Why is it important to save a cemetery chapel in Evans City?
Gary Streiner said he’s been asked this about 3,000 times in the past few months, and each time he answers, the response is more meaningful.
“Right now, we still have (director) George Romero around. We still have a lot of the original cast and crew around to do signings, so hard core fans can still meet them,” Streiner said. “But we’re all getting up in age a bit and there’s going to be a time when we’re not around anymore.”
Streiner, with the help of “Night of the Living Dead” fans, hopes to raise enough money by screening the 1968 film to save the Evans City Cemetery Chapel, which appears in the opening scene of the movie. The event is Saturday, Feb. 4, at Dormont's .
Streiner has other Fix the Chapel events scheduled, including the Eat Your Heart Out Zombie Valentine’s Day Dance at in Oakmont on Feb. 11. The event is being hosted by Steel City Zombies.
The house where the bulk of "Night of the Living Dead" was shot was torn down shortly after filming, leaving the chapel as the only lasting monument that appeared in the film. It’s something to preserve for the fans, and for a film that shaped the modern horror genre, Streiner said.
Friends of the Hollywood Theater President Scott Jackson said the event is right up the Hollywood’s alley.
“We don’t necessarily want to be known as a horror-only theater, but it’s something we do a lot and people really take to it,” he said. “It’s part of the overall mix of what we do here.”
The event also coincides with Romero’s birthday, and an effort to get one million fans to watch the movie as a birthday celebration.
Jackson said he hopes the event will draw people to the Hollywood who haven’t been there, and that they’ll want to come back.
The movie is especially close to Streiner. In 1967, he was working in Pittsburgh at The Latent Image with his brother, Russell Streiner, and with Romero when production began on “Night of the Living Dead.” Streiner was one of the original ten investors and owners.
His efforts to save the chapel include donations and merchandise sales through his Fix the Chapel website, online auctions, and raising awareness at horror conventions and through social networking sites. In the past four months, $14,000 of the needed $50,000 was raised—the group hopes to raise at least $1,000 at the Oakmont event.
“The movie was major change, culturally, in how people perceive horror,” Streiner said. “The fans respect that, and they’re stepping up and showing that.”
And there are no better fans than horror fans—especially the ones who love “Night of the Living Dead,” Streiner said. He said he loves horror fans because they see the humor in what they love. They dress up for movie events, and they enthusiastically fight to save film relics like the chapel.
Streiner said individual fans nationwide have donated as much as $2,000 to the Fix the Chapel project, but it was a single donation of $3.57 that really struck a chord with him.
“That, to me, is so amazingly heartfelt and so amazingly what this whole project is about. Somebody emptied his pocket to donate that,” he said. “I don’t think this is like any typical fundraiser that’s ever happened.”
If you’re going:
- Hollywood Theater doors open at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 4, with the film screening at 4 p.m. Admission is $6 and all proceeds benefit Fix The Chapel. A silent auction, as well as appearances by Mr. Streiner, original cast member Ella Mae Smith and others to be announced will be part of the event. T-shirts and pieces of the chapel will be sold.
- Eat your heart out at the Zombie Valentine's Day party on Feb. 11 at the Oakmont Tavern, 814 Allegheny River Boulevard in Oakmont. The party begins at 8:30 p.m. and ends when the bar closes. The cost is $3, and most door proceeds, as well as shot specials, raffles, etc. will be donated directly to the Fix the Chapel efforts. For more information, visit the event page on Facebook or www.steelcityzombies.com.
For more information, see www.fixthechapel.com.
Plum-Oakmont Patch editor Heidi Dezayas contributed to this article.