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New Kensington’s Dattola Theater gets lifeline from business leaders

Updated: May 20, 2020

Brian C. Rittmeyer| Wednesday, September 18, 2019 11:13 a.m.

Three local business leaders on Wednesday announced their plan to buy the former Dattola Theater in downtown New Kensington.

Corey Pistininzi, Sean Watson and Dante Cicconi, under the name “NK 50,” have an agreement to buy the Fifth Avenue theater from the city’s Redevelopment Authority.

The purchase price is not being disclosed, Pistininzi said.

The group’s intent is to convert the theater into an event and entertainment space while preserving the “historic integrity” of the building, according to a press release.

Bart Dattola opened the theater in 1942. His wife, Vincenzina Dattola, ran it following his death in 1959 until she sold it in the late 1960s, according to their granddaughter, Maria Biamonte, of Oakmont.

It was a mainstream movie house for most of its life until the 1970s, when it began showing adult films before closing.

It was briefly revived in 1984, showing second-run films. It closed in 1985 and has been unoccupied since.

An effort in 2009 to repurpose the theater did not come to fruition, Pistininzi said.

NK 50 approached the Redevelopment Authority about buying the theater last year. An agreement was signed this month.

“New Kensington is in the midst of a significant revitalization,” Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Sarah Snider said in a release. “One of the Redevelopment Authority’s roles as part of this revitalization, unfortunately, has to include demolishing unsafe structures that are beyond rehabilitation. It is exciting to know that the Dattola Theater may not have to be one of those structures.”

It was not known when renovations would start. Preliminary drawings and a formalized business plan are expected to be finalized in early to mid-2020 and submitted to the Redevelopment Authority for review and approval.

“This group is rescuing the last remaining intact theater in the Tri-Cities area,” said James Sabulsky, president of the Tri-City Historical Society. “Having an events space that can also be used by the local community, theater groups and for other entertainment will only help to bring people to New Kensington and the surrounding area.”

Pistininzi owns and operates Modfinish, a home furnishings and design gallery adjacent to the theater, and is part-owner of The Bloser Mansion, which will be a bed-and-breakfast on Sixth Avenue in the Parnassus area.

Watson is a local real estate holder and owns Sustain-able Matters, which offers architectural materials and finishes. It is based out of The Corner, the Penn State entrepreneurial center and co-working space in the city’s Corridor of Innovation.

Cicconi is a New Kensington councilman and heads the city’s recreation commission. He is vice president of the Tri-City Historical Society and is a landscape architect with Canzian, Johnston & Associates.

Mayor Tom Guzzo said he supports NK 50’s efforts.

“I’m looking forward to watching one of our downtown treasures evolve into what it was always meant to be, and that is an entertainment center for our entire community and the Alle-Kiski Valley,” Guzzo said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, or via Twitter .

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