September 10, 2013 | Vol. 74 No. 7

Hollywood Theater unveils new organ

The Hollywood Theater in Dormont is putting the “theater” back in “theater organ” for Pittsburgh.

Through a partnership with the Pittsburgh Area Theater Organ Society and installation of their Rodgers 34E organ at the Hollywood Theater, the historic Dormont cinema is now the only theater in the Pittsburgh area with a theater organ. To celebrate, the Hollywood is holding a free open house and program to unveil the organ to the community on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

Opened in the mid-1920s during the silent picture era, the Hollywood Theater ran feature films starring A-list actors of the day, including Gloria Swanson, Tom Mix, and Lon Chaney. The technology of the time did not yet allow for soundtracks on film, so theaters like the Hollywood hired organists or small orchestras to perform along with the movies.

After the advent of sound on film in 1929, many theaters continued to include organ music before cartoons and other film programs. With the return of this musical tradition to the Hollywood, the theater plans to use the organ regularly for short performances before films, at special events such as its Members’ Party on Sept. 22, and also to accompany movies in an upcoming silent film series.

The Pittsburgh Area Theater Organ Society (PATOS), started by a handful of organ players and enthusiasts in 1970, is a non-profit organization devoted to the preservation of theatre organs and the music they create. Since then, the Society has “rescued” a genuine 1926 Wurlitzer pipe organ from a storage location in New York, and following a complete restoration and expansion effort, it now resides in the Keystone Oaks High School auditorium where it sees use several times each year for programs offered to the public.

To start up the Rodgers organ at the Hollywood for the first time, the Hollywood Theater and PATOS will bring renowned organist Clark Wilson to Dormont to perform. Mr. Wilson is considered one of the finest practitioners of the art of silent picture scoring, and has performed with silent films around the country, including the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

He was named Organist of the Year by the American Theater Organ Society, and has recorded seven albums.

The evening will include refreshments, an introduction to silent film music by Mr. Wilson, and a performance by on the Rodgers organ along with silent film comedies. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for refreshments and a tour of the theater, with comments at 7 p.m. and films at beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public, all ages. Donations are welcome. 

For more information e-mail info@thehollywooddormont.org or call 412-563-0368.

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