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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.
You have to be quick to beat Raymond to the comment section when it comes to Atlanta movie theatre history. Below is a comment I wrote on the Memorial Drive 4, but a lot of it applies to this location as well, and echos Raymonds comments about the decline of the area. The Stonemot Twin, which beat everyone else to this area by six years was the only one to enjoy any grat amount of success.
Opened by the Septum Cinemas chain in late 1982 or early 1983. This was the first attempt by competing companies to challenge the ABC (later Plitt) Stonemont Twin which had enjoyed an exclusive situation along this very heavily traveled section of Memorial Drive from I-285 to the Gwinnett County line. Later, Septum opened another 5 screen location a couple of miles down the road. Plitt countered with a 6 next door to the 5. Cineplex acquired the Plitt chain and opened another 6 just across the county line. Last, as usual, to the scene was General Cinema with an 8 at Hairston Road.
The reason for this concentration of screens was that while the town of Stone Mountain itself is very small, the surrounding area was a very fast growing and well off section of DeKalb County. None of these locations were actually in the city limits of Stone Mountain, but were in unincorporated DeKalb. By the mid 90’s this the boom days of this area were over and the Memorial Drive strip went into decline. Many of the strip shopping centers which lined the road were vacant and every one of the theatres mentioned here closed down at some point. There was a time when all of them were closed at the same time.
The Stonemont Twin, Hairston 8, and Cineplex 6 have been reopened by various independent operators, in some cases more than once. At this moment, the Cineplex is the only one operating. I do not know what happened to the two Septum’s, but the old Plitt 6 is an indoor amusement park and party room.
For a more detailed account of the glory days of this area, movie theatre wise, see the posting and comments on the Stonemont Twin page of this website.
This comment was written for the Memorial Drive 4, but some of it applies to this location which was then known as the Cineplex 6:
For years this site was occupied by a six screen facility which with its 1970’s era design looked more like a huge concrete blockhouse than a movie theatre. It shut down during the great wave of theatre bankruptcies during the late 90’s. For a long time the marquee stated that the theatre would “Reopen in March” but I do not think it ever did. A couple of years ago Rave demolished the existing structure and built their trademark spaceship style 18 screen facility on the same footprint previously occupied by the old 6 screener.
The old theatre looked dark and depressing and seldom did I see many cars parked in front. Now the site is lit up like a Vegas casino and the parking lot is usually packed.
The East Point Theatre was probably closed about 1970. The last manager, Mr. R.M. Swanson went directly to open the new South DeKalb Twin. The assistant manager, Mrs V.M. King became the assistant at the Greenbriar. The equipment was removed and found a new home at the Cinema 285 (Hammond Square Cinema on this site) when it opened in June 1971. At this time the theatre was under the management of Gerogia Theatre Company.
The strip of buildings was demolished in late 1989 at about the time the Tri Cities High School was being completed.
I have three distinct memories of the Ritz while growing up in Birmingham.
1962: How The West Was Won. My parents told me before the show that I was going to see a movie so big that it took 3 screens to show the entire picture. I guess that is how they had to describe it so a 10 year old would understand. I do not remember much about the movie itself because I was constantly looking at the right and left screens to see what was going on away from the “action.” In 1998 I made the trek to Dayton, Ohio to see HTWWW at the Neon Cinerama. It was not until then that I was able to appreciate the incredible focus and 7 track sound.
1965: Doctor Zhivago. The Ritz hosted many roadshow movies while the other ABC operated theatre, The Alabama, played the more standard fare. My mother took me to see this one because she thought it would appeal to my interest in History. (My father, having seen it with her earlier said “…once is enough.”) She was right, as usual, and from the first viewing Doctor Zhivago has been one of my favorite movies of all time. I do not know how many times I have seen it over the years, but my viewings have been in every type of venue from mono shoebox theatre to 70MM presentations at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. I have also had the pleasure of working at several theatres where it has played, managed one, (South DeKalb) and run it as the projectionist twice, both times at the Fox. I now have the new 2 disc DVD, and never tire of seeing it.
1965: Sound of Music. The Cobb operated Eastwood Mall Theatre was the main competition for the Ritz and Alabama although its 1960’s draped auditorium and living room style lobby were no match for these other two fine places in atmosphere. SOM played its reserved seat engagement at Eastwood, but the day after Zhivago left the Ritz, SOM was brought in as a filler until whatever Christmas show they had booked that year opened. Since I had already seen it at Eastwood, it was not the movie itself but the condition of the print that made this a notable experience. In those days, prints were not produced in anywhere near the numbers of today. More like 300 than 3000. By the time they got to an engagement such as this, there was no telling how many poorly maintained booths and film butchers they had encountered. The Ritz did not get the film in time, or did not bother, to inspect it. It was full of scratches, sound pops, and at least half a dozen breaks, one of which lasted for at least 15 minutes. This made the show end almost an hour late. The result was a massive traffic jam on Second Avenue on the Friday before Christmas as my mother and dozens of other parents there to pick up their children, had to wait in their cars for us to leave the theatre. (Remember, this was in the day when most of the department stores, and by extension Christmas shopping, were still downtown.)
I am sure that I visited the Ritz on other occasions but do not remember any in particular. I also remember going to the Alabama, Empire, Melba, Homewood, and even the Shades Mountain Drive In, but in those days I was more interested in the movie than the venue.
I think that the original post by Don might refer to the old Miracle or perhaps some theatre of that time that might have used the name Town and Country. This location was a 1970 era build. It was of the second generation of Eastern Federal Theatres built here, and like the Cobb Cinema and Ben Hill, was cheap to build and operate. The junction of the T&C shopping center had something of a small town square feel and the box office opened out onto it.
Inside it very much resembled the old Sandy Springs Mini Cinema. Small paneled lobby, shallow, wide shaped auditorium with a good sized screen, but NO concession stand. The far wall of the lobby had vending machines for drinks, candy and popcorn. During these years it was not unusual for theatres to have vending machines, but this was the first one I saw with machines only. On busy nights an employee would be stationed nearby to issue change and assist with mechanical problems. In the spring of 1972, the machines were removed and a very small concession stand built in their place.
The booth was manager operated and equipped with a Cinemeccanica V-18 projector and 12,000 foot reels which were mounted behind the projector. Since these reels had a capacity of about 2 hours and 20 minutes, anything longer had to have an intermission. Tora, Tora, Tora in May of 1972, Nicholas and Alexandra in September of 1972, and Sound of Music in its 1973 reissue were the ones that I remember being split. Sleuth, in the spring of 1973 was the longest movie I saw run on one reel.
In those pre VCR days, it was common for theatres to bring back old hits to fill in gaps in their booking schedules. Whenever one of my favorites would reappear in this manner I would try to go see it since you never could be sure when or if you would get the chance again. A July 1971 booking of the double feature Bullitt (or as it was listed on the marquee: Bullet) and Bonnie and Clyde first brought the T&C to my attention. Later that year I started working for EFC and saw many movies here. Being located in Cobb County, T&C (as well as the Miracle, Cobb Cinema, Cobb Center, and Belmont) could play the big first run movies day and date with the first run houses in Atlanta. Since I could now get in free, I made the trip to see Dirty Harry, Cowboys, Last Picture Show, What’s Up Doc, Butterflies Are Free, Sleuth, and Jeremiah Johnson, among others. The screen here was a very nice size in relation to the size of the auditorium and I recall Cowboys and Jeremiah Johnson looking especially fine with their cinemascope aspect ratio.
In 1973 I fell from grace with Ira and the EFC crowd, so I do not know much about the history of this place following those years. This was a time of big business for this place and during my EFC days it was fortunate enough to be well managed by Cliff Bryson. I heard later that he moved to NC to manage theatres for EFC there. I understand that when tripled, the original auditorium was left intact, but I never saw it. I heard that during the construction for the twin addition, a storm blew down the concrete block wall and they had to start over. The only other thing I remember about this place took place in 1991. In the newspaper ad for T2, the theatre listings at the bottom had a big “Presented in 70MM” collar around the logo for the Marietta Star Cinema. I had never heard of this theatre, but when I looked up the address, I found it to be the old T&C, now run by George Lefont.
The T&C, like countless other places like it, was a product of the particular conditions of movie booking and exhibition that existed from 1965 until about 1980. Looking back from 30 years in the future I can see that they were just cheap, and it turns out, temporary stopgaps between the movie palaces of old and the megaplexes of today. But, to those of us who worked in them, they were a big deal then, and am glad that I had the chance to experience that era of the movie business.
There are so many posts on this page that I may have missed this link, but even so it is worth re posting:
4 postcard views.
Postcard image of the DeGive Opera House years before it became the Grand.
For those of you interested in old pictures of Atlanta, this site has dozens, and links to dozens more, pictures of transit vehicles from the early 1900’s. As for its relevance to this page, this link,
shows a trolley at the intersection of Peachtree Road and Rumson Road. If that information is correct, then the shopping center in the background is the Garden Hills. Since the location of the theatre would be behind the trolley I can not be sure, but it looks right.
I first visited this theatre in 1999 while on a visit to Winterset to see the Madison County covered bridges and the John Wayne Museum and birthplace. It is located on the east side of the town square. At the time they were playing two separate shows, a family movie at 7PM and an adult (as in Adam Sandler type adult, not XXX) feature at 9PM. Winterset is only 35 miles from Des Moines so the turnover in features here is pretty quick in order to keep the local customers from traveling to Des Moines if what they want to see is not currently playing at the local theatre.
The manager / owner was working the box office, but he was nice enough to let me in to look the place over and talk about the difficulties in running a one screen small town theatre in close proximity to a large city. Print availability on national release date and preview availability were two issues he mentioned. These seem to be problems common to most theatres is this type of setting.
The theatre itself is old and occupies a narrow storefront on the square. Like most cold weather businesses it has a double lobby. Once you enter the street doors you come to the box office. From there you go through another set of doors into the main lobby, which in this case is taken up mostly by the snack bar. The interior of the auditorium is 1950’s art deco style with two off center aisles. The outside frontage had been covered with wood siding, but the owner said that removing it and restoring the exterior to its original state was his next priority. From the look of the two pictures posted on this site it seems that he has not gotten around to it yet.
In 2005 I noticed on another theatre website that this location was listed as closed. I called the Chamber of Commerce and the lady there said that it was open and had not closed at any time during the past 6 years.
Opened in the summer of 1985, six months after the Shannon. This was good timing for the operator since Georgia Theatre Company had emptied out the used projector warehouse when equipping the Shannon. The Southlake had all new booth equipment. 7 Century 35MM and one Century 35/70MM. The only time I am aware that the 70 was used was for “Black Cauldron.”
There was also a very odd piece of equipment known as the Christie Endless Loop Platter. This ridiculous gadget was proclaimed to all theatre owners as a way to finally get rid of that pesky projectionist. It looked like a regular platter only with one platter instead of the usual 3 or 5. When being loaded with a new movie the leader would be threaded through the projector and spliced onto the tail of the movie. The film would be pulled from the center as normal but instead of winding onto a different platter would wind onto the back of the print. To keep the film from backing back off of the edge of the platter, a spring loaded arm would gently and rhythmically bump the print in towards the center of the platter as it turned. Even now I have a hard time describing it. It really had to be seen to be believed.
Fortunately the Southlake, or any other theatre I ever heard of, did not use this abortion to run their actual movies. In keeping with the Rube Goldberg nature of the whole operation, the projector was aimed toward a mirror which reflected the image onto the back of a screen which faced the lobby. It was used to show a constant stream of previews to the people, and unfortunate employees, who were in the lobby. In those days previews were not distributed at anywhere near the current number so there was seldom more than 30 minutes or so worth before the loop started over. Mercifully, I only worked this location occasionally so I never had the pleasure of changing the previews or remounting the loop.
The only other notable thing I remember about this place was the freedom with which the staff would use the house PA system. I recall hearing announcements in the auditoriums about car headlights being left on, convertible tops being left down in the rain, paging the manager to the phone, and even calling employees back to work when their break was up.
As with all other GTC properties and employees, the end came with the sellout to United Artists Theatres in the late 80’s. I did not notice when this place was closed, but it certainly gave it up by the time the AMC Southlake Pavilion 24 opened.
As Jack stated above, the ultimate in bland, unpleasant theatre design. But, at least in the 80’s there was no reason to put extra money and effort into creating a nice movie going experience. The GCC Northlake 2 and Southlake 2 triples were truly the poster children for the dozens of theatres built around Atlanta during this period which offered little more than a seat, a screen, and sound for the patrons. Three identical, long, thin, shoeboxes with 400 of the trademark GCC two position seats in each house. This notorious example of contempt for the customer was also the bane of many theatre employees who spent countless hours pushing the seats back to their upright positions while cleaning the auditorium.
The Southlake was the fourth GCC venue to be built in Atlanta following the Perimeter Mall in 1973, Northlake 2 in 1976, and Akers Mill in 1977. I believe it opened in 1978. The booth was equipped with Century 35MM projectors and Christie Autowind 3 platters. One house had the first generation pushbutton style Dolby sound rack. In an improvement over its Northlake predecessor, the screens had up and down masking for the flat picture so that both the scope and flat pictures filled the entire screen.
The main reason that these theatres were built so bland is that the public demanded little else. All they wanted was to see the hit movies, and in this area that meant going to the GCC Southlake for the most part. The only first run competition was a 3 screen effort by Plitt a couple of blocks over. I worked at this theatre several times between 1984 and 1988. During a two week stint covering a vacation for the regular projectionist in 1984 I saw the place filled to near capacity many times while showing Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and Bachelor Party. The next year Back to the Future was a big hit. As usual, this kind of success attracted the attention of the competition and before long Georgia Theatre opened an 8plex across the street, and Cineplex followed with a 6. Eventually AMC put all of these efforts out of business with their 24 screen Southlake Pavilion.
One constant during all of the time I was connected with this place was the complete lack of an adequate number (qualified or un) of job applicants. GCC considered themselves a class operation, and to be fair, they were in many respects. Help Wanted was just too crass a way to attract the best workers they felt, so at GCC it was always Employment Opportunities Available. When a sign in the lobby did not attract enough applicants, they would sometimes put the appeal on the marquee itself. However, there was not nearly enough room for all of that copy, so the word Employment was left off. It never ceased to amuse the staff how many people came in and asked about the movie “Opportunities Available.” Granted, that is not much of a story, but it was not much of a theatre.
Just like the Northlake 2 it was torn down in the early 90’s and a Sports Authority now sits on the site.
This is a link to the AJC article on the closing of the Garden Hills. It requires you to register and is good only for 7 days before it moves to the archives where you will have to pay to access it. CT says we can post one paragraph without violating the AJC copyright, so here is one on the future:
“The seating is going to remain there,” says Victor Romano of Victor Realty, which manages the strip of shops on Peachtree Road that contains Garden Hills. “We can’t very well lease it as a theater without any seats.” But Romano hopes that the space will become home to a live theater company, rather than another film exhibitor, and says he is in talks with potential tenants. There is a stage beneath the theater’s film screen, though only 12 feet deep and 36 feet wide. A theater company would almost certainly have to remove some of the front rows of seats and expand the stage deeper into the auditorium.
Actually that is two paragraphs, but only five sentences so I hope they will not mind. For the record, the article states that there are 375 seats. Other than that, there is not much in it that you can not get from all of the comments above.
Below is a link to the drive-ins.com page for the Circle Drive In. There are a total of 16 pictures and judging by the look of some of them this is a pretty bleak area.
I forgot to note that the Westgate was owned and operated by the Georgia Theatre Company from the time I first found it until the late 80’s when it was included in the Georgia Theatre Company sellout to United Artists Theatres.
I do not know who was responsible for building it in the first place. I am sure that it was closed by United Artists before the sellout to Regal.
In October of 1973 the Bibb was playing a forgetable Blaxploitation movie called “Detroit 9000.” The evening shows on the final night of its run were cancelled for a radio station promotion and free screening of the Bibb’s next attraction, “Save The Children.” Apparently, no paper passes were distributed, but instead it was just general admission to everyone up to capicity. Needless to say, a huge crowd showed up well before showtime. When it came time to open the doors, the crowd started pushing and managed to shove the people in front through the plate glass doors.
In the resulting chaos, the lobby was trashed and a mini riot broke out on the street. Needless to say, the show was cancelled and scores of police, supported by the departments armored car, were required to restore order. The mayor, Ronnie Thompson, AKA Machine Gun Ronnie in respect for his tough stance toward crime, called out the city busses to give everyone a ride home which had the effect of quickly disolving the crowd.
“Save The Children” enjoyed a more sedate opening the next day.