Rhodes Theatre

62 S. Rhodes Center NW,
Atlanta, GA 30309

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ktgriswell
ktgriswell on June 26, 2007 at 1:49 pm

The Rhodes Theater was neither a Landmark nor a Story theater when it closed. It was privately owned and operated by myself and my husband, John Halliday, during its last years of operation. It’s interesting to read these memories and see how they differ. My memories of the Rhodes include the Chaplin festival we held when the films were restored and re-released. We had an organist come in to play live music. We also had director John Waters visit the theater as part of a festival of his films. He said we were the only ones to ever pick him up at the airport with kids in tow.

I’ve been thinking about the Rhodes and found this site because of the recent release of “The Local Stigmatic” on DVD. Back in the mid-80s, Al Pacino (who financed and starred in this show) brought a crew down to Atlanta to film parts of this short movie. His location manager was looking for a theater that looked as if it might be found in a “seedy part of London.” In the movie, you see a bit of the interior of the theater as well as a shot of the marquee with “Coming The Elephant Man” on it in blocky red letters. You also see great shots of the Rhodes Hall across the street.

Speegee (Elva Spangenberg) was indeed selling tickets when we closed down the theater for good with “The Last Picture Show.” I believe she was 97 at the time, although that might have been her age when we took over the theater. Speegee never missed a day of work and she walked there and back from her home nearby. When the Rhodes closed, she wasn’t yet ready to retire. She took a job as a guide in the Rhodes Hall across the street.

The Rhodes Theater didn’t close because of lack of business. It closed because a developer bought the blocks that surrounded Rhodes Hall. All of the businesses were told to move out when their leases expired. Fortunately for Atlanta, a city ordinance prevented the developer from surrounding Rhodes Hall with skyscrapers. Nothing more than two stories tall can be built that close to an historic landmark.

StanMalone
StanMalone on April 26, 2007 at 9:26 pm

http://atlantatimemachine.com/misc/rhodes2.htm

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.

JJJackson
JJJackson on December 3, 2006 at 12:48 pm

So happy to see that others saw “Tommy” there. It was one of the bigger premiers we did when I was first on the air at WQXI. I’ve seen Tommy since…but never like that. The sound was massive…

treadway
treadway on March 16, 2006 at 6:15 pm

I am looking for a photo of the front of the Rhodes. When it was being demolished I managed to obtain one of the two poster encasements from the front of the theater. I use to go to the Rhodes almost every weekend as a teenager. I thought it was a glorious building. Every time I saw a movie there it felt like stepping back in time to a better age of film. I would be very interested in pictures of this grand theater that is no more.

JesseBrantley
JesseBrantley on February 27, 2006 at 8:48 pm

The Rhodes was one of the best theaters to see a movie in Atlanta. The first time I went to see a movie was Cactus Flower in 1969 and Speegee was selling tickets. She was there from the time it opened til the very last show. I am glad to say I was there to see “The Last Picture Show.”

anny58
anny58 on November 6, 2005 at 1:01 pm

What developer in Atlanta now owns the old Rhodes Center Building? Any plans for development? Notice over the past 20 years since closing it is fixed up ever so often then vandalized again.

Anny in Atlanta

DennisDegan
DennisDegan on October 13, 2005 at 7:46 pm

I worked at the Rhodes Theatre in 1971 as a concession operator. I recall the revival of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, first shown using a 35mm optical sound print. About a week later, the theatre got a 70mm magnetic sound print. The difference was striking. The Rhodes was one of only a few movie houses in Atlanta at the time that was equipped with 70mm projection and multi-channel sound. The projection in 1971 was as you’d expect: all manual. 10-minute reels were spliced together to form 2 or more longer reels. The projectionist would perform a single synchronized switch between the two projectors every 50 to 60 minutes. I had the privilege of doing a switch once with the projectionist present. As a young fellow at the time, it was quite a thrill; one that no one can experience anymore.

StanMalone
StanMalone on October 3, 2005 at 2:04 pm

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.

Don K.
Don K. on May 29, 2005 at 1:15 am

The Rhodes Center was located on Peachtree Road, in Atlanta’s northside. According to my dad, throughout much of the 1930’s and 1940’s the Rhodes Theatre used to book MGM pictures after they finished their run at the downtown Loew’s Grand. Throughout the 1950’s it continued to operate as a second run house.

By early 1963, the theater was renovated and began to book road show attractions. The first one that I remember was the original release of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in the Spring of 1963. The theater continued to generally book prestige pictures for the rest of the decade.

In the 1980’s, I attended the Rhodes several times when they were
showing foreign language films. All in all, it was certainly a nice theater in a nice part of town.