Movie lovers often have nearly photographic memories when it comes to where they saw what film -- and even where they sat.
Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" was the first movie James W. Kastner saw, thanks to his sister, Joan, who took him to the Garden Theater on the North Side in 1955. He was 4 years old and the venue then was family friendly.
"We sat on the left side of the theater, midway back and in the center of the row. It would be another four years before I would enter my first Downtown Pittsburgh movie theater, the Warner on Fifth Avenue."
The North Side native who now lives in Murrysville has collected his memories along with details, drawings and photos of theaters past and present in a new book, "Where the Movies Played in Downtown Pittsburg(h)."
Mr. Kastner wrote the first page 25 years ago on a Smith-Corona typewriter and joked with friends, family and fellow film lovers at a release party Downtown, "It may not sell as many copies as 'Harry Potter,' but I do want to say I came close."
He mixes personal recollections about growing up in Spring Hill and his Sunday ritual of eating Barkus Bakery doughnuts or coffee cake while studying the movie ads in The Pittsburgh Press. He mapped out his strategy, which often took him to the Garden, a box of Boston Baked Beans candy in hand.
His book covers 1896 to 1996 and acknowledges, "My purpose was not to compose the last word on the history of the movie theaters that once graced Downtown Pittsburgh. My purpose was to have fun and tell a story."
Mr. Kastner pays tribute to long-gone venues and traditions and provides factoids and lists of what was playing on specific dates such as V-E Day along with drawings of marquees and building exteriors by artist Mary Jean Stabile.
She worked from photos shot on Sept. 11, 1948. Fred Beall, then 17, took the train from Cleveland to Pittsburgh and documented the theaters here with a Jiffy Kodak camera. He mistook some of the soot-covered buildings for black exteriors and his one-day trip did not allow time to venture inside the movie houses.
Mr. Beall met the Pittsburgher during a Theatre Historical Society of America session in Columbus, Ohio, in 1988, and the photographer later sent him a box of 35mm slides.
The author writes: "The photographs taken that  day served as the point from which I traveled backwards to Pittsburg as it was then spelled and forward to Pittsburgh as it is written today.
"Some theaters were small, like the Newsreel and Ritz, and some large, like the Penn and Stanley, but to me they were all palaces where Pittsburghers could take a date, play hooky from school and escape from the snow and rain."
One of his most vivid passages, "The Usher on Aisle 2," is devoted to Sept. 27, 1968, when Mr. Kastner was a junior at North Catholic High School and started work as an usher at the Fulton Theater (now the Byham) for 65 cents an hour.
The doorman showed him how to sign in, he found the office and his first boss and received his navy blazer with a round Associated Theatres comedy-tragedy mask logo stitched on the pocket. A metal flashlight completed his uniform at the theater showing "Anyone Can Play" starring Ursula Andress, Claudine Auger and Virna Lisi.
Mr. Kastner worked in sales, education and management with RedKen Laboratories Inc., Sebastian International and Regis Corporation.