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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.
Page for the US 1 on drive-ins.com
A couple of my pictures are at the bottom.
127 theatres on opening day. Amazing. Today it would be more like 4127, and by July 4 it would be maybe a thousand, all down at the end of the hall in the smallest auditorium. Probably the last roll out release of a film of this standing.
“A fire at EMI Elstree Studios during the production of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining destroyed a soundstage which contributed to Empire going over schedule.”
In Atlanta, where it played at Phipps Plaza #2, the feature next door in #1 was none other than “The Shinning.” No fire, but a bigger disaster, “Bronco Billy” opened upstairs at the Penthouse.
Ned: As I pointed out earlier, I have learned never to say never about anything when using my memory, but I am as sure as I can be without going back and checking all of the newspapers that Star Wars did not play here in its initial release. It opened at the Tara, Doraville, Franklin Road, and Arrowhead, and at least the first two on that list ran it until the Christmas season. I know it did not play here during the Christmas 1977-78 season, so at the earliest it would have been Spring 1978. I was not a regular employee there at that time but I would hate to think that I would not have remembered such a booking.
Star Wars did play here in the mid 90’s when they had that nationwide release of all three in their remastered and digitally updated form. For the record, I am not a Star Wars fan, but I thought that changing the content was a travesty even though the original director did the changes. In my opinion, the genuine version of Star Wars is the one that came out in 1977.
As for Phipps, it opened Empire on a four week 70MM exclusive in late May of 1980. The #2 house, the right hand one downstairs was the only 70MM equipped house and that is where it played for its run there. There was no 35MM run of Empire at Phipps during that booking.
I also saw Jedi there. The first half of it anyway. It was a hard week at my theatre and I fell asleep half way through about the time the Ewoks showed up. I never bothered to see the rest. As I said, I am not a big fan. Sorry R2.
I have a comment on the entry of 5/20/10 by Mike Rogers regarding Star Wars. I do not think that it was an appropriate comment for this site. This is a place where people come to read and share stories on movie THEATRES, not the movies themselves. Now I know that it is hard to talk about one without the other because without the movie there would be no theatre. Part of the history of theatres is what movie opened the theatre, which one closed it, which blockbusters played here, and the source of this discussion, what was playing when a particular event took place. All of that is as relevant as events such as when a place was twinned, converted to platters or digital, or was robbed, flooded, raided, damaged by weather, or any number of the countless events that take place in theatres. However discussions about how good or bad a movie was is not really relevant here. That is blog and chatroom stuff. I am sure that Mike could find such a site and start a thread along the lines of:
STAR WARS: Overrated and it Sucks.
I have only read through these comments once, but I do not recall anyone talking about the worthiness of the movie, only its place in the history of this theatre. The fact that it was such a mega hit makes it worth noting that it played here. The fact that the theatre made the upgrade to Dolby during its run was a notable milestone in its history. You youngsters who did not grow up during the 1955-1975 era of movies where you only got stereo sound on big magnetic track roadshows will have a hard time understanding how big a deal the advent of Dolby stereo systems was to us. Now we could have stereo and surround sound in our neighborhood theatres all of the time although it was still early to mid 80’s before you could count on all movies being encoded.
As for myself, I will, in the spirit of full disclosure, partially break my rule and comment on the movie itself. I enjoyed it. I found it a good, entertaining, action adventure movie, but it meant no more to me than a good western or war movie would have. Once I had seen it, then I had seen it and probably would not have again except for one thing; presentation. Getting back to the spirit of this site though not this page, I saw it four times. First, at the Loews Tara in mono. I have often been critical of Loews, who I worked for at the time, for not going to the expense of installing a Dolby system in their showcase Atlanta house for this big event movie. That may still be valid although the information I found on this page makes me think that it is possible that one was not available during this period.
My second viewing was at the Canton Corners (Blackwell Square), a theatre far into the Atlanta burbs. I went to this trouble because Norm Schneider, the long time Altec serviceman had retired and did what most of us only dream of doing, opening his own theatre with a presentation built to his specs. A lot of people made that trek in those days where mono still dominated theatres and were rewarded with a sound presentation that I have only heard equaled at the New Neon Movies in Dayton Ohio during their Cinerama days. I still judge all theatre sound experiences by this standard.
Third was later that year at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Big event, packed house, lot of fun had by all, but I was there mainly to see what it would be like in this huge place with a big crowd. This was well before my days of working in the Fox booth so I was not as aware of why the Fox is such a poor place to see a movie. Although a lot of improvements have been made to correct this, back then the cavernous auditorium, plaster walls, dozens of nooks and alcoves, and no wall to separate the lobby from the theatre itself made the sound just bounce and rattle around the place. The explosions and laser blasts sounded great, but as for dialogue, well, it is a good thing that I had seen the movie before so I could follow the story.
My last Star Wars show was the 1983 re-release which was more notable for the Revenge of the Jedi preview attached to the front. I wish I had kept it and the one sheet as I am sure both went up in value when they changed the name to Return. We ran it in our Yamaha brand 4 track Dolby house. Sounded good, but pretty pale compared to the Canton Corners, which was custom designed by someone who had forgotten more about sound than most techs will ever know.
So, I am sorry that I got somewhat off topic here, but I would like to see people be able to come to this site and read and hopefully add information about these great theatres without having to wade through a bunch of extraneous material. So many of these theatres are gone now that this is one of the few places we can come to relive the good old days.
Mike: I have read a good many of your posts and enjoy the ones where you relate what was playing. A lot of us are fans of the style and layout of movie ads in the days before it became plain block listings resembling the phone book. It seems that you may be looking at some old ads you have kept. If so it would be great if you could scan and post them on flickr or some such site.
Michael: Thanks for the listings. Even though I have no connection to this theatre, it is fun to scan the list and recall what was playing when and think about where it played in Atlanta.
It was the Fox that got the 70MM equipment from the Grand. 35/70 Century projectors to be exact, one of which is still in use to this day. When this location closed up all of its booth equipment was also purchased by the Fox. Most of it was parted out to improve the 70MM presentation at the Fox. The huge 70MM Cinerama lenses are still in the lens locker there, all 25 pounds apiece of them.
Cone: Thank you for taking the time to comment on this site. I have very fond memories of working for Modular in the early 70’s and to this day keep in touch with some of the people I met there. Most of my work was at Sandy Springs although I also spent a good bit of time at Peachtree Battle and Doraville. I never knew anyone at this location until I started managing the South DeKalb in 1974 by which time it was a Weis operation.
That is an interesting story about the seats and equipment. I was really surprised when I first walked into Candler by the condition of the furnishings since I always thought that Sandy Springs and Doraville were very nicely appointed. All of that was before I started working in theatres and I assumed that the company must have changed hands or something when the Candler was built since it was so different.
Assuming that you are the co-founder and not Cone Jr., I can recall meeting you a couple of times when you attended movies at Sandy Springs. Roger McClure was the manager at that time. Aaron Bouldin was at Doraville, Bill Henley was at Peachtree Battle, and Bill Sheely was the roving relief manager / operator. I was still a college student just doing hourly work wherever I could pick up some work that fit my schedule, but I also did a lot of film and concession supply delivery which is how I got to know people at the other theatres. Those were great times to work in theatres and your little neighborhood chain was a good place to learn the trade before it became dominated by the big corporations and multiplexes and megaplexes of today.
You should take a look at the Sandy Springs page on this site. Barbara Gentry has posted some information about how her dad and you started the company. It is listed under the name Sandy Springs Theatre. Perhaps you could shine some light on the time when Sandy Springs went independent while the rest of the Mini Cinemas operated under a kind of co-op agreement with Storey before getting back together as Mini Cinemas.
Thanks again. I am still in this business after all of these years and many of my favorite memories are thanks to your company and the people I met there. Just this past weekend a group of retired managers, projectionists and friends from those days had our regular lunch and get together at the old Sandy Springs site which is now The Brickery restaurant.
This theatre is already listed on this site as the Franklin 3. It became part of the Weis chain in 1974 when Weis took over the mini cinema operation and changed the name to Cinema 75 to try to avoid the stigma of being located in what had become a very bad apartment heavy neighborhood. When Weis left Atlanta it was taken over by AMC who later sold it to an independent operator.
Cone, are you the son of, or perhaps the man, who started the mini cinema chain with Mr. Gentry?
A CT article today states that a company named Studio Movie Grill is going to open an Atlanta location. The website has a picture. Doesn’t look much like the old Roswell Mall location, but it might be this place. Or, maybe it is new construction. The website states that the name will be Holcombe Bridge.
Custer of the West played at the Martin Cinerama for one week starting on May 21, 1971. The theatre was named the Atlanta (Walter Reade) at that time, and it played on a double bill with Krakatoa with a big EAST Meets WEST angle for the newspaper ad. This was just a filler due to the fact that Derby bombed out after only one week.
I do not know if either or both of the prints were 70MM, so if they were only 35MM it would be true that Custer did not play in true Cinerama.
AS to the correct order of names in the history of Martin’s Cinerama, the full list is:
Atlanta (Walter Reade)
North Avenue Pres. parking lot.
Nope. Like you I was assuming that Jack meant indoor theatres, or as they say in the trades, walk in or hardtops.
The Starlight opened the south field in 1949 and the north in 1953. The south was closed for a while when the snack bar burned. The north closed a year later when it was split. Every winter one side or the other closes for the season, something I never understood the theory on. However, as far as I know, at least something has been open there since opening day although they close on Christmas Eve, and for the occasional power outage.
I no longer work there, at least regularly, but I did write a history of the place on its page here:
As for indoors, without looking at a list, I can think of the Grand, the Fox, Garden Hills / Fine Art, Plaza (if you count its XXX years), and the Lenox which might have been only 39 years 8 months. I hesitate to even go down this road because I know that people will start listing reasons why some of these places were not in continious operation. Even the Tara shut down once for two days when it was first twinned.
Maybe I should start off the previous paragraph with the words “Generally speaking….”
Most of the indoor theatres built during the 60’s lasted only 25 or so years at the most, some a lot less. I think that the shortest existance for a regular indoor theatre (as opposed to some of the XXX storefront operations) was the Atlantic, an Eastern Federal location on Memorial Drive in or near the Kirkwood area. It lasted only about 5 years.
“The Tara still holds the distinction of being the only theatre in the Atlanta area with more than forty years of continuous operation.”
Jack: I guess you mean among the theatres currently in operation. I know that we could both think of several that lasted more than 40 years that are now gone.
Correction on my first post:
Doctor Zhivago played at the Ritz during the fall of 1966 not 1965. I saw it for the second time on its final night of the run which was December 22, 1966. The next day, December 23 was the day I saw the Sound Of Music which I also mention in that post.
Thanks to Michael Coate for helping get the dates right.
I don’t know about the Barbie Couch, but the spinning chairs that looked like eggs were made in Europe, Belgium I believe. They might have been gone by the time you arrived. The alcove on the right near the front door was probably a game room in your day. In the ABC days it was a waiting area with very nice chairs where people could sit in peace and quiet while waiting for the previous show to end.
As I said, Phipps was first class in all respects when it first opened. You would never see that much square footage without some type of revenue source in a theatre lobby today.
Your employement dates indicate that you might have been there during the 70MM booking of Silverado. It was the last movie I saw at Phipps.
In an effort to get things back on topic, I will repeat what I said in my first post on this page. The Penthouse had 550 seats. Don’t know where the 100 came from. If you like you can look at my picture of the auditorium that Jack Corsey posted for me. You can almost count all of them from the booth prespective.
AMC Tower Place 6.
AMC (Unknown name, but probably Tower Place again.)
AMC Buckhead Backlot Cinema and Cafe.
AMC Fork and Screen.
All of these names are the same theatre, namely this one.
There was never any Tower Place 6 theatre, AMC or otherwise, in Alpharetta on or near the site of the current AMC Mansell Crossing. That must be an error on the AMC site. That 1990 closing date probably refers to the year AMC first sublet this place to an independent operator. They just thought they were done with the place then. As you can see, they have left and come back a couple of times.
I am sure that they wanted to shut it down when they opened their 14 screen location at Phipps Plaza, less than a mile up the road, but maybe it was cheaper to run it than break the lease. Or maybe they find it useful as a testbed for different drafthouse style concepts.
If you mean the address listed above for the Mansell Crossing 14, it looks right to me. I have never been in this theatre, just driven by it a couple of times. Don’t see any reason why it should not be right. It is not the correct address for the theatre fromerly known as the Tower Place 6. That address is 3340 Peachtree Road, as it is listed on the CT page for AMC Buckhead Backlot, which is what the theatre was called when the page was started. I believe you have commented on that page.
Chuck started a page on a Tower Place 6, based on the incorrect info you cited from the AMC website. Its link is:
I have posted a more detailed and hopefully less complicated explanation of this whole issue there.
One more note on the post of 12/18/09 regarding the closing date of 1990. At least twice AMC has tried to bail out of this location. Both times independent operators tried to make a go of it as a dollar house. Both times they failed and AMC was back with a new name and concept. That 1990 closing date probably indicates the first time which was the end of the Tower Place name. Don’t know how it got listed as this address.
The information on the AMC website about a Tower Place 6 at this location is incorrect. The AMC Tower Place 6 is in Atlanta and is listed on this site as the AMC Buckhead Backlot Cinema and Cafe:
It is now called the AMC Fork and Spoon.
Before the construction of the AMC Mansell Crossing 14, and the whole North Point Mall development, this area was mostly farmland.
Thanks for that information Michael. Your research efforts never cease to amaze me. At least this time I caught my memory lapse before you had to point it out to me. This confirms to me that I saw Doctor Zhivago for the second time on the night of December 22, 1966, and then SOM the next afternoon.
This means that SOM played its reserved seat engagement for four months at the Eastwood Mall (not really that long compared to some of the engagements in comparable cities), left for 13 months, and then returned for four more months at the Ritz. This also means that it was the Christmas attraction at the Ritz that year. I hope they got another print quick as I can not imagine that one lasting for another four days much less four months.In all of my years of attending and working in movie theatres I have seen movies that looked worse, but never encountered anything like the breaks and delays of that SOM show, which is probably the reason I remember it so well.
The only time even close was when I was managing a theatre running Elephant Man with a defective print. The black and white emulsion started flaking off and jamming the gates to the point that by the end of the opening weekend, we were having 2 to 3 breaks a show. It got so bad that before the lights were dimmed I would make an announcement telling the sold out house what was going to happen and why. A few people took my advice to get a refund and try again the next weekend when we would have a new print, but most people were good natured about it. At least the projectionist was ready for trouble and we were back on screen quickly with minimum missing footage.
Bill: White Castle has made it as far south as Nashville, so I have tasted them. The only difference I could notice is that Krystal’s did not have holes and were, of course, much MUCH better. In those early to mid 60’s days, we would usually see a movie on Friday nights a couple of times a month. Usually as a family, but sometimes our parents would drop my older brother and me off at our movie and go see a more adult film at a different theatre. We would then meet at the Krystal when our movies were over. All of this was in about a 6 square block area, but now it is hard to imagine two boys ages 7 and 12 going to a downtown movie alone to say nothing of walking to the Krystal on a Friday night in downtown Birmingham, or anywhere else for that matter.
I guess movies were not the only things that were better about those days.
Michael: One more note on my last comment. The more I think about it the more I think that I have the date wrong. No suprise there is it? (Bob, I feel your pain.)
I know the Ritz engagement of SOM started the day after the end of the run of Doctor Zhivago. I attended the final performance of Zhivago and remember the marquee and lobby posters were changed when the movie ended. That is how I found out about SOM starting there the next day. Since I had never heard of Zhivago until we watched the Academy Awards the night SOM won, that means that the SOM engagement at the Ritz had to have been Christmas of 1966.
That would still put it ahead of some initial engagements of some notable cities, but not as outrageous as I first thought. Maybe some day you could do an article on Doctor Zhivago. I have a whole boatload of stories about that one.
Thanks Bill and Bob for the kind words. I always enjoy reading your posts on the Ziegfeld page. I got so engrossed in that discussion once that I made a trip to NYC to see one of the first Classic Series showings.
On the subject of the 70MM staffing question, I can only speak for the practice here in Atlanta. In the 60’s theatres with IATSE contracts had a choice of paying two operators for 70MM showings or pay time and a half for one man. This also applied to 35MM runs of reserved seat engagements. The last time I recall this coming into play was in April of 1973 at the Atlanta Theatre when they ran the 70MM reissue of This Is Cinerama. That was also the only time I ever saw the time and a half for one man option used.
Michael: I have a Birmingham note to add. Your research shows that SOM played at the Eastwood Mall for 17 weeks starting in July of 1965 which would take it up to around Thanksgiving. I recall that I saw it again at the downtown Ritz Theatre during Christmas holidays. I think this was just a filler until the Christmas attraction for the Ritz started. I do not recall it being a moveover since there was a break between the engagements. I described that showing in my post on the Ritz page: /theaters/9396/
I see your list did not mention this engagement. Do you think there were any runs of this nature during Christmas of 1965 which was prior to many cities getting a booking. I am pretty sure this was 1965 since I recall it being shortly after the Eastwood run ended. Of course I am going on my memory here, and you of all people know what can happen when I start doing that.
Bill: Please help keep Vito’s blood pressure down. Don’t get him going on the console thing again.
Thanks Michael for another one of your exercises in research. I have always enjoyed your efforts to list the movies that played in certain theatres and what theatres played some notable movies.
For me, SOM was one of those watershed movies that opened up a whole new area of interest, namely musicals, just like The Longest Day did for war movies and Doctor Zhivago did for historical drama. I can remember the day I first saw SOM like it was yesterday. I still have my reserved seat ticket stub from the Eastwood Mall Theatre in Birmingham with its SOM logo printed on it. The date has faded, but it was a Friday, October 13th I think, 1965. 2 PM showing. I was 13, and even in those days we had teacher work days, just not as many as they do now. My mother offered to take me out to lunch and then all the way out to Eastwood Mall to see the movie. Going to Eastwood, which was a long way on the other side of Birmingham in those pre expressway days, was always a treat since it was one of the first enclosed malls in the southeast.
I fell in love with everything about this movie that day. The beautiful picture, impressive locations, wonderful music, and an entertaining story really made it a day to remember. On the way home we picked my dad up at work, and I could not wait to tell him about my day. He did his parental duty and listened, then told me that he was happy I enjoyed the movie, but he would pass on it. O well. He was a Georgia Tech man who five years later would be paying for me to earn a liberal arts degree, so SOM was not the only thing we did not have in common. The next day, he did take me to the local Woolworths so I could buy the record, my first movie soundtrack. It still sits on my shelf to this day. Shortly after that was another first, a return visit to see the movie again. I remember seeing the same movie twice, but usually as the co feature at the drive in. This was the first time I returned to see a movie during the same engagement.
This was a great time to be starting an interest in movies. Titles such as the three I mentioned above plus Lawrence, Goldfinger, Thunderball, Man For All Seasons, Mary Poppins, and McLintock made movies hard to resist.
Like countless others, I have seen SOM many times over the years. In the late 60’s it made a final round of neighborhood theatres in Atlanta, where I was living by then, with the tag “Going Out Of Release Until 1973.” In late 1971, about the time I started working in theatres, there was word that Fox was hurting for money and was considering bringing SOM back a year early. However, French Connection bailed them out and the big reissue took place in April 1973. By this time, the Martin Cinerama in downtown Atlanta had been sold to the Walter Reade Org. and been renamed The Atlanta. This magnificent theatre with its 70MM Cinerama projectors, deeply curved screen, and plush appointments had run SOM in its premiere release for 90 weeks. In addition it had run 3 strip Brothers Grimm, HTWWW, and 70MM IAMMMMW and 2001, as well as musicals such as Thoroughly Modern Millie, Mary Poppins, Camelot, Fiddler On The Roof, Man Of La Mancha, and even Goodbye Mr. Chips. But times had changed and it was now preparing for a run of the third Ginger movie, Girls Are For Loving, to be followed by Super Fly TNT. Needless to say, SOM would not be returning to its Atlanta home.
Martins suburban Cinerama house, the Georgia Cinerama got the honor. Not as big or plush as the downtown theatre, it did have the 70MM projectors and curved Cinerama screen. They had a 12 week run of packed houses before the picture was pulled in July and sent on a wider “intermediate” break. By this time the thrill of The Atlanta had faded and I was working at the Sandy Springs Theatre which got one of the intermediate bookings. For five weeks I had the pleasure of seeing this show as much as I liked, and on slow nights would prop the auditorium doors open so I could listen along as I worked. I was sure sorry when it had to go to make room for that next big Fox hit, Neptune Factor.
Within five years the video revolution had begun, and one of the first movies I bought to play in my $1200 RCA Selectavision VCR was a pan and scan copy of SOM from that producer of incredibly fuzzy, grainy, movies, the Magnetic Video Corp. I swear the thing looked like it was filmed in 8MM aimed at a screen showing a 16MM print. However, thinking that this was the ultimate in technology, I was happy to have it.
In the early 80’s a 70MM print of SOM showed up at the Rhodes Theatre which in better days had premiered such hits as West Side Story, Lawrence of Arabia, and Sand Pebbles, to say nothing of Darling Lilly. As a payback for that great afternoon 16 years earlier, I took my mother to see it, and then again a couple of months later when the same print showed up as part of the Fox Theatre summer film series.
In 1984, I passed through Saltzburg Austria, and spent a day seeing all of the SOM sites. I was impressed with how compact the city is and how many of the buildings and landmarks from the movie can be seen from one spot. The magic of film angles and editing made the place look much bigger. Even more so, the church where the wedding scene was filmed was amazingly small. I have photographed many places where movies scenes have been filmed over the years, but the one that hangs on my wall is a picture of my mother standing in front of the fountain where Julie Andrews and the children were dancing, with the castle in the background.
In the 90’s I started working in the projection booth of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, and twice have had the pleasure of running SOM. In fact, that is the only time I have run this picture as a projectionist. The last time, I had finished inspecting the film for the next day, and had the chance to relax and watch the last hour or so. Sitting on the window sill of the spotlight booth, looking out over a packed house of over 4000 people, it was impossible for me not to think back to that day about 30 years earlier when I first saw SOM and started a life long love affair with movies and theatres.