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This is an interesting theatre. I worked at all of the General Cinema Theatres in Atlanta and I am familiar with all of the Georgia and South Carolina locations and I have never known one to be located in anything other than a purpose built location. It was always either a new free standing building or part of a new shopping center.
The 70MM projector was probably a Cinnemaccanica Victoria 8. All of the comments here seem to indicate that this location was equipped the same as two Atlanta locations opened at that time, the Merchants Walk 8 in 1986 and the Parkside 8 in 1987. They also had the single THX / 70MM house. The only 70MM to play there were Far and Away and Dick Tracy.
When Gcc closed down, Merchants Walk was taken over by Georgia Theatre Company and converted to stadium seating. However, the Parkside had a history much like this one. In fact, the current operator has also just removed the original seating and put in recliners. The seat count in the large auditoriums dropped from 340 to 133.
That story may be exaggerated somewhat, but it is what I was told. Actually, it makes some sense. GTC never met a theatre that it considered too small to build or twin. The final incarnation of the Lenox Square Theatre, their pride and joy, had two theatres in what had once been the lobby of the original #1 house. They seated 110 and 118 respectively and had such tiny screens that the sides of the scope picture and the top and bottom of the flats were cut off.
GTC had an odd habit of buying up theatres that they really had no use for just to keep the competition from getting them. In the 10 years or so that I worked for them this happened four times. The theatres were the Loew’s Parkaire, the Garden Hills, the Georgia Cinerama (Georgia Twin on this site) and this one. In each case there was a successful GTC nearby that they wanted to protect, in this case, South DeKalb.
While they were willing to buy and operate them that did not mean that they were willing to compete with their own locations or operate them at a loss. I had forgotten until I looked up its page that the Septum started out as a four, but when word got out that it was on the way, that is when GTC started to look to get out. Having Conyers to yourself (except for the Moonlit) was one thing, but they were not interested in trying to operate Salem Gate against a brand new quad.
I doubt that GTC would ever have put in the type of money involved to quad the Salem, but it made for a good story. And, since Septum ended up buying it, maybe it is true. Now, maybe someone can tell me why GTC never bought the Candler Twin.
I can not say for sure when this location closed, but it was probably later than 1964. Cobb Theatres took over the operation of the Waters Drive Ins and their only indoor, the Eastwood Mall in the late 60’s.
Dennis: I actually have a copy of the opening day issue of the Atlanta Times. I hope those people in the picture got their fill of movies quick because I do not think that the Times lasted even a year.
Evan, can you shed any light on the Septum connection to this location:
The Birmingham Rewound website has blessed us with this page:
It is the program for the grand opening of the Eastwood Mall Theatre. Among other revelations, it shows that I was wrong in my first comment where I wrote that the theater was opened by Cobb Theaters. It was opened by Newman Waters who operated most of the Birmingham area drive ins including the Starlite Drive In which was located adjacent to the mall. The Waters family was also the developer of Eastwood Mall.
The opening of the theater took place on Christmas Day 1964 at 2PM, and the feature was “The Pleasure Seekers” starring Ann-Margaret.
Thanks Josh. My second hand story told to me by someone who was not there at the time was that AMC took over the old Cineplex and expanded it to an 8. He did not know if they just split the auditoriums or expanded the space. They certainly expanded it when they went to 16.
I hope the CT people will leave the pages as they are. Market Square should qualify as a different theater and have its own page. Otherwise they might just list it as an AKA on this page. The problem with that as with many other locations on this site is that the search engine does not recognize AKA names so anyone typing in the former names gets a no listing found message.
You are absolutely correct Joe. I don’t know why I did not notice that. Not only that but there are not one but two pages for the current AMC 16 and to make matters worse I actually commented on one of them, something I have no recollection of. Guess that is what too many hours of listening to film click through the gates does to your mind. I never worked at any of these theaters and never was inside the quad or the 16, so my only information comes from my memory of the newspaper ads (back when there were ads in the paper) and talking to someone who once ran the booth for AMC.
Raymond Stewart is pretty knowledgeable about theater history in Atlanta and he seems to think that the space of the Cineplex was incorporated into the AMC. Maybe Josh can confirm this one way or the other. In the meanwhile I will let someone else clean up the mess regarding the duplicate pages and the question of having a separate page for the Market Square. While I only know a little of the history of the theater on this page, I know nothing dependable about the other two.
Maybe I should spend my time checking to see if there are any other rogue comments of mine out there.
Dennis: Thank you for posting that picture. I have never seen a view of the theater from the Martin days. That group standing in front is too large to be the theater staff I would think. Do you know who it is?
Josh, thank you for the correction. Since I have not attended a movie at North DeKalb Mall since Freebie And The Bean in March of 1975, when the theater on this page was still a single, I will yield to your superior knowledge. Actually, all of my information regarding Cineplex and AMC came from a conversation with an employee of the AMC 16.
If I am correct about the CT policy, the Cineplex quad should have its own page separate from this one and the AMC 16 since it occupied a different space even though it is in the same mall. Just like the two Phipps Plaza theaters have their own page.
Like most first generation malls, North DeKalb underwent a rebuild in the mid 80’s. The theater wing was torn down and what stores of the original mall were left were remodeled as was the surviving mall area. (The theater was never actually part of the mall but had an outside entrance just outside the southern entrance to the mall area.) The Cineplex quad that was located in a newly built area on the west side of the mall was not officially one of their “Jewel Box” designs but looked a lot like them.
It was at this point that the mall was renamed Market Square probably because the mall was located in almost dead center DeKalb County and had two newer malls located to the north within the county limits. When it was built as the Atlanta areas first enclosed mall in the early 60’s it may have been located in the northern part of the population map, but by the mid 80’s it was central DeKalb in all respects. Some marketing expert probably came up with the new name which did not last long. Everyone likely to shop there knew where North DeKalb Mall was and before long the name was changed back to North DeKalb.
I do not know how long Cineplex stayed there, but I would guess that it was at the same time that they closed their Jewel Box theaters which were all 6plexes that AMC took over this location. I think that it was still a quad then and AMC increased it to eight. Later they doubled it again to 16. To answer you question Dennis, the Cineplex quad was located somewhere within the footprint of the existing AMC 16.
PS: Thanks Dennis for that great picture you posted on the Suburban Plaza page.
An ad from the Birmingham News on June 20th 1975 shows the Midfield in the Cobb Theaters ad. Midfield 1 was playing Race With The Devil and Midfield 2 was playing Cornbread, Earl, and Me on a double bill with Sheba Baby. That program was also playing downtown at the Melba. At least Midfield 1 was not running the same program as the Empire which was That Man Bolt, Trick Baby, and Willie Dynamite.
Thank you for posting this theater so quickly. I have found an address in the 1967 Birmingham phone book of 185 Bessemer Super Highway 35228. The shopping center at this address is now called Weibel Square. The Google overhead view shows what I think is the theater location. It is a grassy lot at the south end of the center closest to the Highway with a new building taking up part of the space. If the header can be changed to this address it should also self correct the city. It should be Birmingham since Blountsville is a small town well to the northeast of Birmingham.
Thank you Walter for that well written and informative comment. I am only occasional visitor to NYC but I used to work for Loew’s and Walter Reade so I enjoy following the comments for these NYC theatres. Although I am sure it was old news to New Yorkers I enjoyed the article in the Post that you linked to as well as a link in the article about some of the long gone NYC theatres.
Atlanta has done even worse than New York when it comes to plowing under its theatre history and replacing it with the slick megaplexes of today. One survivor which might be of interest to followers of this page is the old Martin Rialto which is almost an exact duplicate of the Ziegfeld. Since it was built in 1962 you could even say the Ziegfeld is a copy of the Rialto.
On the Rialto page are some photos from which anyone who has attended the Ziegfeld can see the resemblence. There are also photos of the Rialto today in its role as the performing arts center for Georgia State University.
I think that the theatre was twinned on May 2, 1975. Mike, if you can confirm that and make a correction I will delete this post.
Mike, this is probably from the year 1975. YF was a Christmas 1974 release and Strongest Man was winter of 1975. Also, Martin started to use that font in 1973 or so. Thanks for your efforts in loading all of these ads for us to enjoy.
The Birmingham Rewound website has a lot of movie ads in their “This Month In History” feature. In the one for March of 1977 there is an ad for a company called Bowie Theatres. Among their listings was one for the Ritz which was playing Woodstock one show per night at 8PM. ABC was still in town running the Alabama, Roebuck, and Bessemer Twin, so apparently they had disposed of the Ritz before they sold out to Plitt, which soon sold out to Cobb.
They have also reproduced an article from the Birmingham News from 1967 announcing that ABC had hired a director of promotions to promote the upcoming opening of “The Bible.” It stated that she would be working out of the ABC offices in the Ritz theatre.
Regarding Ed’s comment of 8/7/14: I was in this visitors center in 2006 when I was last in NYC. I was there to attend one of the classic series the Ziegfeld was running in those days. I could tell that this used to be a movie theatre because the one sheet frames were still in the entrance. The visitors center itself was i what I thought at the time was the old theatre lobby. However, I found out later that area was actually the auditorium itself, and if the seat count is correct even that must have been a tight fit. It was certainly not one of the movie palaces like the State or Rivoli.
Looking at the Google picture at the top of this page, the two signs on the front of the building are for an ethnic supermarket and the Chop Suey Inn. A website called hsvmovies.com has some basic information on many Birmingham area theatres. Its listing for Green Springs shows that this location opened as a quad on February 25, 1971. The opening features were Joe, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Tora, Tora, Tora, and Paint Your Wagon.
It gives a closing date of between 1990 and 1992.
To Ed Solero regarding your post in March of 2013: I finally got around to writing a comment on the page for the Suburban Plaza Theater:
In it you will find some information, hopefuly accurate, about the Martin chain and how they dabbled in Cinerama and first run theatres before retreating to their old small town roots.
Thanks for those screen shots which are nice reminders of those eight years or so.
Several of the Birmingham area drive in pages list Waters as the operator or owner before they sold out to Cobb in 1968.
I attended this theater several times, mostly for the type of summer kiddie show that would charge a minimal ticket or more likely six Coke bottle caps for admission. In other words they were in the snack bar business on those mornings. The program would consist of cartoons, a short, and a feature. The only title I can remember of all of those was “Onionhead” with Andy Griffith. On those mornings my mother, or one of the other neighborhood mothers would drop off a carload of us single digit age children and then be waiting at the curb a couple of hours later to pick us up. (We would also attend shows like this downtown at the Alabama although on those occasions there would usually be an older sibling, maybe 13 or 14 in charge.) Then it was home for lunch and an afternoon of play or maybe helmetless bike riding. A different era for sure.
The only regular night time feature I recall seeing here was “Sink The Bismarck.” Ocassionally the four big first run downtown theaters, the Alabama, Ritz, Empire, and Melba would be booked up and a first run feature would open at the Homewood, or even the Shades Mountain Drive In, also a Waters theater.
I can vaguely recall when this place closed up and 1963 seems about right. I do remember being shocked that a movie theater would close up. I had no idea what was in store for me in this respect. Of the dozens of theaters I worked in during my 40 or so years in this business there are only two still operating and very few of the closed ones are still standing.
One odd thing about this location is that when it closed it became a Schwinn Bicycle store, as mentioned above. I was also the owner of a bike from this store, my Christmas present in 1964. It is no longer Schwinn, if they even make those anymore, but it is still a bike store. That means that in its 80 or so years of existence this building has served only two roles: A movie theatre for about 30 and a bike shop for the last 50 or so.
Built by the Martin Theatre Company in 1964 as the Eastgate. The shopping center and theatre soon underwent a name change to Suburban Plaza, probably because there was already an Eastgate Shopping Center on Columbia Drive near I-20. It opened in January 1965 on the same day as the Village and the Westgate Twin. Premiere feature was “Those Callaways.”
This was a time of big change for the Martin Company. Long a dominant presence in small towns across the southeast, it seems that in the late 50’s they decided to enter the big city first run market. The vehicle for this entry was to be the 3 strip Cinerama format which had started in 1952 and seemed to be gaining momentum entering the 60’s. Martin built at least four large and very plush theatres designed with Cinerama in mind. The ones in Seattle, St. Louis, and New Orleans were new construction while the one in Atlanta was a makeover of the old Tower Theatre.
In the Atlanta area there had been a Martin presence next door in Cobb County which in those days was not considered part of the Atlanta metro area. They had several drive ins and the indoor Strand on the Marietta square and the Belmont in the Belmont Hills Shopping Center in Smyrna. In 1960 they purchased the old Rialto just down the street from the Loew’s Grand. They soon tore it down and rebuilt it as a beautiful 1200 seat first run showplace. The Tower, located next to the Fox in midtown was completely rebuilt and became the 3 strip Martin Cinerama. When it became apparent that 3 strip was on its way out, Martin moved up I-85 to North Druid Hills Road and built a 70MM single strip Cinerama house and named it the Georgia Cinerama. After this, is seems that they decided there was a future in the suburban second run business and they opened the Village, Eastgate (Suburban Plaza), and Westgate Twin.
I was not living in Atlanta then so I do not know how these neighborhood theatres fared, but about 1968 Martin obviously had a change of heart. This may have been the time that the company was aquired by Fuqua, but regardless, they came to the conclusion that they were on the wrong track. They disposed of the four Martin Cineramas. The one in Atlanta which was notable for its 90 week run of The Sound Of Music, went to Walter Reade. (All of these theatres have pages on CT.) They kept the downtown Rialto and the Georgia Cinerama, but the Strand, Belmont, Village, Suburban, and Westgate were purchased by Georgia Theatre Company which operated them for the rest of their days. I do not recall exactly when they were closed but comments on some of their pages indicate the mid to late 80’s.
As far as this location is concerned I never saw it until 1974. I had worked for GTC during college and after graduation went to work for them full time until I could find a job more in line with my post college plans. They sent me to the Village as assistant manager and then added a couple of days at the Suburban Plaza as relief manager. This was during the summer of ‘74 and the only two movies that I can recall from my Suburban days are SPY*S and Born Losers. Neither was much of a hit and this 700 seat house was never even half full during any of my time here.
In the meantime, the Village, which had been twinned in the spring of ‘74 was doing great business. The extra screen not only added business but allowed the bookers to commit to the longer runs that were required to get the better bookings. In October of '74 the Suburban was closed for three weeks and twinned in an identical manner. The booth lost its 6000’ reels and gained two first generation Christie Autowind Two platters. I do not recall anything else being done to the theatre then or at any other time.
Business improved but never to the point of what the Village did. Having the North DeKalb a couple of miles away and the Scott Drive In just around the corner cut down on the choice of bookings. In 1976, General Cinema opened the Northlake 2 Triple next door to the Village and pretty soon that theatre was in the same condition as Suburban. Both locations went through the dollar house stage and I think that was their situation when they closed.
Suburban was demolished and a Winn-Dixie grocery store was built just in front of its footprint with the back loading dock area occupying the old theatre spot. I was by the site in 2006 and found that the grocery store had been demolished and a small strip of retail stores built in its place. I have not been there since, but I have heard that a Wal-Mart Supercenter is planned for that location and the entire shopping center might be gone by now. Other that these memories, the only notable thing that I remember about the Suburban Plaza Theatre is that it was and still is the only theatre I ever worked in where there was a lawn mower parked behind the screen and where the manager had the duty of cutting the grass around the building.
I think that this location was built by the Septum chain in 1983. At that time they were starting to build their own locations instead of picking up old Jerry Lewis locations. I think that the Memorial Drive 4 was their first build followed by this one then Holcomb Woods 6 then Memorial Drive 6. At some point during that time they also built a quad in Griffin.
I think that this location was built about 1970. I first recall seeing it from I-20 on my way to college in Milledgeville in 1972. It must have had some sort of independent ownership. It would occasionally place ads in the Atlanta paper, but always stand alone or CAP. Never part of a a chain. Around 1982 it was purchased by Georgia Theatre Company. I remember the time because I was working at South DeKalb at the time and they peeled off several of my good employees who lived in Conyers and sent them here.
A couple of years later it was acquired by the Septum chain. I thought this odd since Septum was in the process of building the Conyers 8. The story I heard from the GTC office was they wanted to get rid of Salem Gate and tried to sell it to Septum but were turned down. GTC then informed Septum that if they did not want it then they were going to double it to a quad and compete for all first run product. Septum bought it and soon closed it down, but I think that it was re-opened at least once under independent ownership.
There is an Evan Busman whose father Bob owned the Septum chain who comments on this site occasionally on Septum Theatre pages. Maybe he can ad some more detail.
Thanks for that information CJ. Being a twin it could very well have been a JL. There were several JL theatres in Atlanta so that is all that I have to go by to make this comparison. In the picture above, the lobby looks huge compared to the JL’s here. Also, all of ours were either in free standing buildings or part of a strip shopping center. We never had one in a mall. Doesn’t mean that it could not be the case as that sort of thing would probably be up to the franchise. As long as the fees were paid I doubt if the JL Corp. cared about that sort of thing.
Being located in a mall, it might have avoided the fate of almost all JL theatres, that is serving time as a soft core porno house. The Buford Highway Twin in the Atlanta area still serves that purpose today after almost 50 years of operation.