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There is a private commercial directory published in 1965 that lists the Auto Movies No. 1. It does not give a street, only Bessemer Super Highway, but it does list the owner as a Louis Worthington of Bessemer. This link:
will take you to the Birmingham Rewound “This Month In History” page for August 1967. Scroll down to the movie section and you will see an ad for the Auto Movies. It is just a small one column, one inch ad, between Divorce American Style and Gnome Mobile. This ad, and the one above it for the THC Drive In ran for years in the Birmingham paper.
This location must have done pretty well in this industrial working class area which was dependent on the mining of TCI and the steel mills. In 1966, another drive in, the Bama opened just down the highway, and a modern indoor, the Midfield just up the road across from the new Western Hills Mall.
The Bama Drive In was probably opened in 1966. It is not in the 1965 phone book but does show up in the one for 1967. This link:
will take you to the Birmingham Rewound “This Month In History” page for August 1967. Half way down, in the movie section are a couple of ads for the Bama grouping it with other drive ins operated by the Newman Waters Theater Company. A year or so later, Waters locations were taken over by the R.C. Cobb company.
Brighton is one of the many small towns located along an arc that runs from SW to NE above Birmingham starting with Bessemer and ending in Irondale that owe their existence to the mining and steel industry that was beginning to fade out by the mid 60’s. Many of them are still incorporated and given the growth of Birmingham and especially Bessemer, which is right next door to Brighton, it is hard to tell when you are leaving one city and entering another.
About a mile up US 11 / Bessemer Super Highway, was the much older Auto Movies #1, and just beyond that another mid 60’s build, the Midfield indoor theater. From the looks of the overhead, the trailer park next door is still there, now nicely covered in trees.
Thank you for your interesting comment. Information like that makes wading through all of the clutter on this site worthwhile. A privately published Birmingham commercial directory from 1965 lists the THC drive in and shows the owners to be Jack and Mary Borders. Do those names ring a bell?
This is a link to an article on the career of Bob Endres, the long time lead projectionist at RCMH and contributor to this page. Lots of interesting stories for projectionists as well as Music Hall buffs. Well worth taking a few minutes to read. Thanks Bob.
PS: I have been to the Lake Theater.
Consolidated Theaters opened this location in competition to the four year old Hoover Twin which was built by ABC and was by then operated by Cobb. According to the hsvmovies.com website the opening features were The Toy, 48 Hours, American Gigolo, Ridgemont High, and Dragonslayer. That is only five so maybe they interlocked one of them. Cobb responded to this by opening their own 6 in the Hoover Square Shopping Center the next June.
Again, according to hsv, Carmike bought Consolidated out around 1991. By 1997 they had expanded this location to 10 screens and Cobb had closed the Hoover Square. At the moment this still seems to be a discount second run location.
This is a link to an article about the career of Bob Endres, the long time head projectionist at Radio City Music Hall. It includes a picture of Bob in the booth of the Lake Theater taken when his family was vacationing in Clear Lake from their home in Chicago. It is a good article for anyone interested in the projection end of the theater business.
I have been to this theater while attending the Winter Dance Party on Buddy Holly weekend at the Surf Ballroom. 1999 I think. A nice looking small town theater so much more welcoming that the 24 screen megaplexes that I avoid in Atlanta. Very nice people too.
This location was opened by Cobb Theaters as the Festival 12 on May 24, 1989 as a replacement for the Eastwood Mall Twin and the Village East Twin which were closed on the same day. The Village East was just a bare bones strip shopping center twin and was no loss. Eastwood despite being twinned in the mid 70’s was still a class location and a reminder of better days both for this business and the mall itself, and it was a loss. However, its part of Eastwood Mall was about to be torn down anyway so it would have been lost regardless.
On March 23, 1994, the six screen addition that Scott referred to was opened. On August 1, 1997, Regal took over the Cobb operations. Although Regal went to the trouble and expense of installing stadium seating the theater was closed in May 2006.
From 1968 until 1977, ABC built the best theaters of any company in this region. Their Ultravision locations were the best movie going experiences to be had, at least until they started twinning them. In the mid 70’s they started building very nice twins with three section seating, big screens and that amazing new Dolby sound system which gave you the pleasure of stereo sound without the hassle of a magnetic print. Three identical examples of this were the Columbia in Augusta, Ga., the Stonemont in Atlanta, and the Eastmont in Montgomery. All three, which have pages on CT, opened in the summer of 1976.
This location, which opened 18 months later was slightly smaller with only 350 seats per house instead of 500, but it was still nicely designed. It’s location in this fast growing, affluent suburb of Birmingham was excellent since all of the other first run locations were either downtown or in the northern arc from Eastwood Mall around to Bessemer. Cobb’s Homewood 4 (later 6) located in the old Brunswick Lanes and the Cobb Vestavia single screen were mostly second run.
However, the days when a twin was a viable business model were fast coming to a close. In 1982, Consolidated Theaters opened a six (later taken over by Carmike and expanded to 10) one block south at the intersection of Lorna Road and Rocky Ridge, and the next summer Cobb opened its Hoover 6 and probably closed this twin the same day.
Looking at the website and the facebook page, it seems that they are only running 6 movies. With the expense of converting to digital I guess they wanted to make sure this place would work before converting all 12. Or, maybe they decided that there never would be enough product to justify 12.
When the Starlight Drive In on Moreland converted to digital they only did 4 out of 6 screens.
I waded down to the bottom of their Facebook page and found this article on the reopening of the theater:
The company seems to consist of two theaters in Florida plus this one. It would be interesting to find out just how they settled on this location and what brought it to their attention. Who knows, maybe they will give the old Magic Johnson over at Greenbriar a try next.
For 25 years South DeKalb was a destination theater which had the entire area of DeKalb County south of Covington Highway all the way out to Conyers to draw from. Now, the AMC Stonecrest 15 sits only four exits down I-20 which pretty much makes SD a neighborhood theater. I think that this is the fourth operator to give this a try since the Duffy expansion. There have been at least three attempts to make the old Cineplex location at Panola and 12 work.
With the start of the multiplex era the cost of equipping a theater and projection booth was too much for anyone other than a national or at least regional company. The wave of theater bankruptcies and resultant lease breakings in the late 90’s produced a good number of completely equipped theaters available for movie buffs and well meaning amateurs to make their dream of running their own theater possible. Most of these fell victim to the realities of trying to compete against AMC and Regal, but a few located in just the right spot managed to make it although few managed to afford the conversion to digital projection.
This Satellite outfit obviously has some money behind it since they were able to convert the booth, rebrand all of the signage, and give the place a good cleanup. Hopefully they will be the exception to the rule and survive.
Theater owners who were used to getting three, four, five, and even as much as six thousand hours from a xenon bulb in the film days are having a hard time facing the fact that with at least some of the digital projectors, the light starts to degrade after only a thousand hours and needs to be replaced at the two thousand hour mark.
I am speaking from a very narrow experience with digital projectors but they also require more than the once or twice a year visit from a booth tech to maintain good picture quality.
I guess that after decades of trying to get rid of us pesky projectionists, some owners are having trouble facing the fact that now that it has happened they still have to pay at least some money to make the booth run right.
Yes, that would be the old Peachtree Art Theater at 13th Street. It changed hands in 1970 and reopened as the Weis Cinema in the summer of 1971.
Here is its page on CT where it is listed as Peachtrtee Art:
In those days at least, GCC had a strong relationship with Columbia so we ran a lot of their stuff. Our Christmas ‘85 feature was White Nights, another mediocre draw. I mean we even ran Ishtar, so that may account for G'busters. They also had that and Gremlins at Southlake where I did a couple of turns covering vacations that summer. I well remember one rainy Sunday where G'busters sold out every show except the last one. That may have been the last good summer since Northlake 8 soon took over. I looked up my record, and when I started in October the features were Razor’s Edge, Little Drummer Girl, and Broad Street.
One thing I forgot to mention in my previous comment was the conversion of the booth to platters around 1988. I did not even know that had been done until I was called in to work one day of relief. Since the manager was covering the booth Monday – Wednesdays, they did that to cut down on the missed changeovers. That is why they were able to send platters to Perimeter when Northlake closed.
For the record, the intro to this theater should say 1200 seats (three houses at 400 seats each), opened in 1976, and closed in 1992. Perimeter Mall opened in 1973 and was the first GCC in Atlanta. Northlake followed in 1976, Akers Mill in 1977, and Southlake in 1978. After that it was Gwinnett Place in 1984, Merchants Walk in 1986, Parkside (later renamed Sandy Springs) in 1987 and Hairston in 1988.
By no means was this the first GCC theater I worked in, but it was the first one that I had a “permanent” position in. In the fall of 1984, the new GCC Gwinnett Place 6 opened and the two projectionists from Northlake were picked as the opening duo there. To replace them the company chose one of the projectionists from Southlake who was looking for a shorter commute, and me. I had worked a lot of relief in GCC booths but I was happy to finally have a regular job.
I was also happy to be at Northlake. When I had worked there as floor staff it had been a huge moneymaker since it opened in 1976 with Murder By Death. That Christmas Goodbye Girl was another massive hit with countless sellouts for what seemed like weekend after weekend. I did not work there after 1979 and lost track of things, but I know that they were one of the theaters to get ET in the summer of 1982. I thought I had it made working in a good first run theater for a big company and pulling in what seemed like a fine living at $7.50 per hour.
But, things are not always as they seem. In May of 1984 AMC had opened their Northlake Festival 8 almost across the street and GCC Northlake had become a ghost town. The big movies we ran that fall were Give My Regards To Broad Street, Razors Edge, and something called Windy City which often played to empty houses and drew all of 12 people on Thanksgiving Day. You know your theater is in trouble when your big Christmas pictures are Mickey and Maude and Johnny Dangerously.
The next summer things improved a little with Cocoon, Silverado, and European Vacation. However, the duds far outnumbered even these modest hits, and in the fall of 1986, GCC cut the booth hours down to one projectionist and dumped the rest of the hours on the manager, at no extra pay of course. I was off to Akers Mill until they did the same thing there in fall of 1987 and then to Perimeter Mall where they did the same thing in the spring of 1988.
I decided to give another company a try and that went well until 1995 when I came back to GCC and an opening at the new Parkside 8. For the next 5 years I split my time between there and Perimeter until GCC finally closed up in 2000. However, I did continue to work Parkside for the new owner, George Lefont, from 2004 until they went digital a couple of years ago.
As for Northlake, I loved working the booth there. It was the last theater in Atlanta built with reel to reel operation, 2 35MM Century projectors per screen with the old push button Dolby in the #1 house. However, the presentation was terrible with the long 400 seat shoebox theaters, fixed masking which left the sides of the flat picture raw, and those awful two position seats that some GCC people are so fond of. The most fun I had there was running the kiddie shows which did so well we used all three houses. We would use the 20 minute reels and start the shows 30 minutes apart, walking, or biking as they used to call it, the print from house to house to house one reel at a time. Even though there were no carbons, it really gave me the feel of running an old time booth.
One other note on the booth. It was equipped with the Cinemation Mark 3 pegboard automation system. This great piece of equipment, hated and feared by those who would not take the time or trouble to learn what it could do for them was the best automation system I ever worked with. If you put the pegs in the right hole and the tape in the right spot it never missed a cue. When Northlake was closed and demolished in 1992, four of the six projectors and two of the platters were sent to Perimeter Mall to replace the very poor conditioned projectors there and to get the booth to an all platter operation. So, for five years I got to run some of my old equipment even though the old Northlake was long gone to the landfill.
This location was built by Georgia Theater Company and opened in, I think, 1956. GTC was a big operator of drive ins in the Atlanta area and this was a standard looking build. I was only there once, in 1972, to check out the booth, but I never worked or saw a movie there. The booth had Simplex projectors and lamphouses that you had to push in the crank handles and crank to adjust the carbons. Sorry, but I can not remember the name of the brand. One odd thing was the presence of 6000' magazines on the projectors but no big reels, so it was still the changeovers every 18 minutes or so.
The feature the night I was there was “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” I remember the big Civil War battle scene looking especially impressive.
This location was closed in 1974, and the manager, Mr. Bill Stephens, was transferred to the newly acquired Parkaire Twin in Cobb County. The managers house which was located on the lot was moved to the Northeast Expressway Drive In. The manager at that location lived in a nice house in the base of the screen, but after twice being flooded out when the creek that flowed alongside the west and southern boundary of the drive in left its banks they decided to put the Bolton house at the back of the lot where the land was higher.
Too late. After the house was moved but before it was hooked up and ready to live in there was yet another flood in March of 1975 which also washed out the newly built ramps for the twinning project that was then underway.
“I went through all the microfilm at the library and wrote down every movie that ever played at the 41 Twin from opening in 1948 until it closed in 2001. That was hundreds of microfilm reels.”
I am not sure who actually wrote the above comment, but whoever it was deserves credit for their dedication. I have always enjoyed looking at movie ads up until the time when they started to change in the mid 80’s to a more phone book like listing to accommodate the new megaplexes, but some of those old drive in ads were a bit much for me at times. I was amazed at some of the titles they came up with for the horror and biker movies.
I went to this location many times as a youngster when it was the Wendler and Roberts Drug Store. The attraction was an old fashioned soda fountain in the back of the store. I think that the theater opened in 1968 or 69 as an “Adult Art” theater. The fare was European style art films rated X although from what I heard from the projectionist they were really soft R.
In 1970 they had a brief change in policy running the type of standard “art” that Peachtree Battle and Ansley Mall Mini Cinemas were having some success with. The premiere feature was something starring Lee Majors as a Viking. My only visit here was during this time and the feature was some forgettable Swedish art effort.
In less than a year it was back to the old fare and before long they were advertised as XXX. Most of what I know about the Buckhead I learned from the long time union projectionist there who left to come to Lenox Square when I was the manager there. He said that the ownership paid above market and treated the employees well since in those pre security camera days skimming was a big problems in operations like this that could be run by one person.
In total, this location was in business for about 30 years or so. It closed when Buckhead became a big weekend bar scene destination and was soon gutted for the first of several bars that would occupy the spot. In 2005, this whole area was assembled and demolished for the billion dollar Shops Of Buckhead development that was abandoned half finished when the 2008 recession hit. The space on the corner of Peachtree and West Paces Ferry which was originally The Millers Book Store and was rehabbed and incorporated into the new development might might include the space the theater occupied, but it is hard to tell now.
Based on further comments, I think that it is safe to say that when the drive in was demolished it was followed by Arlans (a K-Mart style discount store), then the building was used as the flea market, then torn down for the Lindberg MARTA station. The Hastings Nursery was always at the northwest corner of the Cheshire Bridge, Lindberg, LaVista intersection across the street from the now closed up Varsity Jr. Hastings later moved to Brookhaven across the street from the Cherokee Plaza but is now closed.
The Kiddie Land at Broadview Plaza was gone by the time my family moved to Atlanta but I remember the K-Mart well as it was the first two story discount store I had ever seen. It had a good layout as all of the yard, garden, and hardware was on the ground floor which opened to the back parking lot and allowed close up parking since most people parked in front in the Piedmont lot.
The GEX store mentioned in a previous comment was located on the I-85 access road between Shallowford Road and the old North 85 Drive In. The Richway store also mentioned above was located on North Druid Hills Road across from Briarcliff High School and almost next door to the old Georgia Cinerama Theater. I do not go into this traffic clogged area unless I have to and did not know that the Zestos was closed. It must have operated there for 50 to 60 years. The Sizzler Steakhouse mentioned by Will was a regular stop for me as a group of us would usually go there following the Monday morning managers meetings once Georgia Theater Company moved their offices from the Fox to Lenox Square. Last time I was in the area the old Shoney’s was still there in its derelict condition although someone has told me since that it has finally been torn down.
The only change I would make in any of these later comments is regarding the Great Southeast Music Hall. Actually, the theater was there first, opening in about 1969 with the addition of the Broadview 2 in 1972. When Weis sold out and #2 became George Lefont’s Screening Room, the old #1 became the music hall. It then moved in 1978 to the site of the old Cherokee Theater.
Lots of movie theater history at this intersection as well as many memories for those of us who grew up in this area. Now it is just a traffic nightmare occupied by big retail and office developments with nothing unique to distinguish them from countless other such developments around the city.
ljt: I am using this page in the hope of making contact with you regarding a comment you left on the page of the Howard Theater in Atlanta Ga. I have a friend who is very interested in the movie “An Atlanta Romance” that you mentioned in that post. He would like to know more about those articles and any other information you can supply on the films of Slim Brolund. If you get this you can reply to me at
This is in response to the comment made by ljt on December 16, 2010. You mentioned the Howard playing a move named “An Atlanta Romance.” I have a friend who is very interested in those articles that you mentioned and any other information that you might have on the movie. Hopefully you have the auto notification for comments turned on and will get this. If so please respond and I will supply contact information.
In 1980 this place was in a very run down condition and was run by Georgia Theater Company. When the Atlanta City Manager moved out of Lenox Square Theater and into the company HQ to be the new GM, he left behind a lot of paperwork that I had the pleasure of reading through.
One that I recall was a report he did on this theater. Everything from the dirty bathrooms to the peeling paint, lack of working speakers, uncut grass, and messy storerooms got a mention. The last line of the report sticks in my mind as he called it the dirtiest, most run down theater he had ever been involved with.
He included a long list of repairs and improvements that were needed to get the place into respectable condition, but I do not know if they were ever done. GTC was pretty conservative when it came to spending money on everyday necessities so they might have decided this location was not worth it.
This ad is from mid December 1970 and was for a two week filler booking leading up to the Christmas attraction which I believe was Alex In Wonderland, or maybe Brewester McCloud, I forget which. This booking was the first time I saw West Side Story, and what a great experience that was.
A couple of corrections. While it was in stereo, it was unfortunately not 70MM but 4 track 35MM mag. At this time The Atlanta still had the 36X95 foot ribbon screen with the 146 degree curve and while the 35MM image did not take up the entire screen, the deep curve always caused the edges to be out of focus. No matter, great movie.
Second, West Side Story did not have its initial run here, but just up Peachtree at the Rhodes Theater. At that time The Atlanta was still the Tower, or may have been undergoing its reconstruction as Martin’s Cinerama. One other note about the tag of “Original Roadshow Version.” The print was in good shape but the projectionist did not show the image during the overture or the closing credits, only the sound. When I started working here a little over a year later, I asked when why they did that. The answer: save having to change the carbons as often. Even in a nice house like this you would still find people too lazy to do the job right.
Thanks for posting the ad.
KP: Very much enjoyed your memories of this theater. This place and your experiences are the poster children for dozens if not hundreds of what we thought of as megaplexes for that day. Looking through your under construction pictures reminds me of at least half a dozen places I started working in while they were in that state. One in particular reminds me of this place as it had 5 auditoriums, Dolby in one house, and Eprad 2 channel in another.
I can recall two new theaters where we were installing drink machines and unboxing lobby furnishings as people were lining up at the door for the opening day. In one case they opened one house while seat and booth installation proceeded in the others.
They were pretty bland places and in some cases were identical as the company would not waste money on giving the theater a personality when they could just build the same place on a vacant lot. Did make it easy on me when I had to fill in at different booths around town as most of them had the same equipment.
Good work Ken. I grew up south of Birmingham in what is now Hoover so I never made it out to this area although we did attend the Shades Mountain Drive In many times.
As to the source of the name, I have no idea. This location and the Carver Outdoor (not to be confused with the Carver Theater downtown), the Fair Park, and the Auto Movies No.1 were four independent drive ins that ran ads in the paper with this and the Auto Movies being the most consistent. All of the other drive ins and all of the neighborhood indoor theaters were operated by Waters Theater Company and after about 1966 by Cobb Theaters after they bought out Waters.
Here are a couple of links to the “This month in history” feature of the Birmingham Rewound site. Scroll down to the move section and you will see some ads for all of these locations.
In the 1955 Birmingham phone book, there is a listing for Acme Theater at this same address but with a different phone number from the Empire which is also listed. The website hsvmovies.com states that the Strand and the Galax which were located one block south on 2nd Ave. were operated by Acme Theater Company. Those two have an interesting history and at other times both took turns being known as the Newmar.