Charleroi native publishes second book on local film and TV history

Published Dec 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm (Updated Dec 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm)

Pittsburgh's film history is almost as storied as the city itself. It's fairly common knowledge that the first nickelodeon – an indoor space to show projected motion pictures – called the city home. George Romero, Tom Savini, “Chilly Billy” Cardille and Fred Rogers are all household names in Pittsburgh film and television history. But it is the in-between – the film rows, the film-based publications and other movies and television shows shot in the Steel City – that an upcoming Arcadia Publishing book showcases.

“Pittsburgh Film and Television,” the latest in Arcadia's “Images of America” series, by Charleroi native and California University of Pennsylvania alum John Tiech, serves as a sequel of sorts to Tiech's first film book, “Pittsburgh Film History: On Set in the Steel City.”

“The first book wasn't completely finished – it will never be finished,” Tiech said. “There are pictures that are always going to be out there, there's always information that I need to throw in, and they are always making new movies in Pittsburgh.”

The book begins with the earliest days of Pittsburgh film history, reprinting pages from The Moving Picture World, a national industry trade publication that featured Pittsburgh-based stories frequently. Rare images of the Smithfield Street Nickelodeon are featured, as are behind-the-scenes production shots from WQED Studios. “Pittsburgh had a huge film industry back in the 19-teens, and people don't realize that,” Tiech said.

In fact, it was the size of the industry that most surprised Tiech as he worked on the book. “I knew we had an industry back then, but I didn't realize how big it was,” he said. “One of the most impressive things I found was that there were actually three incarnations of film row. Most people know about the one on the Boulevard of the Allies, which was the most recent one in the 1920s. But, there were actually two other versions of it, located inside the city.”

Film row, an area of the city housing various film-related businesses, including exchanges and supply houses, also called an area on Fourth Avenue and Ferry Street (modern-day Stanwix Street) and an area on Penn Avenue home.

The book highlights many photos of places where films were shot in the 1960s and 70s, including Romero's “Dawn of the Dead” and “Night of the Living Dead.”

And, with the resurgence of filming in the region, photos from “The Kill Point,” “Love and Other Drugs,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Wonder Boys” are included.

“There are some very rare pictures here. When Whoopi Goldberg was in town making 'Boys on the Side,' she was only here for two weeks,” Tiech said. “No one was able to get a photo or interview with her, all of the radio stations were trying. (Actor) Tony Amen was able to get a picture of her, and it's in this book.”

Tiech, a self-described film historian, is currently working on helping to get the Greater Pittsburgh Entertainment Museum off the ground. It will be located in the basement of Dormont's Hollywood Theater, and is expected to open sometime this spring.

“Pittsburgh Film and Television,” published by Arcadia Publishing, will be available at local retailers, online bookstores or at www.arcadiapublishing.com on Jan. 13.

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