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This is an amazing compilation of information. I knew you worked on the project extensively, Michael, but all of this is beyond impressive. Thanks.
Thanks everyone for the Storey North DeKalb information, some of which clarifies and corrects my comments. A summer 1965 opening for the theatre would be on target, although the BOXOFFICE dates should be taken with a grain of salt. As with most magazines, the publication dates would often be after readers had the pages in their hands. I do recall LORD JIM at the theatre and it feels right as the opening film. I have the recollection it was also playing at Storey’s Rhodes at the same time.
The 900 seats matter feels a bit inflated, as theatres often do. I’m thinking the total was closer to 850 seats. For years, the mall marquee at the front entrance of the parking lot said, I believe, “850 Rocking Chair Seats” from the theatre’s opening until the twinning.
I had forgotten the Cineplex Odeon incarnation. Never went there because it was a Cineplex Odeon.
I concur about more movies.
And I could use the work.
I was told by theatre personnel that the first 70mm to play at the Thunderbird was PATTON (1970), probably on the first drive-in availability. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the only 70mm.
My first experience with Norelco projectors was at the Thunderbird. I was called as fill-in projectionist during an emergency situation. I had the guy from the previous night thread the first reel for me before he left, so I could observe when I arrived the next evening. Norelco machines were not user-friendly or especially intuitive. I also ran them at the old Georgia CINERAMA, after the twinning, and that was a mess of problems. I dreaded being cooped up with those machines.
Swell photos, Alonzo, but I’m not sure if the SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954) and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (1955) picture is from Atlanta. There were at least 10 Thunderbird Drive-ins across the USA. My memory is the Atlanta one opened circa 1962. I was in grade school, so I’m somewhat fuzzy on it.
I do recall in the early years, there were dusk-to-dawn shows each Friday and Saturday nights, usually four features, not necessarily themed together. One new one and three oldies.
If she wasn’t impressed, she should have been.
I hope you got to take the Edsel to see THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN.
I worked for WFOM Radio in Marietta for two periods between 1974 and 1980. I wrote and announced the commercials for the Martin Drive-ins in the area, 75 spots each weekend. The Georgia, Smyrna, and Marbro Twin were all operational in early 1980 when I left the station. I remained in the area, but don’t recall these theatres' specific closings. We did see STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN at the Marbro in June, 1982, our last visit to any of the locations.
Ooo, you beat me to it, Sharples. I was actually scouting the Georgia and Martin Drive-in locations yesterday afternoon, when I recognized the error. I had intended to post a correction to my fuzzy sense of directions here. Apologies to The Big Chicken.
I moved to Marietta in 1974. This drive-in was not there at the time. The property was adjacent to Town and Country Shopping Center, which housed a newish Eastern Federal indoor twin, literally backing up to the Martin property. I saw BLAZING SADDLES in the twin on opening day of its release. New London Square was up and running on the drive-in’s real estate, as I recall.
The Georgia Drive-in was operational less than a mile down the road, past I-75 at Hwy 41, diagonally across the road from legendary The Big Chicken.
The Smyrna Drive-in was still going in the Fair Oaks area.
The Marbro Twin Drive-in in nearby Austell was thriving. Martin’s last built drive-in in Cobb County.
I’m only recently learning of the Martin Drive-in, but I know where it was located and will be going to check it out for “after” photos. New London Square is essentially an amphitheatre in its terrain. The Martin screen was on the road at the top edge of the property. The stores are downhill on the edges.
I have reason to believe the Martin was operational before 1956 and before the 1953-54 CinemaScope era, but it’s a hunch at this point.
The above dates are enlightening and fascinating, suggesting to me that after nearly two continuous years in Atlanta, THE SOUND OF MUSIC was essentially played out. There never was a saturation neighborhood indoors/drive-ins break on the film, only a few locations at a time. By comparison, Don Knotts' 1966 THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN opened simultaneously in two dozen Atlanta area theatres. They craved product.
It is amazing that the movie took 3.5 years to play in Atlanta drive-ins and only a smattering of those. The bookings after the drive-ins in the summer of 1968 appear to be of no rhyme or reason, so that means filler time. As was/is true of GONE WITH THE WIND, if your theatre has an open week, THE SOUND OF MUSIC is a safe bet to turn a few bucks.
I do recall the two bookings at the Emory when I worked there and they were fillers.
Nice, Stan — and Michael for your referenced research article. My lonely goatherd thanks you.
I can more or less confirm the North DeKalb and Lakewood playdates were exclusive, unless the movie was in the Marietta/Cobb County area at the same time. In those days, that area of metro Atlanta was considered a separate market. That said, I’m sure you would have noticed and reported such, Stan.
This two theatre intermediate run was an example of a then recent trend in the Atlanta market. Some major films would get an exclusive suburban window between the first-run engagements, usually downtown, and the mass neighborhood hardtops/drive-ins blast. For examples, earlier BORN FREE and THE GREAT RACE runs at the North DeKalb (and, I believe, Lakewood) followed their Fox and Rialto first-runs and then on to the remainders.
My fuzzy memory is THE SOUND OF MUSIC rested for a few months, after the Lakewood-North DeKalb showcase, before hitting the neighborhoods in the summer of 1967.
In those mid-‘60s days in the suburban theatres, even two or three-week runs would seem long. It was a newish phenomenon in the Atlanta market, still largely single screen operations.
I was surprised to learn THE SOUND OF MUSIC ran as long as 10 weeks at the Lakewood, but Michael Coate is a fine researcher of theatrical information and that cements it for me. That extended length of the run was probably contractual before the picture opened and not necessarily based on the ticket revenues.
Working for Storey Theatres in those early years of the Lakewood, I remember quite well the in-house scuttlebutt was that the Lakewood was considered an underachiever and disappointment financially and seldom matched their North DeKalb location, although the pair would often be playing the same product on any given date.
Ten weeks was a very long run in those days, but no way it went a year, second run, even at this new theatre. This was the same suburban break with sister theatre, North DeKalb. I was borrowed from the Emory to work the concession stand and usher at the North DeKalb during THE SOUND OF MUSIC throughout the Christmas holidays. Phenomenal, sold-out business, show after show (850 seats), but no year-long run there either.
Cool, Dennis. Glad to see the SHARKY’S MACHINE. I was in the booth that night. A close-up of my hand was on PM MAGAZINE. Ha.
Bob, I can assure you after his 30-plus years of battling and improving the troublesome movie acoustics of the Fox, there is no one more knowledgeable than our friend on the peculiar necessities and temperament of the room, plus the optimum tuning of the related projection and sound equipment. Fast is not necessarily best.
Bob, I have met your father, but it was a brief handshake back in the ‘80s. I’m grateful he did the 70mm lugging, not me.
I work with Scott these days. Running movies at the Fox has gotten complicated with the prep and split-second mix of old and new technologies, ever-changing formats, sing-alongs, computers, and directing stagehands. It’s fun, stressful, and hectic.
I am your union brother and a long-time projectionist at the Fox. I’ve been perusing your Fox Theatre Scrapbook and it is The Mother Lode! I have been looking for some of this stuff since going to work there in 1978. Keep it coming, PLEASE.
P.S. I think I’ve met the cuspidors!
Impressive, Michael and everyone. Thanks for sharing.
I posted my memories of the first days of JAWS in Atlanta and Wilmington. Also, a photo of the Atlanta Fox for the recent 35th anniversary showing.
Well, gee, um, thanks, Stan. Here are the specific, permanent links to my trilogy of articles on working the projection booth at the Fox.
“100 Things About Me #170: Fabulous Fun"
“Fox: In the Box"
“Back to the Fab: Bygones With ‘The Wind’"
Looking at your impressive research, it would appear the last movie I projected to the general public at the Fox before my recent comeback for “Gone With the Wind” was — ta da! — “Gone With the Wind” in 1998. I did show a private function screening of the original “War of the Worlds” in 35mm around that time, however.
Of course, you and I and others showed the English translation “supertitles” slides alongside the live Atlanta Opera performances for years to come.
Oh, that employees' 10 cents per cup coffee machine you mentioned (above) was 35 cents a couple of weeks ago. So much for historic preservation at the Fox!
You are absolutely correct about the inflating of seating capacities by theatres, but it most commonly done by the film bookers who flat-out lie to the distributors in order to acquire the movies on the first wave of availability. Then, the bookers instruct the managers to lie, too! And they do.
Thanks for the opening date.
The seating capacity as of 1963 was 492. I counted them myself on several occasions. There was every indication the seats were the originals and the floor plan had not been altered. All logical space in the auditorium was seated and tightly packed.
My friend, who was the Emory’s projectionist from the early 1950s, verified no changes in his era.
All new seating arrived in the summer of 1968, reducing the capacity to about 450.
Thanks for the update. My memory is refreshed and your facts appear correct. They also support my sense that I worked my day for George Ellis later than 1976, around 1980.
I have another Ansley Mall MiniCinema memory. This would have occurred in 1970, shortly after I turned 18. I attended a first-run screening of “Trader Hornee,” an X-rated spoof of the MGM classic, complete with stock footage, as I recall. The movie was extremely lame and was filled with simulated sex. Nevertheless, it was X-rated and I definitely had the sense none of us in the audience should have been there.
When I exited the auditorium at the end of the movie, two of the righteous youth ministers from my church were working their dates on the last row.
Nope, the theatre staggered on until, at least, 1985, when film historian Frank Thompson and I attended a screening of Alan Rudolph’s “Trouble in Mind.” That may or may not have been the final movie I saw in the place, but it was shuttered soon thereafter.
If my memory serves, George Lafont operated the Film Forum in its final years. In the end, I fuzzily recall an adjacent store acquired the theatre for retail space.
Here are three distinct memories of the location.
I saw a double feature of “You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man” and “My Little Chickadee” from new 35mm prints. Those began my lifelong obsession with Fields, so it’s no wonder I returned on opening night for the next program of “The Bank Dick” and “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.” It was New Year’s Eve. Every seat was filled. There were two film breaks during the opening titles of “The Bank Dick.” I was in a panic I would not get to see the movie.
I had even arrived at the theatre before the management’s last minute appearance on the premises. I remember I was worried the shows had been cancelled. The movies did run and the crowd was very enthusiastic. What a great week in my life.
In those early ‘70s years, George Ellis did the impossible in the Atlanta film community. He managed to make NIGHTLY midnight shows possible and successful. There would be a great array of older films, like “Harold and Maude” and the Woody Allens, and for only one dollar. The midnights became so popular, they supported the theatre, which often struggled during prime time with esoteric titles. And I believe 2 a.m. movies were offered on weekends at some point.
As a favor, I worked only one day as projectionist in the Film Forum for Ellis, which I related in my story you so nicely linked to. (Thanks!) It was probably in 1976. I remember being shocked to discover I had to make print splices with one-inch Scotch tape, not the special heavy-duty tape properly required. Anything to save money with Mr. Ellis.
Thanks for the description of the fire, David. My experiences and employment in the Emory spanned 1958-1973. The first movie I saw there was DON’T GO NEAR THE WATER with Glenn Ford and the final one was a midnite run of Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR. (I raced over from the North DeKalb, where I was the projectionist, after the last show.) I estimate I saw more than 500 films in the Emory.
I’ve long regretted I wasn’t there for the fire. It was like losing a family member.
I believe you are confusing the Peachtree Art with the Peachtree Playhouse, which was across the street and belonged to a women’s organization. Theatre of the Stars, a live production company, staged some of their plays in the Playhouse during the ‘60s and '70s. I was in it as late as April, 1978, when my wife to be and I saw BAREFOOT IN THE PARK with Lyle Waggoner, Molly Picon, and Lou Jacobi. It was our first date.
The Peachtree Playhouse was a small venue, probably in the neighborhood of 300-400 seats. I also saw EQUUS, which, believe it or not, may have actually starred Paul Michael Glaser.