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I wrote Joe a letter explaining my take on the weeks events but decided to not send it. I was afraid that with all that has happened he might misunderstand and miss the sarcastic style. Here it is for the CT readers:
So long Joe.
Since you did not show Atlanta Landmarks the simple courtesy of dying, preferably offsite, or moving out, you have forced them to terminate the agreement that allows you to live in the Fox for the rest of your life. How ungra…teful of you. Do you not realize how many Fox and Atlanta Landmarks big shots have lusted after your apartment all of these years? Sure, you took the old Georgia Theatre Company executive office space, gutted it, cleaned it up, and furnished it at your own expense. Same with your bedroom upstairs. But that was 30 years ago. Times have changed old man. Surely you do not expect this new breed of execs and trustees, some of whom were not alive when you helped save this facility they have so much fun playing with, to put up with your presence any longer.
Face it Joe. Your time has passed. The Fox is saved. Not only that, it has been thoroughly reconditioned, restored, and updated with the latest technology. Except for you that is. Don’t you realize that you are just an embarrassing anachronism of a bygone era when the Fox was a run down shell in danger of being torn down like the New York Roxy to make way for some bland office building. It was good of you to help save the Fox so that all of these people would have jobs and seats of prominence on a board that would enhance the resume and social standing of even the lowest form of humanity. Your work is now done. Go away. Leave.
I know you feel that you have been treated unfairly by the current management of the Fox and Atlanta Landmarks, but wake up. This is 21st century America you are living in. Do you really expect anyone to do what is right, ethical, or just plain decent when they are not legally required to? Do you think that they would have even offered you that farce of an extension if it had not been a PR necessity? In your place I would have accepted it if for no other reason than to aggravate them and deny them your apartment space they so desperately desire for whatever purpose they can think of. (Apartment for deserving Fox officials, wine tasting wing of the Grand Salon, rental space for Lincoln Bedroom style sleepovers, … I had better stop there. Don’t want to give them any ideas.)
No Joe. All of us who were part of those great years of the late 70’s to early 80’s are now being dispatched by our successors to the landfill of history. We served our purposes, but now it is time for a new generation to come in and carry on. We should not be so presumptions as to expect them to adhere to any obligations of the past, be them legal, moral, or ethical. There is no room in today’s America for this type of sentimental hogwash. How can we expect the people now in charge to be successful if they have to waste precious time, effort, and resources fulfilling obligations to old codgers like yourself. Be a man. Ride off into the sunset with your integrity and pride intact. You will be in good company. Remember, the “grateful” British voters kicked Winston Churchill out of office two months after the war in Europe ended.
The friends of the Fox called on you when they were scared. Now that the crisis is over and a new generation that sees no need for you has come to power you are just an aggravation. It is time for you to go.
Enjoyed working with you my friend. Were it not for you and others like you I would have missed out on the enjoyment of running movies at the Fox.
A lot has been written and broadcast recently about the actions of Atlanta Landmarks concerning their desire for Joe Patten to give up his Fox apartment, and their response to his declining to do so. That story is available to anyone via the internet so I will not rehash it here. I will, however, give my take on the whole sorry episode.
In the dark days of 1975-1978 thousands of Atlantans united behind a drive to save the Fox Theatre by donating to the “Save The Fox” campaign. Hundreds actually invested their time and talents in keeping the wrecking ball away. A select few used their considerable legal, technical, and PR skills, and a good bit of personal influence to see that this effort was successful. While Joe Patten did not save the Fox by himself, it is safe to say that without him 660 Peachtree Street would be the address of the (then) Southern Bell HQ.
Personally, I do not think that the Fox was in danger after news of the attempt to obtain a demolition permit became public. Southern Bell did not want to take the PR hit. Georgia Theatre Company was willing to absorb the ill will and tear the place down thus allowing Southern Bell to say that all they did was buy a clean lot. That still would have engendered a flood of hard feelings. Also, local Atlanta companies like Coca Cola and Delta Air Lines might have put up the needed funds, but all that would have gotten them was a closed up downtown movie theatre. The people of Atlanta needed to demonstrate that they wanted the Fox to survive and the Save The Fox campaign gave them a stake in its success.
Even after the non profit Atlanta Landmarks was formed and it became more evident every day that the money to save the theatre would be raised, there was still a long road to travel to transform this run down shell of a downtown movie house into the theatre palace it is today. Joe Patten, with his technical knowledge of the organ, projection booth, and mechanics of the Fox was invaluable in this effort. He also gave up his dream of owning his own theatre. He had recently bought the closed East Point Theatre, installed an organ, and with help from fellow ATOS members was in the process of turning it into a mini Fox. (The story is available here: /theaters/11377/ ) In appreciation of his role, the board of Atlanta Landmarks granted Joe free use for life of the space formerly occupied by the executive suite of the Georgia Theatre Company offices which were located in what is now the Grand Salon. At his own expense, Joe gutted the offices, cleaned up the area and installed the necessary equipment and furnishings.
Now, 30 years later, a new generation sits at the controls of Atlanta Landmarks and the Fox Theatre. This new generation knows nothing but what they have read of the days when the survival of the Fox was in question. They know the Fox only as a pristine, money generating show palace. They obviously have no appreciation of the effort and dedication people like Joe put into the Fox so they could sit behind their desks and say with pride “I am with the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.” I am sure they would disagree with this, but their actions in the matter of ridding themselves of Joe’s presence speak louder than their press releases.
I have seen so many movies, especially in my younger years, that with every experience in life I can find a scene from a movie that relates to it. In this case, two come to mind. The first is from Doctor Zhivago, one of my all time favorites, and the first movie I ever saw at the Fox. The scene is Moscow, 1918. Yuri is on his way home from the war. As he runs into his house and hugs his wife he notices a lot of strange faces. A stern looking woman comes forward and informs him that she is the head of the district housing committee. She tells him that there was room for 18 families in his house. He is welcome to stay in a corner apartment if he abides by the rules of the commissariat. Welcome home comrade. Thanks for your service.
The second is from Aliens, number two in the Alien series. Ripley has once again narrowly escaped death by alien intubation. She discovers that company sleazeball Carter Burke is responsible via his effort to sneak an alien past quarantine and sell it to the bio-weapons division. Despite the aliens wiping out her original crew, killing all but one person of an entire colony, and the bulk of the Marines sent to restore order, she tells Burke “…I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them (the aliens) *ing each other over for a damn percentage.” I will leave it to the reader to decide which species is which in relation to this story.
Thanks for the stories ediemer. This link is for a theatre near Atlanta Georgia..
The first comment has my story of having to run the endless loop platter.
I could never get over the lengths the theatre owners would go to trying to get rid of the projectionist position.
I worked the projection booth at the NATO convention when it came to Atlanta in 1987. The Christie company had one of these things set up on the exhibit floor with a big display reading “Let The Gremlins Do It.” I guess the gremlins were not covered by the minimum wage law. People were free to wander the exhibit area at any time during the 3 day convention, but on the final day there was a two hour period set aside for everyone to attend at the same time. When I walked through on that day I noticed that the platter was not turning and thought someone might be giving a demo to the crowd gathered around it. No such thing. When I made my way to the front I saw that the film had either backed off of the edge or had been slung off onto the floor. Two Christie reps were on hands and knees splicing away trying to get the mess cleaned up before the end of the exhibition period.
That night at the banquet I ran my five presentation reels flawlessly without the help of a platter, endless loop or otherwise. Later I saw the DM of the company I worked for and asked him if he noticed the difference in the way I ran the booth compared to the endless loop platter he had also seen that afternoon. He just said “You have to keep up with the times” as he walked away. Theatre owners: they would spend $10 to aviod paying someone a buck and still think that they had come out ahead.
I believe that this location was open into the late 60’s. My family moved to Atlanta in 1967 and I recall seeing ads for this place in the paper. Two things made them notable. One was that they were not part of the drive in ladder ad that Georgia Theatre and Storey used, but were individual ads for this site and another which I think was either the Hwy 54 or Hwy 85 Drive in. The other was that they were “Adults Only.” Atlanta had a lot of adult theatres in those days but most were downtown and all except these were indoor.
I ran across a couple of Ziegfeld tidbits yesterday while going through some old files.
From Boxoffice Magizine, May 1978, an article on CE3K expanding from its exclusive Ziegfeld run in Manhattan to the Loew’s State 1 (70MM), Bay Cinema (70MM), and RKO 86th Street (35MM) on 4/26/78.. (A comment on this site on the latter theatre says that it closed in 1968, so I don’t know. This is the way the article listed it.) Michael Coate’s post of 4/16/08 shows 4/26/78 to be the date CE3K ended its 23 week run at the Ziegfeld to be replaced by The Last Waltz.
As background the article stated that CE3K opened at the Ziegfeld for a NY / NJ exclusive run on 11/16/77 before expanding to 11 other locations four weeks later. However it stayed exclusive in Manhattan for all 23 weeks. According to Boxoffice, the Zeigfeld grossed a record setting two million dollars during its run.
At the opposite end of the record setting department is a note from Variety from December 1971 when they still listed the Manhattan theatres and their grosses, usually with a cute line to describe the take.. According to Michael the theatre had been closed for 14 weeks leading up to its big Christmas movie of 1971, Star Spangled Girl. It opened on 12/22/71 and here is the way Variety described the gross: “Only $928 for this huge house.” That means that this 1300 seat theatre with its listed $16,500 nut brought in about 250 customers all week. Got to be the record. Should have stayed closed.
Thanks to Michael I see that it ran for 5 weeks before the theatre went dark again for the three weeks prior to the opening of Cabaret.
Great overhead view. As for that small building in front of the theatre, the right end is obviously a Long John Silvers Seafood. The left side was Mongolian BBQ, goat that is, if you were interested.
Mike, if you look at the other picture links on this page you will see that except for the signs it is an exact copy of the Columbia. I am sure the sign difference is a result of the different zoning codes.
Based on these two locations, the Phipps, and the Ultravision Theatre on this site I would say that ABC designed and built the best looking locations of any opened in the 1967 to 1977 era.
Gee Terry, check your math and you will see that it is not even that. The building was demolished in 2005 so it only lasted 13 years. Even worse, the place closed about 2000, 2002 at the latest. That means this brand new 10 screen theatre operated only about 10 years at the most. I never saw much of a crowd at this place and could not understand why this location did not do better. It was in something of a no mans land development wise, but it was only minutes away from Brentwood and the I-65 interchange. If it could play the same movies as Cool Springs and 100 Oaks you would think that people would prefer this nice quiet intersection to getting caught up in the mall traffic.
In the end it was probably what killed off most marginal locations: Minimal upkeep, indifferent presentation, and lack of adequate or good quality staff.
This link is for a theatre is Deleware. The third comment dated 5/24/09 has an interesting story about running the endless loop platter. This is the only story I have ever heard about that thing being used to run a regular show. I am not surprised at how it worked out.
Wow! Raymond Stewart returns!!! Good to see your comments after such a long absence. If you have not been keeping up then you should check out the Miracle and Belvedere pages.
As for this theatre, it is kind of in a gray area as to if it already has a page on this site. The original North DeKalb does:
There are many interesting comments there. That theatre was built as a single, twinned in 1975, and torn down with a good part of the mall in the late 80’s. What was not torn down was gutted and an entirely new mall built and opened under the name of Market Square. The Cineplex 4 was known as Market Square and was in a different spot from the original Storey theatre.
I do not know the rest of the story. The 4 might have been expanded to 8 or just split. As to the AMC 16 I do not know if it includes any of the 4 or 8 or maybe it is an entirely new construction.
To answer Bob’s question, yes they were all built in the mall, but nothing sits on the site of the original theatre which was really just attached to the mall and had its own outside entrance.
Anyone interested in theatres in what is now North DeKalb Mall should look at the other page I linked to above.
This theatre is already listed on this site as South DeKalb Mall Quad.
It is a matter of how you define such things, but I would consider it all one theatre. It started out as a twin, converted to a quad and later closed and gutted. Years later an addition was built on the back side of the mall ajoining the old theatre. The original theatre space was included in the addition and the entire complex now has 12 screens.
Also, since expanding and reopening, it has had at least three owners and some down time in between.
For what my opinion is worth, this page should be deleted and a comment made on the Quad page describing how after sitting empty for over a decade it was expanded and reopened. Hopefully, someone with more knowledge of this part of the theatres history than I have will give us the whole story.
Alonzo, great job on all of your pictures included in the theatre pool on Flicker. I had a great time looking through them and they brought back a lot of memories.
This is a duplicate listing.
Toco Hills already has a page on this site.
It is listed as Lefont Toco Hills which was the last name it operated under before closing.
This page should be deleted.
This is a picture of the old South DeKalb Twin building sticking out the back of the mall with the new addition to the right that turned it into a 12.
Thanks for that additional information Tim. I am really surprised that GTC added on a tiny theatre for #4 instead of just tearing off a chunk of the remaining large house. In 1978 they quaded the South DeKalb Twin and turned two beautiful 540 seat showcases into four 338 seat shoeboxes. They would not even consider leaving one side intact but since they even carved up their Lenox Square flagship there was nothing sacred to them in that respect. Riverside could count itself lucky that at least one house was still something to be proud of.
In the early Weis days the newspaper ads indicated which movie was playing in which theatre. #1 was named “The Popular Showplace” and #2 was labeled “The Intimate Theatre.” I could never notice any effort was made to play a particular type of movie in one side or the other. I also do not remember any difference in the two. I know one side was twinned when you started, but do you think that they were identical when built?
After 1974, Weis renamed this the “Weis Cinema Centre” and quit making any note as to which movie played in which side or even how many theatres were at the Centre. I like the “re” instead of “er” spelling. I am sure that made it a much nicer moviegoing experience. They did the same thing in multiscreen theatres in other cities except Atlanta where there was a single screen “Weis Cinema” already in business. There they took the Arrowhead Triple and named it the “Arrowhead Cinema Centre.” They did not do the same with the Cinema 75 Triple. I guess a name of “Cinema 75 Cinema Centre” was too much.
When you came to work there, did you come as a projectionist or did you move into that job? I ask because the very nice, orderly appearance of the booth suggests that there might have been some long time operator there who had taken care of the place for years. I can not begin to count the dumps I have walked into over the years and spent countless hours trying to organize the mess left by a succession of previous “projectionists.”
I did not realize that the old Macon Mall Quad had been dozed and a new theatre built. I thought that booth looked a lot bigger than I remembered.
Thanks again for the pictures and video. I have been passing them around to some of my former booth mates from years past.
Link to a picture of the newspaper ad for the Peachtree Drive In and a write up on its feature for the night. August, 1964.
Link to the Drive In ladder ad in the Atlanta paper on August 5, 1964. The blogger has also written up some of his memories of working at these places. Worth a look if you are interested in the drive in culture from 1970 – 1990.
Link to the page for this theatre on the Drive-Ins.com website. At the bottom are two pictures, one of the train and one of the box office clock with admission rates.
I was told that this theatre had a hard time once Daylight Savings Time was adopted since there was a curfew on its operating hours to keep the nearby neighborhoods happy.
I think that the site is now occupied by a Honda dealer.
Tim, thanks for that website. It brought back a lot of memories. I just assumed that Georgia Theatre Company split both houses at the same time, but your descriptions and pictures indicate that only one was split and the fourth was an add on. One of your pictures shows an intact auditorium complete with the panels I mentioned on the side wall where the slide projector was aimed. The conversion from twin to quad has Georgia Theatre written all over it. The split auditorium shows no sign of the seating area being relocated, and that little theatre, well, it beats anything I have ever seen. The smallest theatre I ever worked in was the Baronet, in Atlanta. It had four seats on each side and 15 rows. Until your picture I have never seen a theatre with rows of only three seats. I would have put the aisle off center and had the seating 2 and 4.
Another giveaway to the GTC influence was the Potts platters in the booth. I was never in the Riverside booth, but have run countless others and the only time I have ever had to run these pieces of crap was at GTC locations. They looked like a Strong, but I guess they were cheaper, and their on / off motors as opposed to constant feed were always a threat to sling the print off onto the floor, or cause a brain wrap. With all of those reels hanging on the wall and the spindles still in place, it looks as if the projectors were reel to reel during the twin days, and then divided as the houses were increased. Those V 8’s were great machines, and still are. In fact I am working a booth with one as I write this. Unfortunately the others are belt driven V 5’s.
From the pictures and video it certainly seems that the projectionist ran a neat and orderly booth. I was in the Macon Mall Quad several times but was not aware that it had been divided into 8. It was built by Georgia Theatre in the mid 70’s and was included in the sell out to United Artists Theatres in the late 80’s before UA was bought by Regal. Aaron Manheim was the long time manager there. Does that name ring a bell?
Thanks again for the great website. Wish I had taken the time to make pictures like yours. I just assumed the theatres would always be there.
Thanks for another trip down memory lane Michael. I am glad you did not try to list the theatres involved. With 1500 locations that would have been a time consuming task. With so many multiplex screens and the end of exclusive runs and year long engagements that sort of thing had lost its charm by 1985.
Back To The Future was notable to me because it was one of those movies that kind of slipped in under my radar. I am not a TV watcher and had never heard of Michael J. Fox, or any other of the actors except Lea Thompson, and the anticipated sci fi movie of that summer, Cocoon, had opened a couple of weeks earlier. However, when the staff unlocked the doors on opening day, it was obvious that I was about the only one who was not ready for it. For the first couple of weeks we had sellouts even during the week despite the wide break release it had in Atlanta. I was working at Greens Corner at the time and we continued to have weekend sellouts until Labor Day. I also did some relief work at the GCC Southlake 3 and it was a big hit there as well.
As for the Mike Rogers comment above I would say two things:
First, it reminds me of a humorous episode regarding the film critic of the Atlanta paper whose last name was Ringel. (I forget the first name.) My one contact with her leads me to believe that she is a pleasant enough person, however, it was a standing joke among those of us who worked in theatres that if you wanted a good review from her then your movie better have subtitles. Back To The Future had received the expected lambasting on opening day although it was obvious that it made no difference at the box office even in those days when newspapers were relevant. Later on, outraged that it was still doing big business weeks after opening, she wrote another article lamenting that this piece of lightweight fluff was a hit while more worthy fare (in her opinion) was being ignored. In less than subtle language she questioned at least the taste if not the intelligence of the movie goers of Atlanta. As you might expect, this brought a flood of letters to the editor raising the same questions about her. In the end she wrote yet another article explaining her reasoning and suggesting that the Back To The Future fans could still find her reviews useful by going to see any movie that she hated.
Secondly, I hate to tell Mike this, but it is doubtful that he will ever see another movie as good as 2001. I saw 2001 when it first came out in 70MM at the Martin Cinerama. I liked it, and still do, better than the majority of the many movies I have seen since. However, if I judged every movie I saw by how it compared to my all time favorite, which is The Best Years Of Our Lives, then I would find very few even bearable. If I had to write a one sentence evaluation (obviously not my style) of Back To The Future, it would go something like this:
“A pleasant, well made film with good production values that entertained the movie going public to the point that many of them came back for more.”
If more movies could live up to that description then they would have to build more theatres to hold all of the people, and all of us who enjoy this business would have jobs for as long as we cared to work.
As to the 70MM version, I do not believe that it had a 70MM release in Atlanta, but the next summer, the Fox Theatre ran both Cocoon and Back To The Future in 70.
I think that you are confusing two drive ins because of the similar names. This page refers to the Highway 85 Drive In which was located on State Highway 85 just south of the city of Fayetteville which itself is south of the Atlanta city limits.
The other one is the North 85 Twin Drive In which was located in Interstate 85. It was not really near Gwinnett County. In fact it was just north of the Atlanta city limits at the Shallowford Road exit, several miles inside I-285. Further up I-85 at the intersection with I-285 there was the Northeast Expressway Drive In. It was located about four miles from the Gwinnett County line.
I do not know when this Highway 85 location closed, but it was probably in the 70’s. I think it was one of two “Adult Only” drive ins advertised in the paper. Or, it might have been the Highway 54 Drive In which was also known as the Forest Park Drive In. I know that the other one was the Lithonia Drive In, which was sometimes known as the Highway 12 Drive In because of its location on State Highway 12, or Covington Highway.
As far at the time when Atlanta had only two drive ins, that would be from about 1985 until 2002. From the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s there were over 20 drive ins with ads in the paper. Then, they started closing fast as land values went up and the profits from a single screen theatre, even a drive in went down. In 1983 the Bankhead and the Northeast Expressway closed up leaving only the North 85, the Twin Starlight, and the South Expressway Twin in operation. A couple of years later the Starlight had been converted to six screens and the South Expressway closed. The North 85 closed in about 2002 leaving only the Starlight Six.
Emory Cinema flyer
Mike: Do you have any information on the Riverside Drive In? It had a great location and setting and in the 70’s was operated by Georgia Theatre Company.
Also, how about the Weis Drive In in Warner Robbins. It was operated by Weis until the mid 70’s when it was sold to Georgia Theatre. Only air conditioned drive in I ever saw.
Starting in the mid 60’s and continuing into the 70’s the Crestwood area was the place to go for the big first run movies, thanks to Cobb Theatres being willing to put up the money to book those films into the Eastwood combined with the demise of the downtown theatres. With the Eastwood a big draw Cobb opened the Village East Twin in the new Village East Shopping Center built directly across Oporto Madrid Road and later ruined the Eastwood by twinning it. Eastwood Mall did not age gracefully, and the fortunes of this area started to go downhill when newer malls opened, especially the Galleria in Hoover. Even the Starlite Drive In, located on Montevallo Road across from Eastwood closed up.
From reading the comments on the news story linked to above, it seems that the neighborhood has declined as well, at least the commercial part. Crime and gang activity seem to be a problem and were at least of part of the reason Regal bailed out of this location after such a short time. Too bad. I attended the Eastwood many times during the 60’s and my family enjoyed numerous birthday dinners at the Gulas' Restaurant just west of Eastwood. The Eastwood was lost when the mall was closed down and rebuilt prior to being torn down again. The Village East lasted barely 10 years, and last time I passed by, Hooters had taken over the Gulas location. So much for revisiting the past.
Also, I was not aware that Century Plaza had closed. It was developments like it and Eastwood that ran Lovemans, Blachs, and Yeildings out of the downtown business, so I guess it was now its turn as well.
OK, let me see if I can make a slight correction without confusing things further. This page is for the GCC Gwinnett Place 6. It was built and operated by GCC for its entire life from 1984-2000.
It is easy to confuse it with the theatre across the parking lot which on this site is known as Movies At Gwinnett. That theatre was built as a retail store, purchased by Georgia Theatre Company, converted into a 12 by United Artists after they bought GTC and was later closed by UA. The new GTC reopened it and still later closed it again. Here is its link:
If you will look at the second comment on this page you will see that I have confused the listings for these two myself. Concerning the pictures posted by Chuck on May 8, the first two are outside shots of the Movies at Gwinnett, not the Gwinnett Place 6. The third picture is a shot of the marquee for the Movies At Gwinnett. However, the last two are pictures of the lobby and concession stand for the theatre featured on this page, the GCC Gwinnett Place 6. Clear as mud, right?
If you go to the first comment on this page it is a picture of the front of the GCC Gwinnett Place 6. Chuck, if you can you should transfer the first three picture links above to the Movies At Gwinnett page. Mike, did you notice the bulk candy cart at the far right of one of the pictures? I saw that candy sold at the Parkside when EFW reopened it one year after GCC closed down. Free roach droppings: No extra charge.
Nice KC ad. I too miss the days when the ads, especially Friday and Sunday were something to look forward to. Now it is like reading the phone book. I could not be sure, but the block in the lower right corner looked like an admission schedule. With that and the way the times were posted they were almost treating it like a roadshow.
That was also a nice ad from the Imperial. Nice to see that someone put a “local” touch to attract attention. In Atlanta, Phipps would sometimes have a photograph of the crowds lined up in the mall outside the entrance to the theatre. They had one for Jaws in about the 7th week.
Another great job Michael. You must really love research, or the theatre business, or both. Hard to believe that the biggest movie of the summer waited until this late to open. These days, unless the title has the name Potter or Bourne it would have been out by Memorial Day and no one except the accountants and stockholders would be paying attention to it by July 4th. Those were great days when the two or three big summer movies would be anxiously awaited. Now it is one or more a week from May 1st until mid June.
When Jaws opened, the Atlanta market was entering the final years of featuring exclusive runs in big downtown or close in suburban theatres. It was always a topic of conversation among those of us who worked in these places as to which theatre would get which movie for Christmas or summer. It was more than just idle curiosity since most of these were single or twin locations, and whatever picture we got would usually run for the entire season even if it were a bomb. In those days, almost all Universal releases played at the Georgia Cinerama, operated by Martin Theatres, so most of us expected Jaws to open there. After The Front Page however, the next Universal release, The Great Waldo Pepper played at the Weis Cinema, the old Peachtree Art Theatre downtown.
In those pre downloading days it was customary for upcoming releases to get a “sneak preview” of the finished product to get word of mouth going. For Jaws the “Major Studio Preview” as it was billed took place on April 26. As Michael pointed out, the preview was combined with the current release for Universal which meant that Jaws played with Waldo at the Weis. This made a lot of people think that Jaws might open at the Weis Capri, one of the top first run theatres in Atlanta due to the willingness of Weis to put up almost any amount of upfront money to get a sure fire hit. As things turned out, Jaws opened at the ABC Phipps Plaza Twin #2. At one time Phipps had been the nicest of all of the 1960’s era theatres with 860 seats, 70MM Optivision projection and a beautiful curved screen and seating. Unfortunately, we would never see this fine looking cinemascope picture on the massive curved screen. Just two months earlier the place had been gutted and twin 500 seat shoebox shaped theatres built in its place.
On opening day I showed up at the first show since my theatre had not opened its summer pictures yet and was still running an evening only schedule. The managers here were good friends of mine and I wanted to see how things went. As it turned out, exactly 499 tickets were sold, so I took the last one and watched the show. I thought it was a fine movie, very entertaining and suspenseful and the experience greatly enhanced by seeing it with a full house. However, I could not help but think of what it might have been like to see it in the original theatre. Jaws also opened in two nearby theatres, Belmont in Cobb County to the west, and Arrowhead in Clayton County to the south, but Phipps had an exclusive run in the Atlanta area for the entire length of its run.
As things turned out, that run lasted over six months. On Christmas Eve of 1975 I was working for a company that cancelled the last show on that night so the employees could go home early. Not having anything else to do, I stopped by Phipps on the way home. Since I had seen the first show I decided to catch the last one. The next day Phipps opened Lucky Lady while Jaws finally went into its intermediate run. Another friend was running the Village Twin at that time and sold out two of his four Christmas Day shows. Even though Jaws had been playing for over half a year there was still plenty of life left in a film that had opened exclusive when it finally made its way to the outlying neighborhood theatres. These days any movie opening in June would have already had its DVD release and made its way to the bargain bin at Wal-Mart by Christmas. In early spring of 1976, Jaws finally went wide, going to all of the neighborhood theatres and drive ins. At the drive in locations it was accompanied by its old preview partner, Waldo Pepper just as Brad and William noted in their posts above. So, it took about a year for Jaws to make a complete market sweep of Atlanta.
Summer of 1975 was a big summer for movies in Atlanta. While Jaws was packing them in at Phipps, Lenox Square Theatre directly across the street was doing even bigger business with Return of the Pink Panther thanks to its bigger auditorium. Panther had opened a week before Jaws. One week after Jaws, Lenox opened Love and Death in its much smaller second auditorium. After only six weeks, Panther had to leave so that Lenox, which had a marketing agreement with Untied Artists, could open Rollerball. With this kind of lineup, Lenox with its 990 seats easily outgrossed the 1550 seat Phipps complex due to the fact that Jaws, in the #2 house, got absolutely no help from its twin which was playing The Fortune, and the Penthouse which had French Connection II, two of the biggest stiffs of that year. (Raysson, French Connection II may have done well in Durham, but after one week it was dead here.) 1976 was about the end of the exclusive run days for the Atlanta market. That summer Phipps had three exclusives with Logan’s Run, Omen, and Midway, and in 1977 was about the only first run theatre with exclusives, this time The Other Side of Midnight and A Bridge Too Far. By the time Jaws 2 opened in 1978, Phipps had to share the booking with half a dozen area theatres. Needless to say, Jaws 2 did not make it to Christmas Eve.
In 1996 I was working the projection booth at the Fox Theatre. One of our features was an all day Speilberg festival of Jaws, Raiders, and Close Encounters. In 2008 I had one more unusual Jaws experience. TCM runs a free summer outdoor movie series which that year was held in the downtown Olympic Park. The print Universal supplied was their archive print which they would not allow to be cut and spliced together. Whenever this would be the case, Cinevision would bring in their Airstream motor home projection booth modified to hold two century projectors, and would hire me to run the show since the regular projectionist had trouble working between the projectors as there was hardly any spare space anywhere. And talk about hot! Trying to work between two 5000 watt lamphouses in a confined motor home in the middle of an Atlanta summer was no picnic. Add the 450 foot throw to the screen, very thin cue marks, and all of the distracting background lights of the Coke museum, well, it was an interesting experience but not one that I would want to do on a regular basis.
Last week The Fox brought back Jaws for a 35th Anniversary showing. The print might have been the same one from my 2008 showing and was still in good shape, but attendance was only fair. Maybe the 15,000 people who saw it in the park felt no need to return two years later.