Film Notes: Peduto hooks 'The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh' for Hollywood Theater benefit


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Only the mayor might pick "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" when handed a guest programming gig at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont.

Mayor Bill Peduto will launch the series Saturday with "Undaunted: The Forgotten Giants of the Allegheny Observatory," focusing on Samuel P. Langley, John Brashear and the observatory in Riverview Park, and "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh."

The 1979 comedy about the fictional Pisces basketball team stars Julius Erving, Meadowlark Lemon, Stockard Channing, Jonathan Winters, Flip Wilson, Nicholas Pryor and a boy with the cinematic name of James Bond III. It was filmed partially in the now-gone Civic Arena.

"The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" had its world premiere Nov. 1, 1979, at the Gateway Theater, Downtown, with proceeds benefiting Eye and Ear Hospital. A program from that night, organized by the Pittsburgh Chapter of American Women in Radio and TV, featured a welcome from Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri.

The hourlong documentary "Undaunted," which had its world premiere at the Heinz History Center in April 2012, will be shown at 8:15 p.m. and "Fish" at 10 p.m.

Saturday will mark the Hollywood Theater's third birthday since reopening as a nonprofit. The building on Potomac Avenue was transformed into a theater in 1931, enjoyed a robust few decades as a second-run theater in the 1940s and 1950s and as a first-run theater in the 1960s, but closed in 1998. It was then renovated, reopened, went dark and, like a George Romero zombie, rose again.

Saturday's festivities, starting at 7 p.m., also will include the Midnite Horns jazz band, tarot card readings, caricatures, food from Cain's Saloon, beer, sangria, birthday cake and raffles for the chance to win Penguins and concert tickets

Tickets are $20 for Hollywood Theater members, $25 in advance or $30 at the door. See www.thehollywooddormont.org.

Actress Gillian Jacobs, a 2000 graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School, will serve as guest programmer May 16. Her selections: "Gardens of the Night," an indie drama in which she played a homeless teen prostitute opposite John Malkovich's youth-shelter worker, at 7:30 p.m., and "Vagabond," a 1985 French drama about a young female drifter, at 10 p.m.

Kevin Sousa, former executive chef at Salt of the Earth who plans to open the Superior Motors restaurant in Braddock, opted for the Coen brothers' "The Big Lebowski" starring Jeff Bridges as a paunchy aging hippie who likes to bowl, drink White Russians and be called The Dude, at 7 p.m. June 8.

Tickets for May 16 or June 8 are $8 or $6 for seniors and students.

Author, wife moved to tears

Even John Green and his art curator wife, Sarah, were crying the first time they watched "The Fault in Our Stars" -- and he wrote the book and witnessed much of the filming.

"We were both crying, and I think I've seen my wife cry five times in the 10 years that we've been together," he recently told The Hollywood Reporter. "I knew that was a good sign."

And the moment he saw actress Shailene Woodley, who cut her long, thick locks to play a teen grappling with cancer, in character, he knew she was the right choice, the publication reports. "When I saw Shay walk out of Hazel's house with the cannula trailing her oxygen tank, I immediately felt, 'She's got this.' "

She stars alongside Ansel Elgort in the movie, shot in Pittsburgh doubling for Indianapolis, and Amsterdam and opening June 6.

Without revealing any details, the trade publication says Mr. Green approved of a streamlined ending. "There are only so many emotional gut punches" a movie can have, co-writer Scott Neustadter told The Hollywood Reporter. So the ending delivers "the same impact in as few scenes as possible."

Boost for Brownsville drive-in

The Brownsville Drive-In, in Redstone, Fayette County, recently became the 10th location to benefit from Honda's Project Drive-In, designed to help outdoor theaters with the expensive conversion to digital projection.

Ten drive-ins receiving support were determined by more than 2 million votes at projectdrivein.com. The Brownsville location will receive $14,000 from Honda and an additional $5,000 from AutoTrader.

The business has ordered a digital projector and expects it in mid- to late May. But with conversion costing roughly $70,000 per screen, it's still raising money through www.gofundme.com/4qh494 along with admission prices and, especially, its snack bar.

The drive-in may get only 80 cents of an $8 ticket or 30 cents on a $3 child's admission, manager Charlie Perkins said this week. "We're hoping people support the snack bar," he said, as drive-ins rely heavily on concessions from pizza to popcorn while studios reap most of the rewards from tickets.

The drive-in will be playing "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" and new "RoboCop" on one screen starting today and "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" along with "Muppets Most Wanted" on the other and was lucky to score 35mm prints of the films.

It's far cheaper and easier for studios to distribute movies by satellite or hard drives than by shipping old-fashioned reels of film. As reported earlier this year, that switch has accelerated and some movies are no longer available on film, creating a hardship and financial challenge for independent cinemas and drive-ins.

Robinson competition

The third annual Robinson International Short Film Competition will be Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the SouthSide Works Cinema.

The event will present the Pittsburgh premiere of seven short films, with the awarding of $16,000 in prizes to three winners and a reception afterward. The competition, honoring the memory of Sanford N. Robinson Sr., is being presented by JFilm: The Pittsburgh Jewish Film Forum.

"My husband was a great film enthusiast and would have loved this competition," says Judy Robinson. "He made a film in the 1970s called 'The Devil and Sam.' Many people from the local film community who worked on the film will be attending our short film competition on May 7."

The Robinsons, including children Heather and David, are involved in every aspect of the competition from screening the entries to selecting the winners, along with a panel of judges.

The event is designed to help further the careers of the winning filmmakers by awarding significant monetary prizes and offering exposure for their work. First prize is $10,000 and two honorable mentions will be given at $3,000 each.

The competition is open to independent filmmakers worldwide. This year's submissions came from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The criteria included that submissions contain an essence of Jewishness as represented by theme, history or culture. There were 45 entries, ranging in length from three to 29 minutes.

Tickets (www.JFilmPgh.org) are $10 for general admission and $5 for full-time students with valid ID. If any remain, they will be available at the door at 7 p.m.

Free films, reception

It will be a night of firsts Monday as Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room will host the first public showing of work from the first class from The Filmmaking Intensive.

Ten students who completed the full-time, eight-month program will show their projects at 7:30 p.m. It's free with a reception afterward at Filmmakers, 477 Melwood Ave. in Oakland.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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