June 20, 1958: Our first question when we found this picture was, “Why are so many people lined up outside the Loew’s Penn Theatre?” We checked our microfilm but found no evidence the image was published, so we can only guess the throng is waiting to see the movie advertised on the marquee: “High School Confidential!” The film opened on Friday, June 20, 1958 — the date, written in pencil, is the only information on the back of the print.
“High School Confidential!” is a teen flick with lots of 1950s slang and a great opening sequence in which Jerry Lee Lewis, sitting in the back of a pick-up truck, pounds out the movie’s theme song while cruising through a leafy suburb.
Loew’s Penn Theatre opened in 1927 and, like many film palaces built in that era, fell on hard times in the 1960s. It closed in 1964 and was doomed for demolition (to be replaced by a parking lot, of course) when several groups came forward to purchase the site and convert the facility into a new home for the Pittsburgh Symphony. After a $10 million, three-year reconstruction, the theater opened on Sept. 10, 1971, as Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts. We’ve posted an interactive picture on our Pittsburgh Then and Now page to show how this corner has changed.