OAKMONT (KDKA) — The Oaks Theater of Oakmont was state-of-the-art when it opened its doors in November of 1938.
First run films and air conditioning packed the house, night after night. But new technology and multiplexes have been the bane of single-screen theaters in recent years.
To survive, theaters like the Oaks must adapt.
“We’re going to replace the glass counters and the candy with beer, liquor, wine,” says manager Joe Wichryk. “We’ll still have popcorn and candy available for people who will come to see movies. But we’re going to make this a nice little lounge area.”
He says the owners plan to add a kitchen. The last six rows of seats will be removed for tables and chairs.
“We’re hoping to add live music to our programming, as well as improv comedies, standup comedy, keynote speakers, things like that,” the manager added. “But we also want to keep showing films as well. So we’ll see a lot more classics and cult films.”
Carpet is laid beneath the future stage, to help with acoustics.
They also hope to restore the marquee to its former luster, back to a time when this theater was known as the “jewel of Oakmont.”
“Replace the neon and the other lights that are up there with individual bulbs and add animation to them so they would chase each other and flash, that kind of thing,” Wichryk explains.
They’ll keep the illuminated oak leaves on the walls, and other mementos of the long ago.
When the manager was searching through the theater’s dusty past, he says, “I found an autographed picture of Gene Kelly, not even in a frame. Just lying in a desk.”
It seems the new Oaks Theater won’t just be the same old song and dance.