Paramount Film Exchange (PFEX) Opening in Uptown
During the 1920s, as film steadily gained more popularity and technological advances, Paramount Pictures opened a film exchange in Pittsburgh in response to regulations that required studios to screen films before their release. Other studios, including Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox, also had their film exchanges on what was then Pittsburgh’s “Film Row.” Due to growing costs of maintaining an exchange in each city and Pittsburgh’s declining prominence in the film industry, Paramount Film Exchange closed in the 1960s and fell into disrepair.
But in 2009, the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh (YPA) helped convince the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission to vote to designate the Exchange a historical site. From there, StartUptown, a nonprofit organization that provides collaborative work and living space for early-stage entrepreneurs and their companies at below market rates, and photographer Alexander Denmarsh went through the painstaking process of restoring the place.
This will be StartUptown’s first opportunity to create a campus. Founder and Executive Director, Dale McNutt said that by helping start-ups grow, the community will grow as well due to amenities like restaurants coming as a result. At the new site, StartUptown plans to bring in 6-plus companies, some forming out of the local community.
Although it is offering space for start-ups, like WebKite, the new Paramount Film Exchange building will pay its respect to the past. The public will have access to the first floor where they can see the forty museum-mounted posters and framed originals that showcase Paramount’s film history and entrepreneurs. The visuals will have accompanying texts to educate visitors as well. In addition, StartUptown will have a food program for residents. After the first five years, the space will most likely convert into a location for a variety of media.
“It will be a place for entrepreneurs, startups and young people who want to be involved in the film and new media industries,” McNutt said. “ It’s a great creative space.”
On October 2nd from 5:30 to 10 PM, StartUptown and Denmarsh Photography will celebrate the revitalization of the new Paramount Film Exchange through a party reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour. Funders, corporate sponsors, and the Pittsburgh entrepreneurial tech, social, maker, arts, film and historic preservation communities are all encouraged to attend. Guests can expect a film screening, of StartUptown’s film-making resident In Medias Res’ work, a discussion on Pittsburgh film history, an on-site photographer (aka paparazzi), music, an assortment of food, and of course, a red carpet.
Here’s an older video about the exchange’s history.