2013 in Pittsburgh was time for Lights! Camera! Action!



Space doesn't permit recapping everything from a busy year of movie-related news, but here are some snapshots with a Pittsburgh accent from 2013:

■ "Promised Land," starring Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Frances McDormand and shot in Westmoreland, Armstrong and Allegheny counties, opened in theaters Jan. 4. If you missed it, rent it.

■ "Blood Brother," a documentary made by Pittsburghers about a onetime Pittsburgher, won the grand jury prize and audience award for U.S. documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

■ Maxi Saver 12, the "dollar theater" in West Mifflin, abruptly closed in late January. It had been open since 1991 and was popular with families, especially, who wanted to see movies on the big screen and not bust their budget.

■ The Film Independent Spirit Award for best first feature went to Pittsburgh native Stephen Chbosky for "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

■ Good news-bad news: Pennsylvania kept its cap on tax credits for film and TV projects at $60 million. But the commonwealth is so popular that projects gobble that up quickly, and other states have grown more aggressive in wooing producers.

■ The city was used as a punch line -- players are stricken when told they're being traded to Pittsburgh -- in "42." However, the Jackie Robinson story allowed Forbes Field, courtesy of movie magic, to live again.

■ As a seventh-grader, Jackie Evancho made her movie debut as Robert Redford's daughter in "The Company You Keep." A screen test report on Fred Astaire once said, "can dance a little." Jackie can sing a little, too.

■ Wil Haygood, a onetime Post-Gazette writer, watched as his story in The Washington Post inspired "The Butler," starring Forest Whitaker as a fictionalized version of Eugene Allen, who worked as a butler at the White House for eight presidents. Mr. Haygood earned an associate producer credit on the movie, too.

■ Eighteen members of the Shapira family from Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio, flew to the Toronto International Film Festival in September for the world premiere of "The F Word" starring Daniel Radcliffe. Former Shadyside resident Jesse Shapira, a graduate of Shady Side Academy and Colgate University, was an executive producer of the warmly received romcom.

■ "The Fault in Our Stars" not only came to Pittsburgh to film but invited teens and young adults affected by cancer to be extras. Author John Green was here for most of the shoot and was gracious to fans seeking autographs or selfies.

■ Rick Santorum, onetime presidential candidate turned CEO of EchoLight Studios specializing in faith-oriented family films, made a personal pitch for "The Christmas Candle" to an invited audience at Orchard Hill Church in Franklin Park.

■ "Out of the Furnace," set and filmed in Braddock, North Braddock and other Pittsburgh area locations, debuted to so-so box office numbers but enthusiastic reviews.

■ The release of "Foxcatcher," which Channing Tatum called "the hardest movie I've ever done, emotionally, physically," was bumped to 2014. The real-life story of a chemical fortune heir who went to prison for killing an Olympic gold medalist and wrestler was filmed in Pittsburgh but is not set here.

■ For the first time in almost a decade, moviegoing returned to Monroeville with the November opening of a 12-screen Cinemark theater at Monroeville Mall. Cinemark will open another 12-screen multiplex at McCandless Crossing on McKnight Road in the spring.

■ Aliquippa native Joe Letteri, along with Peter Jackson and their Weta Digital effects studio, will be honored for creating "some of the most epic visionary fantasies in the history of filmmaking." They will share the 2014 Vanguard Award for achievements in new media and technology at the Producers Guild of America ceremony in January.

Bonuses: To mark World Polio Day in late October, the Smithsonian Channel premiered an updated version of "The Shot Felt 'Round the World" (now "A Shot to Save the World") with a rare interview with Bill Gates. ... Zachary Quinto and CMU pals produced "All Is Lost" starring Robert Redford, and another alum, Patina Miller, was cast as Commander Paylor in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Parts 1 and 2." ... John Wells, for whom the directing program at CMU's School of Drama takes its name, directed the film version of "August: Osage County." ... And Thomas Tull, a part-time Pittsburgher and full-time Hollywood heavyweight, toured the ScareHouse in Etna with directors Guillermo del Toro and Michael Dougherty in tow.


-- Barbara Vancheri, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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