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I had the pleasure of attending the Mesa in 1998. The manager / owner was very nice and gave me a top to bottom tour of the property before opening. He was obviously very proud of his place and rightfully so. One odd thing that I noticed was the balcony. Instead of extending forward to the back wall of the downstairs, or even out over the back rows, it stopped short. From the front row of the balcony you could look down into the last 10 feet or so of the lobby before it ended at the rear wall of the auitorium.
In the front was an old stage and very small pit for musicians, and under the screen, old dressing room areas from the days of live shows. Other than that I have nothing to add that is not covered better on the above mentioned website. Wish I had the money to buy it. While Douglas, being in the eastern part of Wyoming, is not in the beautiful Teton area, it looked like a nice place to live. Safe to I’ll bet since the Wyoming State Police Academy is located there. An old drive in theatre just north of town serves as the firing range.
Well, if it isn’t my old friend and co-worker Tommy Young, who I have not seen in at least 25 years. I first met Tommy on the football field of Grady High School in the fall of 1974 when as manager of the South DeKalb Twin, I took part in one of those Georgia Theatre / ABC Theatres employee football games. I seem to recall the manager of Phipps Plaza being carried off the field with a broken leg during one of those grudge matches. For those of you who are interested not only in theatre buildings but the operation and culture of the employees, Tommy and I (and probably Raymond Stewart from this thread although I never worked with him) were fair examples of the type of people who worked at theatres in the late 60’s to mid 80’s. In those days when pay and hours were even worse than they are today, theatres were staffed by people who either enjoyed the movie business, liked working at night, liked the slow periods during the week or the entire fall when you could study or take care of maintenance, or just liked working without the aggravation of someone always looking over your shoulder.
For the most part theatre companies would give managers a set of keys and the combination to the safe and tell them to go manage. If the money made it into the bank and not too many complaints were received at the home office they pretty much left you alone. It was like working for yourself except that all of the profits went to someone else. I found this to be true of local companies like Georgia Theatre Company and national ones like Loews. Managing challenges consisted mainly of finding a good staff that would show up for work and behave, and keeping the theatre in good shape. There was always a fine line to be walked between making the theatre a pleasant place to work (an absolute necessity in view of the low pay) and letting the help turn the lobby into a frat house. (I remember stopping by Stonemont on the way home from my theatre on Saturday nights to join some off duty employees watching Saturday Night Live on the TV in the office.) The actual running of the place in regards to customers was much easier than now because people behaved themselves better back then, and with only two to four or five screens you never had the crush of people you do these days. The concession business was much simpler as well. Fewer items, fewer employees needed, and more down time between shows. I am sure the manager of the Burger King where I worked while in high school had an easier job than that of whoever is in charge of the concession operation in one of today’s megaplexes.
All of this changed in the late 80’s with the rise in consolidation as the local and smaller regional companies started selling out to the big national chains. ABC went to Plitt then Cineplex, etc… GTC sold out to UA, and Storey to Regal which later ended up with UA as well. With every transaction there seemed to be a new batch of bosses who had as their first priority the elimination of every single existing employee and replacing them with their “own” people imported from wherever they had come from. Managers, employees, projectionists, and even janitors were swept out for no other reason than they had been hired by the previous order and thus were not part of the new team. Later we had the pleasure of seeing the new team swept out by an even newer team, and so on down the line. Since most theatre companies seemed to look on their employees as recurring expenses, like the power bill, or even outright thieves yet to be caught, instead of potential assets, micro managing from HQ became the new way. The internet and email made it much too easy for the corporate bosses to dictate every single activity of the day, and towards the end of the General Cinema days there was talk of the folks up in Chestnut Hill working on a set up where they could view the security cameras of any theatre in real time back in Boston. This may well be the case now although I am happy to say that I would not know.
Those workers are just as much a “Cinema Treasure” as the theatres we talk about on this site. As sad as it is that those times are over, at least we did not get carted off to the landfill like so many of the places of which have these good memories. I know there are some who think this subject has no place in a forum such as this, but I disagree. While it is fine to admire the physical plant of the venues themselves, the people who worked such long hours to keep them running are an equally important part of their history. I am sure that the gist of what I have written here would apply to the vast majority of sites that appear on the Cinema Treasures website.
As for the question of who my city manager was, that gentleman would be Mr. Tom Pike Sr. Although not always the easiest man to work for at the Lenox Square Theatre, overall he was a good boss and an even better friend both then and after our days of working together were over. Sadly, Mr. Pike died of cancer about 4 years ago. Even sadder, his son, Tom Jr., a long time manager of the Village, South DeKalb, and Greens Corner, and my best friend from those years died in 1990 at the age of 40.
Tommy, you can contact me at
All of this back and forth about the official name for the Tara got me to thinking about a comment I posted here which did not survive the transfer to the new Cinema Treasures format. I have copied it below.
In a (hopefully) humorous aside, I will add this: As for just how the Tara should be referenced, please allow me to educate those of you who were not growing up in Atlanta during the 1960’s. In those days, it was not called “The Tara” or “Tara” but “Loews Tara.” Although not an Atlanta institution like Coca Cola, the name Loews was synonymous with movie theatres because of the history involving the world premiere of Gone ‘With The Wind at the Loews Grand. Indeed, during the 12 years that Loews owned the Tara, I do not recall ever hearing it referred to as anything other than “Loews Tara.” It was almost as if it were one word; LOEWSTARA, just like LOEWSGRAND and later LOEWS12OAKS. I am sure that this would be a source great pride to the marketing majors of today who with their “rebranding” efforts try to make the name of their company a part of the product description in order to separate it from the competition.
Along the same line, the words cinema or theatre were never used at the end. That would be redundant since the word Loews on the front meant movie theatre. It would be like going to the Varsity Junior across the street and asking for a “Coke Drink” or a “hamburger sandwich,” or a “PC Chocolate Milk,” instead of just a PC. (As in Plain Chocolate for those of you who never had the pleasure of eating at the Varsity.) After George Lefont took over site in 1980, people still would refer to it as Loews Tara although the term “Lefont Tara” could also be heard. I am sure some people were wondering why he did not call it the Lefont Loews Tara. Once Lefont sold out to Hoyt who later sold out to United Artists who later sold out to Regal, I seldom heard it referred to as anything but “the Tara.” Obviously, Hoyt, UA, and Regal did not stir the same emotion as Loews or even Lefont.
My original post:
Construction on the Loews Tara started in 1967 during the world premiere engagement of the criminally cropped 70MM version of Gone With The Wind at the Loews Grand downtown. When that engagement ended it was only natural that GWTW would move out to the burbs to open the new Loews Tara. The Tara was quite a showplace and one of the few free standing theatres around. The outside had a very impressive appearance with vertical running lights and a large marquee on the road. There were two boxoffices, one on each side of the entrance doors. The lobby was small, with an all glass wall on one side and restrooms on the other. The trademark Loews GWTW mural was over the concession stand which backed up to the rear wall of the auditorium.
The auditorium held slightly over 1000 seats with roughly 6-14-6 seating with two off center aisles and two along the walls. The screen was good sized for the dimensions of the auditorium, and was lit by floods that lined its curved track. One odd thing about the lighting was the use of fluorescent lighting which was hidden behind a decorative wooden track which ran the length of the side walls. These were dimmed all the way out during the show. When brought back up at the start of the credits, they behaved the way all such lights do. They flickered on at fractionally different intervals creating a strobe like effect in the dark auditorium. There were exit doors to the outside next to the screen and in the back corners. This allowed the staff to pack the lobby with waiting customers and route the exiting customers out these doors directly into the parking lot. Tough luck if it was raining or if some customer wanted to use the rest rooms. A flaw in this arrangement was that the left side wall faced west, and if a customer left through these doors during an afternoon show, the sunlight would either light up the back of the seating area or wash out the picture on the screen.
The booth was equipped with Century 35 / 70MM projectors and four and six track magnetic sound. It was here that I saw my first 70MM presentation, Hello Dolly, in May of 1970. The incredible size and focus of the picture as well as the 6 track sound awoke me to the fact that there were better movie going experiences to be had than the green streaked scratchy sound movies I had been attending at the second run theatres and drive ins. Even Cinemascope 4 track 35MM shows like 1776 were a real treat to see here. With their tux clad ushers, reserved seat shows and higher ticket and concession prices, the Tara did very well in its upscale area. Movies that appealed to older audiences such as Murder on the Orient Express did very well here. I recall attending a showing of “Murder…” on a Tuesday night in February of 1975 where every one of the 1000 seats was full.
Sadly, the large crowds attending the Tara did not make it immune to the twinning plague that swept Atlanta in the mid 70’s. In May of 1975 the Tara was twinned in the same manner as I have described in my comment on the 12 Oaks page of this website. The only difference was that the Tara stayed open the entire time the twinning was underway. After a two day shutdown to allow for the installation of a small screen in the front right hand side of the auditorium, the very successful run of Funny Lady resumed at night while work on the new center wall continued during the day. Once the wall and all work was completed in the left side auditorium, Funny Lady moved there while the right side was finished. The booth had two Christie Autowind platters installed, but only the right side auditorium retained 70MM ability. As opposed to the 12 Oaks, the complete center section of the original theatre was reseated (albeit with smaller seats) so that at least these pointed toward the screens in their new locations. In the end, the Tara finished with two 505 seat houses, losing only 10 seats during the twinning.
As usual in this type of project, the employees were sweeping the trash out the back doors while the customers were being let in the front when the night for both sides to reopen came. Funny Lady continued on while The Drowning Pool opened the new side. Although not too bad looking, the twins were sad sights to those of us who had worked in the original place. This was indeed a dark time in Atlanta movie theatre history. From March through June of 1975, the Phipps Plaza, Loews Tara, and Loews 12 Oaks were all split. Since the movie going masses, in their ignorance and total lack of class continued to patronize these places in record numbers, these twinnings were followed in 1977 by both South Dekalb houses, and in 1978 by the Lenox, and in 1980 by the Perimeter Mall #1. Although the 12 Oaks was never anything special except in size, all of these others were very nice venues and a great loss to anyone who cared about seeing movies in the proper setting.
In 1977, the biggest Tara hit of all, Star Wars, played for 5 months. In mono of course. The Tara was not Dolby equipped then and since people were coming anyway why spend the money? They did, however, spend the money to install a second, temporary, concession stand in the SW corner of the lobby. By 1980 Loews had made the decision to leave Atlanta and the 12 Oaks was sold to Storey and the Tara to George Lefont. (The Grand had closed in 1977 and was demolished in 1978 following a fire that destroyed the entrance but not the auditorium, thus saving the city of another “Save the Fox” type of headache.) Lefont opened in September of 1980 with The Great Santini. He later added a third auditorium to the east side of the building before selling out to Hoyt, who later sold out to United Artists Theatres, who later sold out to Regal. Sometime after the Lefont days, one of the twins was split sideways to make a total of 4. I never had any connection to the Tara after Loews left so I will leave it to someone else to tell the rest of the story. The last movie I saw there was the 70MM presentation of Brainstorm in the early 80’s.
With the closing of the Lenox Square Theatre, I believe that the Tara is the oldest theatre in Atlanta in terms of continuous operation as a movie theatre.
One added note on booth equipment: Sandy Springs (screen #5) no longer has 70MM capability. There are no 70MM DTS readers for new generation 70MM prints, and the 70MM magnetic reader was removed to make room for the Dolby Digital reader.
For the record, the Bodyplex Health Club which is the current tennant for this space is now closed. This is at least the 5th version of health, workout, and raquet clubs that have occupied this space since the theatre closed, and none of them have lasted much longer than the Cinema 285 itself did. Maybe it is the location. You have to want to get somewhere pretty badly to brave the 7AM to 8PM gridlock of that Roswell Rd./ Hammond Drive intersection.
In the company of two other former projectionists who worked at the Rhodes, I visited this site yesterday. The marquee which extended out over the sidewalk is gone, but the old entrance is intact. The small marquee that stuck out over the Peachtree Street sidewalk is also gone, but the bracket that held it is still there. The entrance of the theatre was small, and just one of many shallow storefronts that lined the little street which ran from Spring Street to Peachtree Street.
Looking into the old entrance doors we could see that the lobby had been stripped back to its concrete and brick walls. The place where the concession stand was located on the back wall opposite the front door was clearly visible as was the stairwell next to it which led to the restrooms, pay phone, booth and offices. The lobby had been studded in preperation for some kind of remodeling.
The auditorium was located behind the line of storefronts at a right angle to the lobby. Several of these storefronts had been removed and a driveway put in their place. Also, in a great break for us, a set of glass doors had been cut into the wall of the auditorium to make an entrance from the driveway. This allowed us to see inside the old auditorium. It too had been stripped of all furnishings, but the old wall paint along with former speaker and light fixture locations could be made out. The slope in the floor had been leveled. Obviously, some sort of nightclub or resturant had been planned for here, but it has been years since any work was done.
The Rhodes never had much in the way of parking. The very small lot on the corner of Rhodes Way and Spring street, at the end of the storefront row is now taken up with a massive support column for the expressway entrance ramp added during the 90’s. The somewhat larger lot across Spring Street is now developed.
For many years the Rhodes was the flagship of the Story chain. Many first run and 70MM roadshow features had their premiere there. Among the more notable ones were “West Side Story”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, and “Sand Pebbles”. The first movie I saw there was a 1971 filler booking of “West Side Story.” In the 70’s some of the more notable bookings were “Dirty Harry” (as part of a wide break first run), “Portnoy’s Complaint”, and “Slaughterhouse Five”. The last big exclusive booking I saw there was the 1975 release of “Tommy” with its 5th track quintophonic speakers taking up the last two rows of seats in each back corner. The last movie of any type I saw there was in the fall of 1978, a 70MM showing of “Sound of Music”.
Storey abandoned the site soon after that and Landmark Theatres moved in and operated it as a retro / revival house in competition with George Lefonts Silver Screen. They would usually play a different double feature every day, sometimes day and date with the Silver Screen. When it became clear that the expressway extension would not cause the entire Rhodes Center to be torn down, Landmark announced that they had committed to the site long term and would soon be remodeling. This did not take place as the rise of the VCR killed the revival business for all but the most discriminating partons. They were not enough to keep this location alive and the site soon closed for good. The last movie to play there was “The Last Picture Show”. Speegee, the 100 plus year old cashier who worked at the Rhodes for most of her life was there to turn out the lights.
I think that I finally have the last word on the Dolby dates question in regards to the Stonemont. I have posted it as a comment on the Stonemont page.
In regards to this Dolby question, I am ready to admit defeat. A friend of mine states that he saw “Close Encounters” at the Stonemont in 1977 and says that it was presented in Dolby which is why he was there. If it had not been Dolby he would have made the longer drive to Phipps. Since I trust his memory a lot more than mine, that is it as far as I am concerned.
As far as the “Sgt. Pepper” angle goes, I do remember without a doubt the manager telling me that he was going to get Dolby for “Sgt. Pepper.” Back in those early Dolby years movies were released in both Dolby and non Dolby versions just as in earlier years a movie might be released with both magnetic and optical prints. (I can remember as late as 1982 running “Secret of NIMH” with a fine sounding Dolby track and later that year getting it back as a Thanksgiving kiddie show with a mono print.) So, he probably meant that he was going to get a Dolby encoded print for “Sgt. Pepper” to use in his Dolby equipped #2 house.
As far as my comment on the Phipps Penthouse being the first to premiere a movie in Dolby in Atlanta (which is what started this whole thread) that is technically true since Stonemont is in Stone Mountain, but in those days we considered anything in the 5 county metro area to be “Atlanta.” So, perhaps that line in my Phipps posting should read something like “…along with its fellow ABC Theatre, Stonemont #2, the Penthouse was the first, etc…”
I have just visited the site of the Stonemont, and it is still there. The shopping center is pretty run down and about half enpty, especially down on the theatre end. Of course I could not see inside the auditoriums or the booth, but judging from the lobby and exterior, all it needs to return to its former glory is a good cleanup, a reasonable paint job, and an audience. I am afraid that latter requirement is unlikely to appear anytime in the forseeeable future.
An article in the Metro section of the Atlanta paper on September 22, 2005, stated that DeKalb County was looking to close the Belvedere in one of two ways. Either revoke the motion picture operator license because it now falls under the category of adult entertainment, or wait until the current license expires and then try to deny the issuance of an adult entertainment license. This denial would be based on the fact that the venue is closer than the required 1000 feet from a cuurch, school, and/or a residential area.
The attorney for the theatre operator told the paper that they would contest these efforts on the grounds that the operation should be “grandfathered in” due to the fact that the Belvedere was already in the adult entertainment business when that requirement was enacted.
If you plan to go to the site to take a picture for old times sake then be subtle. With all of the legal issues involved, the people there do not take kindly to strangers standing in the parking lot taking pictures of the front of the theatre.
While the Belmont Hills, which is just down the road was a Martin Theatre later operated by Georgia Theatre Company, the Cobb Center was a GTC operation from the start. Although grossly overbuilt for the Cobb County of the mid 1960’s, there were a few occasions when I saw it full during the 70’s. It played a lot of United Artists product day and date with the Lenox although the length of the runs was usually shorter.
In the fall of 1974, the building, which sits in the north end of the Cobb Center parking lot, was expanded to the south and two small houses added. These houses held 256 and 194 seats. The 256 seater, designated as #2 had a very odd seating plan. Instead of having the seating area in the middle and asiles along the walls, it had a double wide asile running down the center. This left the middle part of the screen, the prime viewing area, occupied by a walkway and gave the impression of having the seats shoved over to each side.
In addition, and extra set of bathrooms was built in the new area between the old and new auditoriums. The old bathrooms which opened onto a small lobby and were located upstairs in those pre ADA days were closed and the upstairs lobby became the seating area for the nicest and most comfortable projection booth I ever worked in.
I lost touch with this place soon after, but by 1983 the old 1000 seat house had been split lengthwise into two 490 seaters and the concession stand relocated from near the front door to a spot which backed up to the new twin and faced the hallway leading to the 1974 expansion. By this time the booth had four Century projectors each with its own three tier Autowind 2 platter.
By the late 80’s the twin auditoriums had been split sideways and the place became a 6plex. Soon after that GTC sold it to Kings Cinemas, a which had once been known as Septum. I don’t recall when it was closed but I was by the place a year ago and it seems that it had been converted into a church at some point. On the front door were condemnation notices from the Cobb County Fire Marshall forbiding occupancy.
The place seems to be open at the moment.
I only worked at the Belvedere during the fall of 1972, long after its glory days as a prime second run neighborhood house. By this time it was reduced to playing third run releases usually playing pictures on the “drive in” break for one week runs. This place was built in the 60’s by the old H.B. Miselmann Company which later changed its name to Eastern Federal Corp. It was one of the old style EFC houses such as Toco Hills, North Springs, and Cherokee. All of these houses had a fair sized lobby, 800 plus seats and very tall auditoriums each grossly overlamped.
It had a brief return to glory in the summer of 1976 when it played “Bad News Bears” on its first run wide break. Although the neighborhood was in decline by then there were still many families in the area and seeing them lined up the length of the shopping center sidewalk really brought back images of the 60’s. I believe the twinning took place in 1977 or early 1978, just shortly before EFC sold out and left town. It operated as a dollar house as late as 1983 before going porn.
The Village was built by the Martin (now Carmike) theatre company in 1965 and had the distinction of opening on the same day as two other new Martin Theatres, the Eastgate (later renamed the Suburban Plaza) and the Westgate Twin. All three of these sites were later purchased by Georgia Theatre Company. The Village was always a second run site with an occasional lower tier first run booking. It had a large auditorium of around 750 seats and a “windowboxed” screen. This consisted of a frame built around the edge of the screen which was covered in black masking material. This resulted in a great looking scope picture but since there was no movable masking the edges of the flat picture were left raw. The projection booth was small and equipped with Century projectors and 2000 foot reels. Another Martin touch was the upstairs popcorn popper. The concession stand had no popper, only a warmer.
The entrance to the theatre could not be seen from the parking lot. The shopping center consisted of a long open air plaza and you had to walk through this plaza to get to the theatre entrance. This always made for great fun when transporting film and concession supplies. The box-office was inside but faced the plaza, so tickets were bought outside. The lobby was small and the concession stand lined the side wall and was connected to the box office. The lobby led directly to the left rear door to the auditorium which meant that most people ended up sitting on the left side of the theatre. To get to the right side door you had to walk down a short hall which dead ended into the stairwell going upstairs. Since about half of the lobby had to be kept clear to provide an exit, only about 100 or so people could be held out in the lobby. Any more had to be lined up outside. This was never much of a problem during the early 70’s as the only movie I remember doing much business was a “4wall” of Billy Jack in the spring of 1974.
In May of 1974 the Village joined the first wave of twinning and was converted to two long, thin, 350 seat units with center aisles. The booth was equipped with two first generation Christie Autowind 2 three tier platters. The screen situation was very poor at first. Not being as tall as the single screen they seemed to be mounted too high up on the front wall. Of course this was an optical illusion since they were mounted on the same line as the top of the single screen, but since they did not extend down as far it seemed as if you were having to look up, especially in the front half of the seating area. Also, side to side masking was used which made the flat picture look like a postage stamp. In 1976 or early 1977 these screens were removed and replaced with larger ones and up and down masking. Other than posting signs with the numbers 1 and 2 over the entrance doors, no changes were made to the lobby.
When reopened in June 1974, the Village did very good business. The extra screen, besides doubling the choices, allowed the bookers to commit to something longer than the usual one week runs from the past. This along with a crop of good product available for wider than usual release led to such well attended bookings as Parallax View, Mr. Majestik, a Benji movie, My Name Is Nobody, and subruns of The Sting and Herbie Rides Again. The Village was far enough away from the first run sites to do well with these and the extra screen allowed them to get the multi week intermediate breaks of these releases instead of waiting for the second run break which was usually just one week and coincided with the drive in release.
The Village had a free ride in those days as the nearest competition was the GTC Suburban Plaza and the closest first run was the Loews 12 Oaks and the sometimes first run North DeKalb. This changed in 1976 when General Cinema opened a triple screen across the street behind the fairly new Northlake Mall. GTC was not about to try to compete with this and it was back to the old second run one week booking schedule. In 1977, Village joined the trend of going the dollar house route, but that was hopeless for a two screen location and by 1979, I believe, the site was closed. Just as I noted on the Hammond Square (Cinema 285) site, the Village was really nothing special in looks, design or its place in Atlanta movie theatre history except for those of us who worked at these locations. They filled a need during their time but their time was very brief.
The location of the Village was the Briarcliff Village Shopping Center which was actually sited on Henderson Mill Road. This is a pretty confusing A shaped intersection. I think the address was 2126 Henderson Mill. Later the site was completely gutted and an Office Depot now sits in the space.
There is now a page for the Starlite Drive In on this website. The Starlite was located on 411 North between town and Hatcher Square.
That was the setup when it was built. As I said, 4 track magnetic sound was added when the place was twinned in 1975, and I did not have any contact with the theatre after it was sold to Storey. However I did hear a good story which I did not want to place in the theatre post but do not mind relating in the comment section. Temple of Doom opened in several theatres at once and those of them that had a 70MM setup were able to get 70MM prints. Lucasfilm sent a TAP (Theatre Alignment Program) technician to every theatre that was to open the film to check the presentation. When he came to the theatre I was managing at the time he told the projectionist this story: He had previoulsy visited the 12 Oaks and was suprised that the projectionist was only 15 years old. He asked him if he had ever run 70MM before. The answer went something like “…no but my brother was the projectionist here last year and he did.” Now, I do not know if this was true either in whole or in part, but it is a fact that when the first show hit the screen there was an nice black scratch on the right hand side of the picture evidently put there when they loaded the print onto the platter.
I am not sure since this was a long time ago, but I believe this all took place before the twin was quaded. When the 35 magnetic was installed the soundrack had a place for 70MM processors as well although there was no equipment behind the plates of course. So, the short answer to your question is yes, Storey installed 70, but I wonder if it survived the quading?
I would never presume to say for sure, but 12 Oaks was probably the last single screen first run theatre built in Atlanta. It was located in the new Buford Clairmont Mall which was sort of a half mall and half strip shopping center. The style was strictly bare bones 1970’s with the only distinguishing feature being the trademark Loews Hollywood montage mural over the concession stand. What it lacked in style it more than made up for in size. The 1200 seat figure listed in the above post is correct. The auditorium had 4 aisles, two along each wall, and two between the center and side sections. I do not remember the exact seating arrangement, but it was roughly 8-16-8, although this narrowed somewhat as you got near the front. The walls were draped and lined with ceiling floodlights. There was a curtain for the screen and it was also lit with ceiling floods. The center section of seating backed up to the rear wall, but a 10 foot or so walkway was provided behind the side sections.
Oddly enough, for such a large venue, the projection booth was very basic. In contrast to the 35 / 70, xenon equipped Tara, the 12 Oaks had only mono sound and two 35MM Century carbon arc projectors with 2000 foot reels. The lobby, while small when compared to the size of the theatre was still big enough to hold out a good size advance crowd. The concession stand backed up to the rear wall of the theatre. Although there were exit doors from the lobby into the parking lot, the only intended entrance was via the mall entrance where the open air boxoffice was located. Entry to the boxoffice was through a checkout office which also had a door to the lobby. The mall entrance was always open air and at closing a motorized wire gate was lowered from the ceiling. 12 Oaks was an easy theatre to manage since you could stand at the boxoffice and see the entire operation from one spot.
The theatre opened in February of 1971, and its first feature was Doctors Wives. The Sunday before the opening Loews held an open house inviting anyone interested to visit the site. As things turned out, this was not a very successful first run site. Although inside I-285, it was well to the north of all other first run theatres and located in an area which was for the most part working class as opposed to the Buckhead area where all other suburban first run theatres were located. Given the right movie of course, any theatre will do the business as 12 Oaks proved several times. The first film I saw there was the 1971 reissue of Lawrence of Arabia. For most of its first year bookings consisted mostly of second run double features such as Z and Joe, and moveovers from the Tara such as Summer of ‘42. Things picked up in early 1972 when the 12 Oaks opened an exclusive run of Clockwork Orange which ran for 3 months. That was followed by Fritz the Cat, and in the fall by the biggest 12 Oaks hit of all, Deliverance.
The bookings for the next two years were mostly hit or miss, usually miss, until Christmas of 1974 when Godfather Part II opened its exclusive Atlanta run. Business was less than record breaking due in part to the 3 hour 20 minute run time which limited us to one show per night, and with no intermission, killed the concession business as well. As it turned out, I was the last manager of the original 12 Oaks as the decision was made in New York to twin the site. While working for Georgia Theatre Company, I had seen the Village and Suburban Plaza shut down for a couple of weeks for twinning, but Loews had something else in mind. We shut down following close of business on a Sunday. The next two days were spent removing the screen and erecting a much smaller screen in the left side of the auditorium. In the booth, the projectors were moved to allow one to shoot at the new screen, and a three tier Christie Autowind 2 platter was installed. The line of seats where the wall would be rebuilt was removed. Two days later, on Wednesday, the day after Godfather II won the Best Picture Award, we reopened with this pathetic new setup. I am sure I do not need to describe the reaction customers had to entering their old auditorium to see that puny screen hiding down in the corner. Since the wall had not even been started it seemed as if you were looking at a TV set in the corner of you living room. The sound was also pretty hollow.
Construction work continued during the day, and then the staff, meaning me for the most part, had a couple of hours get the lobby and especially the bathrooms cleaned up for the one evening show. Nothing much could be done about all of the dust that soon started covering the seats. Happily, the Awards did little to help the business the movie was doing, and after two weeks of misery the decision was made to close up for two weeks and hopefully finish the job on time. As it turned out, I had four days after construction was over to get the place cleaned up, an eternity as movie theatre construction projects go. When the dust settled, we had two theatres, the left one seating 580 and the right one seating 540. No reseating work had taken place which meant that none of the seats really pointed toward the screens in their new positions. The booth had two platters and in the only improvement to come out of this whole sorry mess, the left side theatre (#1) was now equipped with 4 track magnetic sound. In May of 1975 we reopened with a reissue of The Lion In Winter and Janis. This was a good warm up because we soon opened Bite The Bullet and on July 2, Nashville, which used the magnetic sound system to good effect. Bullet did well, but Nashville was a big hit even if id did have a large amount of walkouts.
The theatre was pretty much unchanged for the rest of its Loews run. It still did good business when the right picture played. Silent Movie, Outlaw Josey Wales, and The Enforcers were big hits. However, the place never a good reputation for presentation. Three fourths of the exterior walls of the place were outside exposure which made it very hard to heat in the winter. Also, the mall sits across the road from DeKalb Peachtree Airport, the second busiest in Georgia, and the sound of planes taking off overhead always made it into the theatre. I did not have any contact with the place after Storey took over. I stopped by the site in July of 2005 and from the outside the place looks much the same except for the paint scheme which is consistent the malls Hispanic Festival theme. A very friendly staffer let me in to look the place over. The mall entrance has been closed up and that place converted to offices. The concession stand is gone, but except for color the lobby is otherwise unchanged. In the auditorium, all of the walls have been removed and the floor leveled. The site is now a night club and several large bars line the walls. A stage sits where the screen once stood. The projection booth has been opened up and serves as a soundboard and spotlight area. The office areas also now look out onto the floor and have the appearance of luxury boxes.
Considering the landfill fate of many other fine theatres, the 12 Oaks has done pretty well and still serves an audience which is more than you can say for most former theatres.
I see someone finally noticed the picture I posted on the CinemaTour website. I did not take this picture. For the record, allow me to credit Mr. Tom Pike Sr. for having the forsight to take this shot. For some reason we always assumed that these establishments would be around forever, especially major ones like the Lenox, and as a result took very few pictures. At the time, Mr. Pike was the city manager for Georgia Theatre Company and had his office at the Lenox. He had come to the Lenox as manager in 1967 following 10 years managing the GTC Starlight Drive In, and in 1971 was moved up to city manager. He was always fond of telling whoever was managing the Lenox that whatever business they were doing at the time was nothing compared to movies he had run in the past. These two movies, which opened within a week of each other in June of 1975 finally made him sing a different tune. Also note that Jaws was playing a half mile away at the Phipps Plaza at the same time and that Pink Panther had to leave while still doing sellout business so that Rollerball could open to equally large crowds. I suppose he took this picture as a reminder of one of the busiest summers ever. I found this and other pictures in the trash after he moved his office to the GTC HQ when he was promoted to General Manager. He was still in that position when the sellout to UA Theatres took place and became a District Manager for them, though little did they appreciate him or anyone else they inherrited from GTC. When the former owners of GTC decided to restart the chain he left UA and went back to work for them. Mr. Pike died of cancer in 2000, and was typical of the thousands of people who work unnoticed in this business to make it what it is.
The Doraville Mini Cinema was the fourth of five theatres built around Atlanta by the Mini Cinema chain, and the last manager operated single screen. The next and last location was the Candler Road Twin which had a dedicated manager and separate projectionist. Both of these were built in new Grant City Shopping Centers. Doraville was much like the earlier Peachtree Battle and Sandy Springs locations with one screen, 370 seats and a tiny lobby. Two changes which made for a better presentation were a slightly curved screen and a Cinemation Mark 3 pegboard automation system for program management. The projectors were Century with 6000 foot reels.
Being located further away from the first run theatres than its predecessors, the Doraville was pretty successful at the start. (For a more detailed history of the Mini Cinema operation and its demise see my comment at the Sandy Springs Theatre page of this website.) After Weis bought out the chain and then left town the site was converted to a Cinema and Draft House which ran for many years. I do not know any details of this part of its history.
One correction on the above post: Star Wars never played at this location. That event took place across Buford Highway at the Septum Buford Highway Twin. That location started out as one of the ill fated Jerry Lewis Cinemas that was bought out by Septum who installed one of the first Dolby sound systems in Atlanta. During Christmas of 1977 they picked up Star Wars the day after its 5 month mono run at the Loews Tara ended. Thanks to heavy newspaper advertising with such slogans as “Loudest Sound In Atlanta” they did incredible business there for months.
The opening of the Perimeter Mall Theatre was a true watershed in the history of movie theatres in Atlanta. First, it marked the entry of the General Cinema chain into the Atlanta market. Until that time the theatre business in Atlanta was dominated by two local companies, Storey, and Georgia Theatre Company which themselves were once one company, Lucas and Jenkins. Other national chains such as Loews and Walter Reade had a small presence in Atlanta and regional chains like Martin (now Carmike) and ABC Southeastern a somewhat larger one.
The location of the Perimeter Mall also marked a big change. For years first run theatres had been slowly moving toward the northern suburbs of Atlanta as the exodus from downtown gathered steam. For the most part this consisted of the first run theatres in the Buckhead area such as Lenox, Phipps Plaza, Tara, Capri, Fine Art (now Garden Hills) and the Georgia Cinerama (listed on this site as the Georgia Twin). The northernmost first run location was the Loews 12 Oaks in Chamblee, and it had a spotty record at best in attracting first run business unless it had a can’t miss feature. But Perimeter Mall was the first theatre built outside I-285 with the first run trade in mind. It was also the first multiplex (in those days three screens was considered a multiplex) built with first run intentions. At the time Atlanta had two other triples, the Old National, later expanded to 7, and the Westgate, originally a Martin twin later bought and tripled by Georgia Theatre Company. Both of these theatres, now closed, were on the southside of Atlanta and concentrated on intermediate runs of films as they left the first run theatres to the north.
Among the other changes ushered into the market by the arrival of GCC was the lower priced bargain matinee and the policy of running an all day, “grind” schedule year round. Hard as it may be to believe now, many of the suburban first run theatres of that time, such as Phipps, Tara, 12 Oaks, and Georgia, would cut back to night showings only as business dropped off as the runs lengthened. One new feature that did not catch on was the inclusion of smoking areas. I can remember some downtown theatres such as the Rialto having roped off areas in the balcony where smoking was permitted, but at Perimeter Mall the entire left side seating sections allowed smoking and ashtrays were built into the back of each seat. I do not know when this policy ended, but it did not last long.
As mentioned in the above post, the auditoriums of the theatre were nothing to brag about. Cinema 1 held 850 seats, Cinema 2 had 550, and Cinema 3 had 420. 1 and 2 had three section seating with two aisles and 3 had two section with a center aisle. None had curtains, a common feature at the time. Instead they had the black bordered “window box” screens. I do not believe movable masking was added until later which meant that while cinemascope movies looked fine, flat presentations were left with a raw edge on the sides. All screens were lit up with a row of overhead screen lights in the trademark General Cinema blue. The walls were not draped but were covered with a thin metal curved to look like pleated drapes with holes to allow sound to be absorbed by its foam backing.
The lobby was large and well lit due to the 100% glass wall design. Unfortunately, no one bothered to check the sun angle, especially in the winter, and as a result the lobby, which faced south was almost unbearable, both heat and light wise, in the late afternoon. It was not long before louvered blinds and later curtains were installed. The theatre did not have a box office as such. Once you entered the lobby you were directed either right or left depending on which movie you were seeing and walked up to a desk with a ticket machine. Although this gave an informal modern look to the place it was a security nightmare. When the lobby started to fill up people would be standing just behind the cashiers with nothing but a velvet rope separating them from the cashiers and the open cash drawers. When business was slow, just one desk was used. The lobby was not divided by theatres. On the left was a hallway leading to Cinema 1. In the middle was a concession stand which jutted out into the lobby. On the right was a hallway leading to Cinemas 2 and 3.
The projection booth was very long and narrow. It was equipped with two Century 35MM projectors per theatre with Christie lamphouses. 6000 foot reels were provided and there were two make-up / rewind tables, one between 1 and 2 and the other between 2 and 3. As a nice touch, small windows were included on each side of the auditorium dividing walls. This allowed the operator to see into two theatres at once. One remarkable piece of equipment was the Cinemation Mark 3 Pegboard automation system. Perimeter was the second theatre in town to have this marvel (following the Doraville Mini Cinema) and in my humble opinion it was the finest piece of automated program management equipment I ever worked with. I do not recall this system ever missing a cue here or at GCC’s second Atlanta location, the Northlake which was similarly equipped.
The Perimeter Mall Theatre opened on Friday, December 21, 1973. The opening features were The Laughing Policeman, and The Seven Ups, both wide break first run movies, and The Way We Were, and intermediate break fresh from its first run engagement at the Tara. I was standing in line for the first show, and remember waiting outside and watching the manager and staff frantically unboxing trash cans and ash trays that had been delivered shortly before. After we were admitted to the lobby to stand in line to purchase tickets, we had a nice view of the Pepsi crews desperately cutting holes in the concession stand counter tops and trying to get at least some machines up and going before showtime. I was not working in projection booths at that time, but I know that the booth situation probably mirrored that of the lobby. My showing of 7 Ups included an “Also Showing” preview for 7 Ups and several stops and starts before the movie started and at least one early changeover. Obviously, the booth was not ready in time for the projectionist to have the luxury of a dry run.
Despite this rocky start, Perimeter was a hit from the beginning. In 1974 it was probably Atlanta’s top grossing theatre, all screens combined that is. Also, many films which used to open exclusive run would now open at the Perimeter Mall as well. At Christmas of 1979 a milestone was reached when Dolby was added to Cinema 1 for the first Star Trek movie. In the Spring of 1980, a sad event occurred when Cinema 1 was split into two 380 seat shoebox theatres. The Dolby system was moved to Cinema 2 which was now known as Cinema 3. In the booth, the end wall was moved to enclose some of the office space so the left projector could be moved to shoot onto the screen of the new #1. The right projector was shifted to the right to shoot into #2 and a platter was placed in between. The booth now had two houses running platter and two running reel to reel. This caused no end of aggravation in the years to come when it was necessary to move prints between houses until sometime in the 90’s when the entire booth was converted to platters. Both 1 and 2 were equipped with the up and down masking which made the flat pictures larger than scope. The only good thing to come out of this episode was the addition of side to side masking in #3 and an entirely new and larger screen in #4 also equipped with up and down masking. While all of this was going on the lobby and concession were remodeled. The ticket desks were removed and a true, secure boxoffice was built where the front doors once stood. Some of the glass area on either side was removed for the installation of new entrance doors.
This was pretty much the way Perimeter looked to the casual observer for the rest of its time. Some improvements continued to be made. Dolby was added to #4 and still later to #1 when Northlake was closed and its projectors and Dolby system were moved to Perimeter. Dolby Digital was added to #3 in 1994 but no DTS or SDDS systems were ever installed. Downstairs, the “new look” GCC concession stand was added in 1986 and an outside awning was erected around the front half of the building.
Despite these upgrades, the time for this facility was clearly past by 1990. Even though the place was well maintained, it still had that old 70’s look, and 4 screens were just not enough anymore. By the late 90’s it was little more that a moveover house for the new GCC Parkside (later known as the EFC Parkside then Madstone, and now Lefont Sandy Springs.), and the new United Artists, (now Regal) Perimeter Point. It was used to good effect as a place to hold pre opening promotional screenings because of the good size of the #3 house and the fact that you seldom had to cancel a showing of a movie that was doing good business to run your screening. Being located in the middle of a massive office park area, the site also did pretty well as a location for business meetings. It also did well showing limited appeal or “art” movies.
For years there was talk of either expanding the location or building an entirely new facility with a mall entrance. As anyone who was familiar with the GCC of the time knows, GCC was notoriously slow when it came to site choosing and building of theatres. While they were busy thinking, UA opened the Perimeter Point 10 across the street. In the end, nothing was done. As I stated in my post on the theatre at Lenox Square, I believe the mall ownership here was also less than thrilled about having a theatre using their precious parking spaces for people who were only interested in purchasing a movie ticket. This attitude became even harder when MARTA opened a train station next to the mall and riders tried to park in the mall parking lot so they could take the train downtown. An unofficial story that I was told was that the mall would allow GCC to expand or tear down and rebuild the theatre, but that they had to remain in the existing footprint. Also, the traffic situation in the area worked against the site. Ashford Dunwoody Road, which runs in front of the mall was and still is the daily site of a spectacular afternoon rush hour traffic jam. Many times we would stand in the lobby and measure the amount of time it would take for a car to pass the half mile or so stretch in front of the theatre, and 10 to 15 minutes was not unusual. Once, when I was called in during rush hour because of a booth emergency I actually parked at the MARTA station one stop to the south, rode the train to the Perimeter Mall stop, walked through the mall and across the parking lot, and arrived much sooner than I would have if I had waited in traffic.
In the final event, nothing was ever done about the location, and in 1999 the decision was made to close. On the final night, the manager invited those of us who were still in touch to come by and share some old times together. We took some pictures and were allowed to take some mementos that would not be making the trip to the GCC Parkside where anything useful was being sent. I made off with a rewind spindle and a couple of diode pegs from the automation system. My ticket stub from 1973 with its $1.00 bargain matinee price was a big hit. When it closed, the theatre had been in operation for 26 years, an eternity compared to larger and more expensive sites that are still closing today. For the record, the final frame of the movie which closed the last curtain (figuratively speaking of course since the Perimeter Mall never had a real curtain) belonged to Cider House Rules. A few months later I received a call from another former projectionist informing me that the demolition of the theatre was underway. On the way to work the next morning I stopped by and took some pictures. The auditoriums were a pile of rubble but the lobby was still mostly intact.
Anyone who has grown up in Atlanta or even lived here long is used to this sort of thing by now. I can’t say for sure, but I think I probably worked more time at Perimeter Mall Theatre than at any other single location in my entire movie theatre history, and that takes in a lot of theatres and years. The loss of the venue itself was nothing to mourn over. It was outdated and built in the less than impressive 70’s utilitarian style that bridged the gap between the downtown movies palaces of the past and the Close Encounters “spaceship” style of today. The theatre was located at the highly visible corner of Ashford Dunwoody Road and Perimeter Center West, but don’t go there today expecting to see any sign of it. After demolition was complete, the Mall completely reworked the corner and removed the theatres entrance driveway and surrounding trees and landscaping. Now, you could never tell that anything other than the existing parking lot was ever there. This is one the most visible corner lots in Atlanta and I am sure that before long a hotel or office tower will be sitting on the old theatre site.
Unless I have the wrong theatre in mind, I believe that the Delk has closed. The story I heard was that they had already advance sold tickets to the opening midnight showing of Star Wars 3 when the decision was made to close the location at the close of business May 19th 2005. Needless to say, they did not get a Star Wars print for just one day so it fell to the manager, as all dirty jobs do, to go out and inform the ticketholders that they had missed their chance to see the last Star Wars film on its opening 12:01AM premiere showing. Just another fine example of the concern and consideration that big chain movie theatre owners and executives have for the people who work for them.
As I said, I may have the wrong theatre in mind and even if I am right this location might have reopened by now. At the end, the location was managed by Regal following its takeover of the locally owned Storey. The location is still a viable one but it is getting to the point that 10 screens are not worth the trouble to these big chains. Just as an aside, this location was started by the owners of the Kings Cinemas chain which was itself a decendant of the old Septum chain. The site was sold to Storey before construction was complete.
The screen in the Cinema 285 / Hammond Square was probably bigger than any you would find in a multiplex today given the 500 seat size of the theatre. The screen at the Sandy Springs Mini Cinema / Sandy Springs Theatre / Weis Sandy Springs was larger than almost any comprable 350 seat theatre of its time. This is due to the fact that most of the theatres of this size during that time were shoeboxes since anything that small was the result of twinning. The Sandy Springs as well as the Doraville Mini Cinema and the Peachtree Battle Mini Cinema were designed, built, and always operated as single screen theatres. They were much the same as the larger houses being built in the pre stadium seating multiplexes constructed during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. As for the Ansley Mall Mini Cinema, it had a shoebox feel although it was always a single screen theatre as well. It had to fit into the very narrow storefront which it occupied and only had 171 seats.
A couple of corrections to my comment above. Aside from the typos, I mistated a couple of dates. Storey took over the management contract in late 1971, not 1970. Also, Weis bought the location in mid 1974, not 1975.
To clarify the information in the post which started this page: The Sandy Springs Theatre and the Sandy Springs Mini Cinema are the same location, namely this one. As for the Cinema 285, it was built in 1971 by Georgia Theatre which operated the site for its entire life. In 1974, the name was changed to Hammond Square Cinema to reflect the new name of its shopping center. As for the confusion about its opening, that may be due to the fact that the shopping center in which Cinema 285 was located had several starts and halts during its construction. During the two to three years it took to build the center, there was a large sign facing Roswell Road listing the proposed tennants, one of which was Sandy Springs Theatre. This was just a generic listing, probably painted before an operator for the proposed theatre space was even signed up. Later a newer sign was put up listing “Georgia Theatre” which undoubtedly referred to Georgia Theatre Company. For the complete story on the Cinema 285 / Hammond Square, I have posted a page on this website, although it has not been listed as yet. Maybe tomorrow.
As for the Comedy Spot, it is located in The Balconies Shopping Center and I believe the address is 220 Hildebrand Drive. That center was built in 1972 although the Comedy Club did not open there until many years later. There was never any movie theatre connection to that site.
There were two different theatres in Sandy Springs, neither of which was located at the Johnson Ferry, Roswell Road, Mt. Vernon Highway intersection. This comment is in regards to the Sandy Springs Mini Cinema which at other times was known as the Sandy Springs Theatre, and the Weis Sandy Springs. The correct address for is was 6125 Roswell Road. This is the shopping center at the intersection of Roswell Road and Hildebrand Drive. The Comedy Spot mentioned above is located across Hildebrand Drive in a shopping area which was built in 1972.
I was not paying attention to movies or theatres at the time the Sandy Springs was built but it appeared in late 1967 or early 1968. It was part of the Modular Cinemas of America chain which went by the name of Mini Cinema. The chain was already operating the Peachtree Battle Minii Cinema, (later known as Weis Peachtree Battle and still later George LeFont’s Silver Screen), and the Ansley Mall Mini Cinema, (later much more famous as George Ellis’s Film Forum.)
When I first attended a movie there is was like no theatre I had ever seen. First is was not built as a theatre, but was just a converted storefront in a strip shopping center. Second was the size. 350 seats might sound like a lot these days, but at the time it hardly seemed like a real theatre. The lobby was very small, running the width of the front. There was a desk just inside the door where the cashier sat. Entrances to the auditorium were on each side. On the left entrance you passed the janitor / storage room. On the right entrance side was the concession stand. From the concession stand was the entrance to the projection booth. There was no office. The manager used a desk in the booth. Rest rooms were located downstairs underneath the booth, something that wouold be illegal in todays post ADA world. The staff consisted of the cashier and a concession attendant. There was seldom enough business to justify an usher and the stand was too small for two people to work at the same time.
The auditorium, while small was a nice shape, almost square. A slope had been cut into the floor so you had to go up steps to exit the back fire escape. except for the exit doors on each side the screen was wall to wall. The projection booth was equipped with 35MM Century projectors, 6000 foot reels and changeover automation. Lights, curtain and masking had to be operated by the projectionist. With the wide screen, short throw and shallow auditorium, the the movies looked and sounded very good. For the most part the first four Mini Cinemas (Doraville becoming the fourth in `969) were very fortunate when it came to theatre management. Modular contracted with the local projectionist union to run the booth, and this included a daily fee for the operator to also manage the location. There were several ex Loews and Georgia Theatre managers in the local and with the good pay and zero oversight by Modular finding good people to fill these jobs was seldom a problem.
Although the Peachtree Battle and Ansley Mall usually ran first run movies, Sandy Springs, Doraville, and the Candler Road Twin, when it opened in 1971, always were second run houses. As with the case of the nearby Cinema 285, earning a living with second run product was hard in this area which contained most of the first run theatres in town. Modular soon tired of the business and in late 1970 contracted out the booking, advertising, and home office duties to the Storey chain. The Mini Cinemas started appearing in the Storey Theatre ads. Sandy Springs, being the only franchise of the group did not go for this and struck out as an independent theatre. Although also using Storey for the mechanics of booking, the theatre manager took on the duties of picking movies and taking out the newspaper ads which appeared under the name of “Sandy Springs Theatre.”
With its low overhead and payroll, the theatre could still make money as an independent. In March of 1973 it booked “Worlds Greatest Athelete” on the day after it left the Fox, and did record business. That summer, “The Sound of Music” was also a big hit in its 1973 reissue. However, its connection to Modular did cause problems. At different times, both Sandy Springs and Modular were somewhat slow to pay bills. Since the vendors were not interested in sorting out just who was who, the credit and billing problems of both parties often spread to each other. By 1972 and 1973, most of the films and concession supplies were on a COD basis only. I can remember several times writing a personal check to get the print released when I went to Benton Brothers to pick up film, later to be reimbursed from the box office receipts. Likewise, I would usually take cash with me when going to Wil-Kin or Blevins to get concession supplies.
Of course no business can operate for long this way. In the summer of 1973, the agreement with Storey ended and all of the theatres except Peachtree Battle , which had been sold to Weis, and Ansley Mall, run by Ellis, were back under the Mini Cinema name. By this time, many film companies would not bother with this chain even under a COD basis after several prints never were run because no one could come up with the cash to pay the COD.
In 1975, Weis bought out the Sandy Springs, Doraville, and Candler Road. This would have been good news at an earlier time but by this time Weis was just a shell of its former self having almost blind bid its way into bankruptcy. Weis' efforts to slash costs and cut payroll led to a dispute with the projectionists union and resulted in a long running picket line. The last movie of note to play at any of these theatres was the Jessica Lange remake of King Kong. Within the year all of the Weis Theatres in Atlanta were either sold off or closed.
The Sandy Springs location was gutted and became a seafood resturant. Later it was converted to an independent resturant known as The Brickery. The Brickery is still going strong after many years, and in a nice turn of events, some of us gather there for our periodic retired / former theatre employees lunches.
In response to the post by Ralph Daniel: True. When the Fox (which never had 70MM equipment) closed, the projectors were removed. After Atlanta Landmarks took control of the site, they purchased the booth equipment and screen from the Loews Grand after the fire which destroyed the entrance and lobby, but not the Grand auditorium itself, in 1978. The screen was in terrible shape, heavily stained from years of use plus smoke from the fire. The projection equipment was not much better. The most notorious problem was the “floating film gate” which caused the 70MM focus in the upper right and lower left corners to throb in and out of focus. In those days the Fox was not the money machine it is today. The struggle was still on to pay off the debt and keep the wrecking ball away, so funds to improve the picture were limited. Over the next five years constant small improvements were made as new and used parts were snapped up whenever they became available. When the Tower / Erlanger/ Martin Cinerama / Walter Reade Atlanta / Weis Atlanta / Columbia was closed for good, the Fox “bought the booth.” Everything from projectors to filing cabinets were moved to the Fox, and anything that could be salvaged and used to improve the Fox picture was stripped off.
So, as far as the statement goes, yes, the Fox got its 70MM equipment from the Grand, but in the ensuing years got more from many different sources, including the Atlanta. Today, I doubt if anyone with the possible exception of Joe Patten could tell you just what part of Fox booth equipment came from where and what the complete pedigree of those parts is. If those parts could talk I am sure we could hear some fine stories.
One more Fox aside: In later years the availability and quality of the carbons became a real concern. This fact, along with the removal of one of the three projectors and installation of a platter required the removal of the Grand lamphouses and the installation of new Xenon lamphouses.
Another venue from my past. I attended the Martin (now Carmike)operated Starlite many times during the early 70’s while a student at Georgia College. I do not know the address, but it was located on HWY 441 North on the west side of the road between town and the old Hatcher Square. The last time I was in Milledgeville I had truble finding the exact location. It seems that the site may have been subdivided. A Wal-Mart (the source of destruction of many drive ins) occupies a good part of the site, but they might have bought out other ajoining properties as well, so the store might not sit exactly on the old drive in site. Also, the drive in was located on a hill that seems to have been leveled.
The entrance was off 441, and when sitting on the field you faced NE. The projection booth was located on ground level next to the snack bar. Although I never got a close look, the projectors seemed to be Norelcos with carbon arc lamps. On weekend nights, your admission also got you a “Banko” (as opposed to Bingo) card. Numbers were called out during intermission.
Programs were double features and usually changed twice a week, running Sunday through Tuesday and then Wednesday through Saturday. During that time you had to drive to Macon to see a first run movie. When movies went to second run the usually went to the Martin operated Campus (indoor) in downtown Milledgeville. If the booking schedule was full you might see the lesser of the second runs play at the drive in. The co feature was always something from the previous year or years. Sometimes both features would be years old. My movie log (long since abandoned) shows that some of the movies I saw there were Darling Lilly / Out of Towners, Jesse James, starring a very young Henry Fonda,/2 Mules for Sister Sara / Tell Them Willie Bay Is Here, Winning / Hellfighters, Psyco, (the only single feature I remember seeing there). They obviously had a Universal Pictures connection as did many Martin Theatres during that time including first run theatres in Atlanta. Some other features from that time were Last of the Red Hot Lovers / Play It Again Sam, Paper Moon, Great Northfield Minnesota Raid / Sometimes A Great Notion, The Hospital / Money Talks.
The projection was always borderline. The picture was never especially bright, and differed considerably between projectors, and this was long before the days of radio sound. Also, the projectionist had the supremely aggravating habit of cutting off the show as soon as the credits started to roll.
I later discovered a very nice drive in in a beautiful setting, the Georgia Theatre operated Riverside in Macon and started going there. I have attended and worked in many drive ins in Atlanta, but have never seen the small town, dirt field, informal atmosphere of the Starlite duplicated. It was never the best place to actually see a movie, but it did provide for a very plesant setting and a nice change of pace for this city boy who chose to come to a small town for his education.
Sometime around 1972, Martin opened a single theatre in the new Hatcher Square and started to open the better movies there. This caused a chain reaction where the Campus had to start showing some of the movies the Starlite would have played in the past, and the drive in was left with some very poor programs. The Starlite was still operating when I graduated, but was closed by the late 70’s although the screen was still standing into the 80’s if my memory of post college visits is correct.
Since posting this Phipps comment I have gotten a lot of feedback both here and from friends and former co workers. With this new infromation in mind let me make a couple of corrections, an elobration and fill in an omission. To answer Jacks question, my Phipps Pictures are not online although there is one of the Lenox on the Cinema Tour site. I have tried a couple of times to post pictures here but either my computer is not sending the pictures or I am not doing it right.
As for correcting I will start with the seating configuration of the “twin.” When I put 4-16-4 I was thinking of the Penthouse, although that too is wrong. It was 4-14-4. The twins had staggered rows in the center section, so one row would be 4-10-4 and the next 4-11-4. The total of 500 seats is correct. Also, my pictures were not taken on the closing night. When I heard of the closing I made plans to take the pictures then. About a week before, I got a call saying that asbestos had been found on the site and that demolition would be delayed until this could be cleaned up. Since I had already made plans I went ahead and took my pictures as scheduled, so they show the theatre in its operating mode. In the event, the theatres ended up staying open for several weeks or possibly months longer.
As for the planter which took the place of the Penthouse box office, it was long gone by the time of the closing, so there was nothing dividing the lobby and the mall when the sliding doors were opened.
There was also one important omission, the marquee situation. When the shopping center was built, they put two very fancy towers outside the Peachtree Road entrance which looked like squat versions of the Seattle Space Needle. On the top were very pretty fountains, especially at night when they were lit up. Just below the top were about 4 lines of wraparound plastic tracks. The southernmost tower was for mall use, and the northern one for the theatre. When there was just one theatre they used the half facing Peachtree for the film title, stars and tag line. The back half facing the mall was used for coming attractions. In those days of long runs you often did not know what your next attraction would be so sometimes the space was used to publicize the Fox or Roxy. When the Penthouse was built I think they divided the front half in half and listed the attractions side by side. When the downstairs was twinned they just started listing the titles for all three screens on stacked lines.
This whole set up was very awkward because the theatre had no access to the sign. It had to be changed by a professional crew using a cherry picker type crane. Not only was this very expensive, but it caused problems in that the sign was always changed the day before the new shows started. This was a constant cause of confusion on the final night of the departing movies run.
If anyone else has any corrections or additions to this or my Lenox or Coronet comments please post them as this is all done from fast fading memory.