America Reimagined: COVID-19 and the Carpool Cinema

A Collaboration Between

Boyd's Station and

American Reportage​

Photographer's Journal

COVID-19 and the
Carpool Cinema

Text and Photography by Pete Marovich

Two hundred thirty people braved a pandemic and drove into the Carrie Furnaces’ parking lot in the early evening of July 24, 2020, to watch the 1983 classic film “Flashdance,” the story of a girl who works a day job in a steel mill and dances in a bar at night. Set and filmed in Pittsburgh, the film was projected on the side of the Carrie Furnaces’ blowing engine house building in Rankin, Pa. The furnaces were shut down less than 5 years before the movie was made.
 
Rivers of Steel, a nonprofit dedicated to the industrial heritage that gave Pittsburgh its Steel City moniker, normally holds tours, workshops, exhibitions and festivals against the backdrop of the historic structures from the regional industry that helped build America.
 
With many summer commitments scheduled at Rivers of Steel being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rivers of Steel, has begun hosting drive-in movie experiences that could abide by the state’s current health guidelines. With a maximum occupancy of 250 allowed due to COVID-19 guidelines, only 230 tickets were sold so that Rivers of Steel staff could work the event.
 
Dubbed “Carrie Carpool Cinema”, the premiere event  featured a double feature with “Flashdance”, followed up with “Out of the Furnace”, which includes several scenes shot at the Carrie Blast Furnaces and nearby Braddock.
 
The Carrie Furnaces were built in 1881 as part of U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works, a sprawling 400-acre complex that spanned both sides of the Monongahela river. They produced up to 1,250 tons of steel a day until 1978 when they were closed. 
 
While the majority of the site was razed for a shopping center, the 100-foot high furnaces, an extremely rare example of pre-WWII ironmaking technology, still stand. The furnaces were designated as a national historic landmark in 2006 and preservation efforts are underway.
 
Since 2014 I have been documenting the current state of the former steel towns around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, such as Rankin and neighboring Braddock and Homestead. Braddock still has an operating mill.

Photograph by Pete Marovich/American Reportage

At one time these quintessential American towns were prospering, with neat rows of craftsmen-style homes lining their residential streets, and decorated storefronts welcoming a steady stream of shoppers along their main thoroughfares. 
 
Towns such as Aliquippa, Homestead, Braddock, Rankin, Duquesne, McKeesport, Clairton, Monessen, and Natrona were all dependent on the steel industry. The mills attracted thousands of immigrants from Croatia, Italy, Serbia, and Ukraine with good jobs and the promise of a better life.
 
Thriving commercial districts, with movie theaters, restaurants, libraries, post offices, five-and-dime stores, churches, service stations, and, of course, bars for unwinding after an arduous day in the mill, where the norm. 
But today it is difficult to imagine these towns as former exemplars of the American dream. The destitute state of these towns traces back to the 1980s steel industry collapse. That’s when companies like Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation (J&L) and United States Steel shuttered their operations, leaving the tens-of-thousands of immigrants who flocked to these communities filled with such hope unsure what to do next.
 
The region is a microcosm of the problems facing post-industrial towns across America where crime, racism, a depressed economy and now the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to make the prosperity of the 1950’s nothing more than a memory and dream.

More from the Project

essay

Pandemic Wedding

Half a year ago, Lauren and Romeo of Dayton, OH, were intent on saving up for a big wedding of over 400 people.

Essay

Eid-ul-Adha Sacrifice

Muslims in Hawaii celebrate Eid-ul-Adha by sacrificing cattle in the rural countryside – something that is unusual to find in Hawaii’s landscape. While this is a common ritual to find in a Muslim country on the Islamic holiday, it’s unusual in an isolated state like Hawaii. 

Photographer's Journal

Maryland's Watermen

This summer I had the opportunity to intern at the Chesapeake Bay Program as their multimedia intern. I was asked to produce a long term project over the summer on any topic, and immediately, watermen came to mind.

Photographer's Journal

Generations Living Together in a Pandemic

This multigenerational family had been living together for years. Tara and her children have been living with their mother at their grandparents house on and off for their entire lives. 

Life before Covid-19

Rough Seas Ahead

Both lobstermen and fishermen are faced with climate change, slowly rebounding marine life populations, strict government regulation, constantly fluctuating domestic and international markets, and now reality of a global pandemic.

Photographer's Journal

COVID-19 and the Carpool Cinema

With many summer commitments scheduled at Rivers of Steel being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rivers of Steel, has begun hosting drive-in movie experiences that could abide by the state’s current health guidelines.

Photographer's Journal

Minneapolis Protests

Brooklynn Kascel investigates the psychological and sociological impacts felt in the communities that make up the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Photographer's Journal

Pandemic in Paradise

At the end of March, Honolulu resembled a dead city. With the “stay-at-home” order, people weren’t socializing as much. The Hawaii we were seeing then was the opposite of what anyone could picture from an earlier time.

ESSAY

Anchor Bar & Grill

The unsinkable Anchor Grill has re-opened in Covington, Ky., following closure in mid-March due to the state’s Covid-19 restrictions. Proud to call themselves a “dive,” and featuring an iconic neon sign that says “We May Doze But Never Close,” the eatery has remained open since 1946.

Essay

Cling-Wrap

This project chronicles Margo Reed’s view of the COVID-19 pandemic through a cling-wrapped camera lens.

Essay

Reflections

Reflections of the pandemic as seen by America Reimagined photographers.

Photographer's Journal

The Aftermath

Rod Lamkey Jr. writes about this impressions covering the aftermath of the forced removal of protesters near the White House on June 1, 2020.

Essay

Serving Through a Pandemic

Mike Simons covered the effects of thee Covid-19 Pandemic at the Iron Gate, largest stand-alone soup kitchen and grocery pantry in Tulsa.

Essay

Automobile Sanctuary

In the Covid-19 era, the vehicle has been elevated to a place of sanctuary, a vessel trusted to deliver security outside the home in insecure times.

ESSAY

Portraits in Quarantine

Portraits during the pandemic as photographed by America Reimagined photographers.

SPONSOR

The work done by American Reportage and Boyd’s Station would not be possible without the generous support from PhotoShelter, the official provider of both organization’s archive systems – powered PhotoShelter for Brands.

ALL CONTENT ON THIS SITE IS PROTECTED BY UNITED STATES COPYRIGHT LAW

All photographs and text contained within AmericanReportage.com are copyrighted material and are presented for web browser viewing only.

All rights to images, video and text are reserved by the individual creators of the work.

No image or text contained within this site may be modified, published, transmitted, sold, reproduced, distributed, or displayed in whole or in part. without the prior written permission from the photographer or writer and American Reportage.

Using any image as the base for another illustration or graphic content, including photography, is a violation of copyright and intellectual property laws.

Violation of copyright is actively prosecuted.

AMERICA REIMAGINED

PROJECT CURATORS

Charlie Borst

Stephen Crowley

Cathaleen Curtiss

Nikki Kahn

Michael Keating

Molly Roberts