31st Street Studios: Big Budget Movies Continuing to Pilot the City

31st Street Studios

A 30,000 square foot steel mill in Pittsburgh’s Strip District houses a movie studio that has, in it’s infancy, churned out almost 20 big name productions.

Since 2011 the CEO and president of the studio, Chris Breakwell, has funneled $10 million into the purchase and revitalization of this site. It has since gone on to produce films like Southpaw, The Fault in Our Stars and, most recently, Philip Roth’s American Pastoral.

The film started production on September 21st here in Pittsburgh with Ewan McGregor playing the lead as well as making his directorial debut. The film also stars Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning as McGregor’s wife and daughter.

31st Street Studios
31st Street Studios

Based on Philip Roth’s 1997 novel of the same name, American Pastoral follows the life of Seymour “Swede” Levov, a high school athlete from the golden era who marries a former beauty queen and inherits his father’s business only to have his daughter grow up to become a revolutionary during the Vietnam War who commits a deadly act of political terrorism.

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel turned film is another huge step for 31st Street Studios. Along with big budget action movies like The Dark Knight Rises and Jack Reacher (both of which were filmed at this studio) coming to our city, more nuanced films and possible Oscar contenders are seeing the value in bringing their projects to Pittsburgh.

According to Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, movie production has brought in over “$100 million in annual revenue… in the past five years”. While big budget action movies continue to provide our local economy a sizeable boost, films like American Pastoral are working to put Pittsburgh on the map as a major production city.