Cate Blanchett likes to ramble. Recently, she rambled about Pittsburgh.
The two-time Oscar winner, who last month was nominated for yet another Academy Award for her towering performance as problematic composer Lydia Tár in “Tár,” was recently profiled by writer David Canfield for a February Vanity Fair cover story. The sprawling interview contained a section toward the end of Blanchett “rambling,” as she put it, about various subjects.
She rambled about the way “Tár” is resonating with younger filmgoers, about still being able to watch “Lawrence of Arabia” in a town near the English countryside and, most pertinently, “about discovering one of her favorite repertory cinemas, Row House, in Pittsburgh.”
Naturally, that shoutout excited everyone at the Lawrenceville-based independent movie theater, including owner Brian Mendelssohn.
“It’s like us winning the Oscar,” he told the Union Progress. “It’s that kind of feeling of overjoyed.”
Mendelssohn said that Blanchett visited Row House about five years ago while she was in Western Pennsylvania filming the 2019 dramedy “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.” He was out of town at the time but was told that she and a few family members were there to check out a 4K restoration of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 sci-fi drama “Stalker.”
Both Mendelssohn’s brother and his wife’s sister got to at least see Blanchett at Row House, though his wife “will never forgive me” for not being made aware of the opportunity to meet such an acclaimed actor. Just about every Row House employee was equally giddy at Blanchett’s presence in their humble indie theater.
“It was so cool,” said marketing manager Kelsey Zehmisch. “A really nice morale boost for staff.”
For Mendelssohn, it was mind-blowing to know that “one of the people we respect the most” set foot in Row House — and, thanks to that Vanity Fair piece, that the feeling is mutual.
“I remember talking to people before we even opened about the concept [of Row House],” he said. “They were like, ‘Why would anyone go to your theater when they could watch it on Netflix or streaming?’ This is the validation that we needed to hear, that we’re right. Movies are better watched with your peers on the big screen.”
These days, Row House is busy with its usual specialty film lineups while also preparing to host two big events next month: the 58th Carnegie International Film Festival from March 3-12 and the 2023 Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival from March 17-30.
The timing of Blanchett expressing her admiration for Row House is serendipitous considering that the theater is gearing up for a “Tár” run from Friday through March 1. The Feb. 26 screening will also feature an “interactive program” curated by Pittsburgh Symphony conductor Moon Doh beforehand.
It took Mendelssohn two days to be made aware of Blanchett touting Row House in Vanity Fair, which is around the time he began receiving a “constant barrage of text messages” from friends and friends of the theater. Though he hasn’t had a chance to see Blanchett’s latest film yet, he plans to fix that during “Tár” week at Row House.
Ideally, Blanchett talking up Row House will inspire more business and folks to join the theater’s film club, Mendelssohn said. After getting what he perceived as “a big hug from someone we all look up to” via Vanity Fair, he was more than happy to give Pittsburghers another chance to check out a Blanchett performance so masterful that it has become a running joke amongst a particularly online subset of film enthusiasts that Lydia Tár is actually a real person.
“I think that’s a testament to how incredible Cate was at acting and how well it was written for the times when it came out,” Mendelssohn said. “It’s great to see this kind of movie still being made, and we’re excited to support it.”
He had one message for Blanchett in response to this totally unexpected but incredibly pleasant surprise: Her money is no longer good at Row House.
“She can come any time she wants for free,” he said. “Her and her family have an open invitation to always come back. We appreciate her support and will always show her movies, because we want to support her.”