Circa 1950 to 2015
The plan for renovating The Oaks Theater started in 2014 when the current ownership group, three local business owners, came together with the desire to preserve the theater as an entertainment venue and invested in a vision of an expanded use of the building to provide a future for the beloved movie palace.
They hired Joe Wichryk II as the new Program Director to oversee the renovations and to create new programming for the theater. Joe brought with him experience in entertainment and theater management, as well as bar and restaurant management, and proposed modern updates, such as cabaret seating and a bar, while maintaining the historic charm and original grandeur of the space.
Renovations were underway in 2015, adding state of the art sound and lighting equipment for the new entertainment that would come – comedians, musicians would now be able to entertain audiences on the new stage. Updates to the decor were made as well, and audiences would still be able to enjoy films as well.
Preserving the original Art Deco details were paramount.
The original exit signs and manager sign were all sand blasted and powder coated to restore them to their former glory.
The marquee would also get an upgrade, and the desire was to restore it to its original state, however, due limitations brought on by street infrastructure, it would not be possible. Hence, the design would capture as much of the essence of the original marquee as possible. The bright, incandescent bulbs once again returned and now shine over Allegheny River Boulevard.
Also original were large white tiles on the facade, some of which were discovered in the basement during the renovation.
Among other things that were discovered was this autographed picture of Gene Kelly in the back of an old desk, and the original stage curtain!
Remnants from days of being only a single-screen theater still remain, such as lenses and film reels. Films are still enjoyed in the theater, from independent local films to cult-classics and throw-back nights, but are played now on newer equipment.
Now The Oaks Theater has a whole new life, full of movies, music, comedy and more – shows are selling out, and we couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds!
We hope have enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at the renovations and the care and consideration that has gone into restoring this wonderful theater to a place where people continue to gather for a great time.
We thank everyone who supports the theater helping to keep it thriving for all to enjoy!