:10 pm

April 4th, 1942 grand opening ad as J. P. Harris also in the photo section.

dallasmovietheaters on January 26, 2017 at 8:02 am

Grand opening as the Alvin Theatre was September 21, 1891 (ad in photos). It closed as the Gateway Theatre after a last showing of “Friday the 13th” on June 11, 1980. It’s final booking, “The Island” was moved to the Manor Theater.

DavidZornig on October 12, 2017 at 9:15 am

1952 photo as the Harris Theatre added to Photos Section, courtesy of Retrographer. (Link below) Copy courtesy of Jackson-Township historical preservation Facebook page.

A parade of cars traveling Sixth Street in Downtown Pittsburgh with signs bearing “Eisenhower-Man of the Hour” and “Tell Your Missus Don’t Vote for Hisses” supporting him in the 1952 Presidential Election. This view also includes the Fulton and Harris Theatres.

Cliff Carson
Cliff Carson on October 12, 2017 at 9:24 am

SHAME ON THE CITY OF PITTSBURGH. Shame on them for allowing this beautiful theatre to go by the waste side. It should have been preserved and made into a live concert venue. The city is poorer for having destroyed it.

DavidZornig on March 21, 2019 at 1:42 pm

1931 photo as the Alvin added courtesy The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh Facebook page. Unique 40th Anniversary marquee added above the existing one. I calculated the year based on the 1891 opening.

MichaelKilgore on August 9, 2023 at 7:20 pm

Boxoffice, July 27, 1964: “Associated Theatres, which operated 35 theatres, has purchased the building at 119 Sixth Ave. which houses the Gateway, the circuit’s downtown flagship. This modern building on the site of the former Alvin Theatre was purchased for $325,000 from Harvard University … Harvard owned the building for many decades and in years past rented it to the former Harris Theatre interests. When Harris Amusements sold out to the Associated group, with Associated taking a long term lease, the name was changed from the J. P. Harris to the Gateway Theatre.”

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