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Started out life as a discount store in the Service Merchandise mold. Don’t remember the name but it was new to the Atlanta area and did not last long after its 1984 opening. Georgia Theatre Company took over the lease but sold out to United Artists Theatres in 1987 before doing anything with the property. UA converted the building to a 12plex and moved Richard Swank, the manager of the Lenox Square in as manager. Closed down in the late 90’s wave of theatre bankruptcies as was the old GTC and current UA Greens Corner just down the interstate. Reopened by the new Georgia Theatre Company but I was not aware that it had closed again. The design of the theatre was like two 6plexes shoved together with a box office and concession stand in between. Really not a bad place considering the fact that it was a conversion.
I was in it a good bit but the only movie I can recall seeing there was a 70MM presentation of Lawrence of Arabia.
Located across the mall parking lot from the old General Cinema Gwinnett Place 6 which opened in 1984 and closed in 2000.
The old Plitt Mall Corners 6 is located across Pleasant Hill Road from the mall entrance. Its life span matched that of the GCC 6.
The Starlight has been proclaimed as Atlanta’s first drive in though that may be drawing a fine distinction as to just what constitutes a drive in. I have some old newspapers from the late 30’s that have ads for the Piedmont Auto Park. I have read that an auto park was a drive in with a few big speakers blasting the lot with sound, so perhaps the Starlight was the first in Atlanta with individual speakers. At any rate, the Starlight opened in 1949 as a single screen. The long driveway off of Moreland Avenue led to a double box office which was located in front of the managers house. Behind that was the field with the screen on the north end. About four years later, the success of this location led to the addition of a new field located in a ravine just to the north of the existing field. The new field was designated the North, and held about 750 cars. The old field became the South and held about 600. The location was marketed under the name Twin Starlight, and the newspaper ads would indicate which program was playing on which field.
When the North was added, two big improvements were incorporated into its design. The driveway from the box office to the field was routed so that the cars entered the field from the rear thus avoiding the problem of the headlights from the new arrivals shinning on the cars already parked on the lot. On the South, the cars entered in the left front corner of the field just as they do to this day. The second improvement was to split the projection booth off from the concession stand. In those days the booth was located near the front of the lot, and on the South, it was located in the same building as the snack bar. This meant that the snack bar was located on the third row and was, and still is, a big distraction to all of the cars parked behind it, which in those days amounted to about 80% of the spaces. On the new North field the booth was placed in its own building near the screen and the snack bar was located well to the rear of the lot.
I do not claim to know the entire history of this great place, but I can relate some of its major events. In 1956, the manager, Mr. Partee died and was replaced by the manager of the recently constructed South Expressway Drive In, Mr. Tom Pike. Mr. Partee’s widow, Sylvia, stayed with the company and managed the Bankhead Drive In until it closed in 1983. Mr. Pike managed the Starlight for 10 years, and these years and perhaps the next 8 or so were the true glory days of this period of Starlight history. Although downtown Atlanta can be seen from the South field, in those days a movie coming to the Starlight from the first run theatres downtown was like a fresh opening in a small town. The only real competition was the Euclid and the Little Five Points, about 5 miles up Moreland Avenue, and the Plaza and Hilan, about 2 miles further north. All area drive ins operated year round in those days, and any weekend, especially warm weather ones could be expected to bring in a full field of cars. The Starlight was certainly the king of all of the Georgia Theatre Company drive ins and was easily the equal of the Piedmont, Stewart Avenue, or Fulton Industrial Blvd. locations of the Dixie and Storey chains.
In 1967 Mr. Pike, a fine man who I would work for during most of the 70’s and 80’s, left the Starlight to manage the Lenox Square Theatre, the flagship of the GTC chain. He would later become the city manager and still later, General Manager of the company. His place was taken by his assistant manager, Mr. Roy Knowles who also had a 10 year run here. The Starlight was truly fortunate to have 20 solid years of such good management. During this time the upkeep and operation of the place was as good as anyone could ask for, and the appearance of the Starlight was the equal of any theatre in town. In 1973 things began to slip a little. The area around the theatre started going downhill, and the massive South Expressway Drive In was twinned. I well remember a managers meeting in the late summer of 1974 when the manager of the South Expressway brought in a paper titled “The King Is Dead.” On it was a listing of the identical programs that the South Expressway and Twin Starlight were playing and a listing of the grosses for each feature. The South had beaten the Starlight every night for each movie and in the concession stand as well. That was a big event at that time within the company.
In 1978, Mr. Knowles left to take over management of the South Expressway, and his place at the Starlight was taken by his assistant, Mr. Murphy. Everyone expected the good management streak to continue, but sadly Mr. Murphy died of a heart attack a year later. My knowledge of Starlight gets a little hazy here as I was not working for the company at this time and did not know any of the parade of managers who passed through for the next 5 years or so. The next big event occurred during the winter of 1982-83 when the snack bar on the South field caught on fire. Although heavily damaged, the building itself, unfortunately, did not burn down, making it possible to rebuild in the same poor location. Even worse, the decision was made at this time to triple the South field.
The best thing to do would have been to build a new two story snack bar / projection booth combo at the junction of the fields in their new layout. However, as with many such GTC projects, it was done “on the cheap” and the result was truly pathetic. A new projection booth was built in the center of the lot and new screens were added to the east and west so that the projectors would shoot out of the booth in a T shape. The snack bar was left in its original spot, far away from the new fields and still spoiling the view for most of what was left of the old field. Also, the new screens, which I was told came from closed down drive ins, are noticeably smaller than the original South screen and the cinemascope picture on both is badly cropped. Even worse, if possible, the ramps on the rear two thirds of the field were flattened, but the field itself, which slanted downhill towards the original screen, was left as is. So, not only are there no ramps, but when you park on the fields for the new screens, your car tilts to the left or right, depending on which way you are pointing. This situation was made even worse a few years later with the advent of the mini van and SUV. These models, which have become the official vehicle of the majority of Starlight customers, usually park with the rear towards the screen with the back gate open. This is not a problem on the part of the field that was untouched and serves the original screen, but on the flat fields for the new screens the open back doors of these cars can block the view of people sitting in small cars behind them. As for the booth itself, the two Simplex projectors from 1949 were combined with another Simplex from the bottomless pit of used GTC equipment to complete the new 3 projector set up. Having learned the hard way at the South Expressway that platters are not really suitable for a drive in, especially one with a one hour runback policy for the first show, double sided Cinemeccanica towers were used for the film feeding system. Although it is an aggravation to have to rewind, at least there is no such thing as a brain wrap anymore.
The only good thing to come out of this mess was the installation of radio sound which more than any single factor is responsible for the survival of whatever drive ins are left in America. The old speaker, hanging on a post was for decades the bane of discriminating customers and frustrated drive in managers. The sound quality was terrible although not too bad when considering the circumstances. For the manager, it was a never-ending struggle to replace missing speakers and to check those that were in place to make sure that they were working. I can remember when the old Northeast Expressway Drive In devoted half of the space in the base of the massive screen to speaker repair and storage. The broadcasting of a less than 1 watt AM signal from a transmitter in the booth allowed everyone on the field to pick up the sound for their respective screen. Later, the addition of a FM stereo signal allowed people to enjoy a sound limited only by the quality of their in car system. Since most cars today have better sound systems than any theatre, the drive in is truly the place to find the best sound in town.
With the reopening of the South field triple, the Starlight entered a short phase as a quad. The change in booking patterns for movies from single theatre exclusives to wide break first runs had really put a dent into the business of the neighborhood theatres since the new releases were now available to everyone citywide on opening day. By the time a movie got to the second run theatres, dollar houses, and drive ins, most people had seen them. The solution was the same as with the indoor theatres, get as many screens as possible. Within a year or so, the North field had been tripled as well.
Some improvements over the job done on the south were made. The screens were located in the back corners of the field so that the booth shoots out in a Y shape. This allowed the continued use of the ramps and though they do not really point towards the new screens the situation is still much better than having a flat field. The booth was left where it was and expanded to the absolute minimum space (and not one square inch more) necessary to hold the two new projectors and towers. In its new layout the field was divided at the front of the concession stand porch with everything to the front aimed at the original screen and everything to the back split between the new ones. The big problem here is that the projector beam from the booth to the new screens shoots over the heads, and in the face of, the people parked behind the booth who are watching the original screen. O well. Quality of presentation has never been a priority for any theatre twinning, tripling, or quading, that I have been involved in, indoor or out. Just get more screens any way you can. A new driveway was cut from the box office, straight down the hill to feed into the back of the field for the origonal screen. The old driveways which fed into the back of the lot now entered the new fields next to the screen, bringing back the problem of headlights from the new arrivals. The new screens as in the case of the south, used and much smaller th
In its new, and current, layout, the Starlight consists of 6 different fields. On the north lot are 1, 2, and 3 (the original North screen.) The south lot holds 4, 5 (the original South screen) and 6. The entrance and exit driveways are the same as when the place was built and continue to handle the load, but the driveways and exits from the fields themselves were not really designed to handle 6 different fields at once.
About the time of the dividing of the north field, another in the line of good managers, Mr. Ron Bacon, took over. I do not know, and would not try to explain if I did, the convoluted ownership setup at the Starlight. Put simply, it was a partnership of DeAnza, a California company, and Georgia Theatre Company, with GTC providing the management function. Georgia Theatre was a big operator of both drive ins and indoor theatres in the Atlanta area, and to the general public the Starlight was just another one of their locations. Mr. Bacon was the first manager, during my time at least, to come from DeAnza in California instead of being hired locally by GTC. With his arrival, the Starlight started another 10 or so good years of care.
In 1987, GTC sold out, in every way, to United Artists Theatres. After all of the lawyering that went into the transaction the Starlight emerged as an independent DeAnza owned property. Lucky for them since by 2000 UA had destroyed every GTC location included in the sale. The Starlight put an end to the one hour runback and started showing three full shows a night per screen, the prime show, the co-feature, and the prime show again. Occasionally, when a movie approaches 3 hours, only two shows are run, either the prime show twice or once each for the prime and co- feature. Also, the bookings are now entirely first run which allows the Starlight to compete with any theatre in town. Given time and the right circumstances, many depressed areas will rebound, and that is what is happening to the Moreland Avenue area at this time. That is good but hopefully it will not improve to the point that the 40 acre Starlight property becomes attractive to Home Depot, Wal-Mart, or any of the other big box drive in killers who now have stores sitting on once fine drive in sites in this town and across the country. Indeed, despite the great business that it is still doing to this day, the real reason that the Starlight survives at Atlanta’s only drive in is that the light industrial truck line dominated area it is located in is not attractive to developers. As it stands now, the Starlight is bordered on the north by a truck line, to the east by a construction landfill, and to the south by a cemetery, none of which are likely to complain about noise, light, or traffic pollution.
Sadly, I never worked at the Twin Starlight Drive In. Most of my work with Georgia Theatre Company was in indoor theatres. I did work briefly at the NE Expressway when it was a single, and at the South Expressway as a projectionist after it was tripled. I first worked at the Starlight shortly after the north field was tripled and have worked there many times over the years. It is not perfect, but the people are friendly, the ownership treats you well, and if you love drive ins it is the only show in town unless you are willing to drive to the Swan in Blue Ridge, the Tiger in Tiger, or over to Anniston Alabama. Although I have seen the place packed full in January, some years they close down the South field during the winter. But at least one field with three screens is open year round, and with the Atlanta weather, you can count on at least 8 good months of pleasant drive in viewing per year.
Jack, when you were in Roswell recently, did you try to find the site of the old Roswell Theatre which was on the square? You and I are the only ones who have ever made any mention of that theatre on this site.
When this place was built in the mid 80’s, 6 screens was considered a big operation, so the addition of this venue to the Atlanta theatre scene was an event of some note. I have never visited this site, but I do have one story from it as related to me by an employee of Benton Brothers, the shipping company which handled all film transport in those days:
Soon after it opened, the HW6 scored a real coup by getting a 70MM print for their run of Cocoon. During the Saturday night of the second weekend of the run, an employee who was obviously unfamiliar with the 70 operation was sent to the booth to thread up the next show. That show ran OK. When the following show hit the screen there was a nice twin set of little pinpricks of light running exactly 35MM apart down the center of the picture. What had happened was that the previous film threader had threaded up the print using the 70MM sprockets correctly, but had let the film rest against the last 35MM sprocket. Since all of the sprockets in these 35/70 machines ran all of the time regardless of which type of print was in use, the 35 sprocket in question ran merrily along for the entire show tacking little holes in the nice new 70 print.
All Septums were by this time manager operated and as is usually the case, when the theatre was busy the manager sent whichever employee could be spared to start up the next set of shows while the manager was busy actually managing the theatre. While he or she can be faulted for sending an inexperienced employee up to thread up a 70MM print, you have to wonder how familiar anyone was with this rarely used format. I have always enjoyed running projection booths, but have always considered managing theatres a thankless, aggravating, stressful job. In my managing days I refused to go to a theatre that did not have its own projectionist, union or non. Occasionally, in an emergency, I have done both, but other than the single screen locations like the mini cinemas, I have always felt that in manager operated multiplexes neither job gets done right.
As for Benton Brothers, they would not only deliver the weeks film prints to small town theatres throughout the southeast, but concession supplies from Wil-Kin and Blevins as well. Another firm known as Theatre Service Company would provide this service as well. The site of the old Benton Brothers warehouse at Techwood and Baker now sits within the boundary of Centennial Olympic Park. The company, now known as ETS moved out to Fulton Industrial Blvd, and later on to the Southwoods Industrial Park in Hapeville. A few managers still drive in to get their prints just as most of us Atlanta area managers did in the old days, but in this day of the megaplex, most of that type of work is done by professional delivery companies.
Just one more example of the way this business has changed over the 35 years I have been working in it.
Lobby of the Rhodes Theatre as it looks today. Auditorium and entrance pictures are also included in the photostream.
Regarding the Star Wars poster mentioned above, the banner in the upper corner of the poster announced the upcoming episode using its original title: “Revenge of the Jedi”.
Opened in 1927 and closed in 1984.
For anyone interested in Birmingham history in general, there is an outstanding website named Birmingham Rewound and it is mentioned in several of the postings of Birmingham theatres on this site. This link:
will take you to the downtown theatre page. About half way down the page are several paragraphs on the Empire including several pictures.
I remember attending this theatre many times while growing up in Birmingham. Among the pictures I recall seeing there are: Nicky: Wild Dog Of The North, 633 Squadron, Is Paris Burning?, and Goldfinger, which is the subject of one of the pictures on the website.
Barbara: Thank you for that very interesting post. I do not recognize your fathers name, but he must have been the other half of the…“two lawyers who owned the theatre”. I do remember Cone Maddox very well as he was a frequent visitor to the theatre, especially when we had family films when he would bring his children. I also remember a man named Jeff (or Geoff) Tyre who I believe was English.
Perhaps you could clear up something for me. I was under the impression that your father and Cone owned the franchise to the Sandy Springs location and not the Mini Cinema chain as a whole, and that this is why went independent during the days that Storey was contracted to book and manage the chain. Do you know the story behind this?
Also, was the Peachtree Battle the first theatre in the chain? I always thought so but know someone who insists that it was the Ansley Mall which was first. I know that the Sandy Springs opened third, followed by Doraville and Candler Road. Was your father still involved when the last two were built?
I would love to hear anything you know regarding these or other aspects of the Mini Cinema operation. Oddly enough, I did not do much actual theatre work at the Sandy Springs since it required such a small staff. Usually just fill in for sick or vacationing employees or extra help during busy times. For most of those early years I worked at the North Springs, Cherokee, and Atlanta. However, I did do a lot of behind the scenes work there such as film and concession supply deliveries, marquee changes, trips to National Screen, and even spent the night there twice helping to pump out the auditorium when the Laundromat next door would cause a flood.
If you are interested, I believe all of the other Mini Cinemas have pages on this site:
Ansley Mall: /theaters/16291/
Peachtree Battle: /theaters/12131/
Candler Road: /theaters/16454/
As for the movie going experience, Peachtree Battle, Sandy Springs, Doraville, and Macon were good places to see a movie. Ansley and Candler somewhat less so. Still they were better than most of the auditoriums that you will find in the megaplex of today. If your dad is still alive tell him “Thank You” for me as I have very fond memories of the theatres and the people that I met while working in them.
Biggest projection booth I ever worked in. Wide and at least 300 feet long for screens 2 through 7 with smaller stubs at each end for houses 1 and 8. All Cinemacannica V8’s, 35MM with screens 3 through 6 equipped with push button Dolby. After it became obvious that this location was built well past the prime years for this area, the Dolby units in 3 and 6 were removed and installed in the Sandy Springs / Parkside 8.
As with most GCC builds of the 80’s, this place was not built until the area was saturated with competition. I think that it opened in 1988 and closed in 1999. Just as with the Parkside, it was reopened as a dollar house by the EFW outfit but closed again after about 18 months. There has been at least one other effort but it failed as well.
Since GCC walked out on the lease during bankruptcy, the had to leave the site intact. This made it easy for a small company to come in a rent a turnkey operation without having to go to the expense of equipping a theatre. As far as I know this is still the situation although I would hate to be the one who had to clean it up to say nothing of what the booth might be like.
This is a better quality building than the recently demolished Stonemont, and the shopping center is newer and in much better shape. So, perhaps the Hairston might dodge the wrecking ball for the foreseeable future, but I doubt that it will ever be more than a marginal location for an independent operator trying to take advantage of the low overhead to squeeze out a few bucks.
I spoke to someone who works this area and he confirms that the theatre and the east wing of the shopping center has been torn down. It seems that these stores and especially the theatre had become a haven for the homeless who were constantly breaking in, which probably accounts for the appearance of the place that I noted in my last post. Not only was the theatre completely trashed on the inside, but it also had an overwhelming mold problem. I wonder if this is a problem common to old closed up locations as someone made a similar observation on the Town and Country page of this site. At any rate, the place was a public nuisance and had to go.
In total this theatre lasted 30 years, about 25 of those in use, about average for the more successful examples of theatres built during its era. This gives it about the same longevity as the Perimeter Mall, but a good bit longer than either of the Northlakes, the North DeKalb, South DeKalb, Akers Mill, Suburban Plaza, Village, and any of its later neighbors along Memorial Drive. It even lasted a little longer, counting its Bollywood days, than the great Phipps Plaza Theatre.
As I said in my post on the Town and Country, this was just an example, among the nicest in fact, of the stopgap between the movie palaces of old and the megaplex of today. For someone new to this business looking back on this era, it does not seem like a big deal. However, it was to those of us who grew up and worked during this time, and I am grateful that I got to experience this example of the movie theatre business before it turned into the fast food / amusement park atmosphere of today.
As for the time capsule, I do not know what happened to it but I hope whoever got it is an honest person. Among the many news items and theatre memorabilia items inside were hundreds of polaroids of the children who attended the opening showing of “Peter Pan” that I described in the original post that started this page. The idea was that years later, when the capsule was opened they would be sent the picture to remind them of what they were doing on June 27, 1976. And just how, you ask, were all of these children, many with different last names, going to be located? Easy. Their mothers supplied the children’s Social Security numbers which were written on the back of the picture. I wonder how many of these now grown ups have had their identities stolen because of this well intentioned effort made in a more innocent time.
This link shows a newspaper ad from November 1971. The ad for the Broadview is at the bottom of the Weis ladder. The theatre was still a single at that time as the #2 house would not be added until July 1972. The first movie to do well at this location was “New Leaf” which ran from March – June of 1971. This ad shows the biggest hit of all for this location, “Red Sky At Morning”. It began its 8 month run in June 1971 and played until 2/15/72 when “Nicholas And Alexandra” began its own 8 month reserved seat run. For this 18 month period, 3/71-9/72, Broadview ran only these three titles. Also note that it was running an all day schedule as was the practice of all Weis theatres during those days.
It has been a while since I have read the intro that I wrote to start this page. I never noticed, or have forgotten, how much of it was cut out by the CT editor before the page was first posted. Some of these cuts cause my narrative to make even less sense than normal, and other edits make some of the narrative wrong or incomplete. I will try to find and repost the original, but until then here are a few corrections:
This was not the only 3 strip Cinerama theatre in Atlanta. The Roxy was the 3 strip venue during the 50’s although the placement of the extra projection equipment was something of a slapdash set up. I had thought that the Roxy played all of the 3 strip frist run engagements, but Michael has recently informed me that How The West Was Won opened here and had a 30 week run in 1963.
War and Peace did not play here but at the Martin run Georgia Cinerama, a single strip 70MM house. Reade became interested in an Atlanta presence after that episode, but Martin was still in charge for the run of 2001.
Several paragraphs were removed following the Fiddler on the Roof episode which described how this place foundered about trying to find and audience running such varried movies as Junior Bonner, Concert for Bangladesh, Slaves, Russ Meyer, and even Elvis. Also edited out was my description of our midnight show of War and Peace, all 6 hours of it.
Following the This Is Cinerama paragraph was a description of how the theatre finally hit it big with Super Fly TNT, and Bruce Lee kung fu movies. This huge increase in business attracted the attention of Weis Theatres who soon took over the lease from Reade who was all to anxious to get out of town by this time.
During the Columbia days, the 70MM Annnie effort may have been over by the end of the year, but the Columbia continued on for a while longer as evedenced by Dennis' photo of the marquee for Living Daylights.
If anyone here is interested, Michael has an excellent write up of the 2001 roadshow on his From Script to DVD website. This link will take you to that chapter which features a reproduction of the opening day ad from the AJC for this theatre:
Michael, Be careful assuming this role as it can be a full time job as you found out during the Stonemont Dolby episode. I was not living in Atlanta during the time of HTWWW and had always assumed that it and the other 3 strips played at the Martin. A few years ago at one of our lunches I was talking to the long time projectionist of the Roxy and he told me that the Roxy was the Atlanta home of 3 strip until the Martin was converted. I thought that he said that he ran all of the three strip through HTWWW, but he probably meant UNTIL. I am happy to hear this news as it means that the beautiful 3 strip set up at the Martin did get some first run use.
I never saw 3 strip at the Martin and my only connection to it there was to make use of the A and C booths which had been converted to storage rooms by the time I worked there during its days as the Atlanta. One of the managers I worked for during those days was Bob Carr, who I think you know, or know of.
I saw HTWWW in 1963 at the Ritz Theatre in Birmingham. If you care to check that page on this site /theaters/9396/ you will find my write up on that and some others I saw there. You will also find a link to an excellent website on Birmingham theatre history which has pictures of the Ritz during its conversion to Cinerama.
As for the Martin Cinerama, the first movie I saw there was 2001. I greatly enjoyed your write up on that one from your Script To DVD website. http://www.in70mm.com/news/2004/2001/release.htm Anyone who has not seen this should take the time to read it and enjoy its picture of the opening day ad from the AJC with the Martin Cinerama logo at the bottom.
Thanks for taking the time to make this correction. Anyone who can wade through all of the CT comments to root out these mistakes has my respect and sympathy.
In reply to the third post above concerning drive ins being replaced by indoors on the same lot: This link
takes you to a page with pictures at the bottom. The one in the lower right corner has two overhead views of the lot, one as a drive in and one with the new indoor.
Dennis Whitefield has posted on his flickr page many fine pictures of theatres and ads from days gone by. This one is a fine publicity shot of George Ellis in the character of Bestoink Dooley. Thanks Dennis!
Dennis has blessed us with another shot from the past. This link will take you to a picture of the AJC movie ad section from November 1971. The Martin ladder is the second column from the right. At the top is the Georgia Cinerama ad which reflects the closing of the theatre I mentioned in my above post when they installed the new screen.
Next is the Rialto ad for Play Misty For Me. I think that this was the next to last Universal to play at the Rialto. It was followed by the last one, Sometimes A Great Notion which was the Christmas feature. Below that is a listing of Martins Cobb County drive ins.
This is the page for the North 85 on the drive-ins.com website.
There are several fine pictures near the bottom of the page although the one at the top right is of the Gwinnett Drive In. There is a nice then and now comparison of the drive in as a twin and the current Hollywood 24.
Great photo of the Atlanta, taken during its days as the Columbia. In the background you can see the now demolished First National Bank building. On the roof are the outdoor signs that were used to promote upcoming movies using “24 Sheets” ordered from National Screen Service. (Normal lobby frame size posters were “1 Sheets”)
This site is linked to on other Birmingham theatre pages and it is an outstanding site for anyone interested in local history. The section on radio and TV history is particularly detailed and brings back many memories of growing up in Birmingham during the 50' and 60’s. This link will take you to the theatre page. Near the bottom is a lengthy section on the Ritz including pictures of how it looked over the years. There are several inside shots taken during the conversion to Cinerama.
As for the Krystal, the site also has a picture of the one downtown near the old Y. I can remember the shock of seeing the price of a Krystal hamburger go from a dime to 12 cents. Does anyone remember the old Dixie Cream Doughnuts shop around the corner?
Built as a free standing building in the Northlake Festival Shopping Center. I never worked at this place, or even went inside, but I believe that it was built in 1983 and opened with “Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom.” At this time the Northlake Mall area was served by the GCC Northlake 2 Triple, and the Georgia Theatre Company Village Twin ( /theaters/13468/ ) although the latter may have been closed by this time. The other nearby theatres were the Greens Corner to the north, the North 85 Drive In to the west, and the North Dekalb and Suburban Plaza to the south.
Until the Northlake and its AMC partner Galleria 8 were built I don’t remember any Atlanta theatres with more than 6 screens, so this was what passed for a megaplex in those days. Northlake was an instant hit and for the rest of the 80’s it competed with the Galleria for the title of #1 grossing theatre in Atlanta. The Northlake 2, which had been a very successful location for GCC was all but wiped off the map by the AMC 8, and staggered on until its close in 1990. Oddly enough, the AMC 8 did not last much longer, closing in the mid to late 90’s. Not having any connection to it, I have no knowledge of what brought about its end, but it could be that an 8 screen location was not worth the trouble to a big outfit like AMC by the time that 18-24 screens were the norm. By this time AMC had converted their recently rebuilt North DeKalb 8 into 16 screens and Regal had announced plans to demolish the North 85 Drive In and build what would become the Hollywood 24, so maybe that was what did it. Still, it is odd that the very busy and well to do area of Northlake Mall does not have a movie theatre in its immediate vicinity.
One odd thing about this place: A friend of mine who worked there said that there was a core of high school aged employees who started working there when the place opened that remained throughout their college years, and in some cases continued on after college on a part time basis. Just reliving the good old days I suppose. That’s a nice memory in these days when 24 screen theatres churn through employees like they were confetti and the employees seldom get a chance to experience what working in an actual movie theater was like. Maybe some of those old timers will see this site and write us some first hand accounts.
This site has several links on different theatre pages listed on CT. This particular link shows the Rhodes Theatre in 1944. The view is from Peachtree looking west towards Spring.
Although not a shot of the theatre itself, this link has a photo of the Peachtree Street frontage of Lenox Square shortly after opening and before the theatre was built.
This link shows a picture of a transit bus turning right on Forsyth from Peachtree. At the far right of the picture can be seen the sidewalk marquee of the Paramount.
This link to the Drive Ins.com website has some pictures of the snack bar and playground with the screen in the background.
While it may have been rather plain on the inside, from outside it was the most impressive looking of all Atlanta Drive Ins. The screen backed up to Piedmont Road and could be seen from a good ways down LaVista Road. It was decorated with neon script “Piedmont Drive In” signage. To get to the box office you drove down the entrance drive through the towering pine trees that dominated the lot. As was the custom in those days the box office had a large warmer so that boxes of popcorn could be sold along with the tickets. The exit was located in the rear of the lot and opened onto Lindberg Drive.
I only had the pleasure of attending a show at the Piedmont one time, this being in 1966 when I was in Atlanta visiting family. The feature was the pleasant but unremarkable “Born Free.” As usual, the co-feature was an older offering from the same film company, in this case Columbia. Although the purpose of the trip was to see ‘'Born Free" it was the co-feature that made the night memorable. It was the first, and only time in a theatre, that I saw ’‘Bye Bye Birdie’‘ although I have watched and enjoyed it many times since. If I watch it enough I may discover why Ann-Margaret calls the title character by the proper name of Birdie in the movie itself, while in the opening and closing songs she sings his name BurHEE. The fact that I attended this showing with my cousins, one of whom is named Anne, and the other Margaret, only made the show more memorable.
Sadly, by the time I moved to Atlanta in 1967, the Piedmont had recently closed. It was torn down and in its place was a K-Mart style discount store by the name of Arlands, or maybe just Arlans. The arrival of this chain was a major blow to the historical past of Atlanta. In addition to the destruction of the Piedmont, another fine drive in, the Stewart Avenue, was also destroyed to make way for another Arlands location. Even worse, they also destroyed the old Ponce de Leon Park baseball stadium where the Atlanta Crackers had played minor league baseball for years until the arrival of the major league Braves in 1966.
As it turned out, these fine Atlanta landmarks had the last laugh as the Arlands chain went out of business within a couple of years. The Ponce de Leon store was taken over by the government as office space and later torn down to make way for yet another strip shopping center. The old Piedmont Drive In location became the site of a major weekend flea market which drew bigger crowds than the drive in or discount store ever saw. That store was torn down and the MARTA Lindberg station built on its site. The front part of the property along Piedmont where the box office and screen were sited became a parking lot and later a huge Bell South office complex.
Across the street at Broadview Plaza, later renamed Lindberg Plaza, two indoor theatres were built in the early 70’s and are listed on this site as the Screening Room. They are also gone as that shopping center was torn down in about 2004 to make way for yet another and still larger shopping center. The way some things change never changes.