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Pittsburgh's reel life gets own display at video stores

Thursday, June 22, 2000

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Video renters who wander through Blockbuster like extras in a zombie flick now can head for a one-stop display of films made in Pittsburgh.

Seventeen Blockbuster stores in Allegheny County and three others in Butler, Greensburg and Altoona have clustered movies made in Southwestern Pennsylvania in a "Movies Made Here" section.

The display, the brainchild of participants in a program called the Leadership Development Initiative, also contains black and silver brochures promoting the Pittsburgh Film Office. The handout provides background about the decade-old operation, along with trivia and a list of movies made here, from "Angels in the Outfield" to "Inspector Gadget." ("Wonder Boys," getting a second big-screen release this fall, isn't on video yet.)

"They put us on the wall of new releases, and we'll be there until the end of the year. It's a real good opportunity to remind Pittsburghers of the amount of work done in the community, and it will be fun to see all the movies shot in the region," says Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office.

In the Blockbuster on Greentree Road, for instance, in addition to such releases as "Lady Beware" and "Night of the Living Dead," the display includes a few of WQED's scrapbook documentaries.

Some independent stores, of course, also spotlight Pittsburgh-made films on separate shelves.

Leadership Development Initiative, part of Leadership Pittsburgh, is a program for future leaders ages 22 to 34. They tackle projects for nonprofit groups, and Keezer had proposed some sort of community-public relations campaign.

"It was something cool that people would stop by and look at, if not go one step further and rent the movie," says Jon Rosenson, a 23-year-old from Mt. Lebanon who is director of strategic initiatives for Stargate. The display also is designed to promote the city and its film workers to a diverse group of renters, from regular folks to politicians, decision-makers and that stray producer visiting relatives or friends in town.

Rosenson's group included Janeen Atkins, a merchandise coordinator for Kaufmann's; Steve Auterman, an architect and urban designer for Urban Design Associates; and Susan Sobkowicz, a senior commercial account executive, AT&T Broadband & Internet Services.

In addition to securing the deal with Blockbuster, the team came up with the brochure, silver stickers for the video boxes and a sign for elsewhere in the store. Rosenson already has used the section to rent "Flashdance," which he had never seen, and plans to take home "Gung Ho" next.

The display comes at a critical time for the film office, which is funded only through the end of the year.

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