Emily Fritz | A&E Editor
Feb. 2, 2023
Walking into Bottlerocket Social Hall in Allentown is like stepping straight into a ’70s sleepover, complete with wood paneling, vintage sofas, multicolored string lights overhead and a disco ball. The jewel of the cozy retro space is the 150-inch projector screen, used to host movie sing-alongs and Sunday football. Jan. 31’s showing was the timeless ’80s classic: “Dirty Dancing.”
Unlike the typical theater experience, patrons were encouraged to quote their favorite lines aloud, sing their favorite musical numbers, enjoy complimentary popcorn and drink event-inspired mixed drinks. The “Dirty Dancing” inspired drink was lovingly named “The Pachanga” after a request that Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) is asked to accommodate.
The showing brought in long-time fans as well as those who had never seen the film before. As someone who watches the film regularly, Jamie Martina was one of the most animated audience members.
“It’s a beautiful movie to watch,” she said. Martina had been to Bottlerocket on Arlington Ave. on one other occasion prior during an album release party for Taylor Swift’s recent album, “Midnights.”
Martina’s partner, Jess Runco had seen the film upwards of 50 times.
“We all watched it when we were kids. It’s eye opening as a kid. We were just quoting it two days ago…you catch something new every time,” Runco said.
Though the couple came out specifically for the film selection, they spoke highly of the venue and the relaxed atmosphere.
“[There are] really, really great selections here…The owner seems plugged into the same cult classics that we grew up with. The nostalgia is tasteful,” said Martina.
“I like that [Bottlerocket is] old school. It makes me feel cozy and cool. I don’t feel judged,” Runco added. This was their first time visiting Bottlerocket, but they could see themselves coming back.
“Normally we’re a ’70s bar, and we were getting kinda tired of the music…Usually January is a pretty dead month for most bars and restaurants so we were kinda like ‘well, if we’re ever gonna do it, you know, if we’re ever gonna change things up, let’s change things up in January.’” said owner Chris Copen.
“Dirty Dancing” allowed the opportunity for a dance-along, but each movie showing proves to be uniquely different.
“We do different stuff, different props. We have ‘School of Rock’ coming up at the end of the month, and we’re bringing out an actual band of middle schoolers that are going to perform before the movie. So, sometimes it’s props. When we did ‘Indiana Jones’ we brought out a real archaeologist from the Carnegie Museum and they did a Q&A after the movie. We try to find cool things to pair a movie with. Sometimes it’s more interactive, sometimes it’s a guest…I think we’re going to do ‘Jurassic Park’ with a dinosaur expert,” Cohen said.
Despite opening only nine months prior, the independent arts venue has seen great success in hosting a variety of events including movie nights, dance nights, live music and classes in improvisation, puppetry and comedy.
“The key to our getting off the ground has really been programming and good ideas and fun things every single night,” Copen said. “[We’re] not limiting ourselves to one specific crowd, really making things that we think a lot of different groups would be interested in.”
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Copen had been working in Los Angeles for a comedy management company.
“I really did not enjoy it. But I really did enjoy comedy, and I did really enjoy live comedy. So then when Covid hit, I was out of a job…and somehow the idea of a venue kind of took hold within me,” he said.
Since then, Bottlerocket has grown to be a beloved location, bringing together a network of DJs, bands and comedians.
“We definitely have a lot of connections. We have a very good reputation within the city, and nationally we have a really, really good reputation, and I think that’s a reflection of the programming we do and…goes back to the values of the bar.”
Those looking to attend future events at Bottlerocket can look for their February calendar on their website at https://www.bottlerocketpgh.com/. Among the most anticipated are Friday and Saturday dance nights, movie showings for “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” and “School of Rock” and a “Poptropica Dance Night,” featuring music from 2008 to 2012.