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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.
Thank you. I worked for a Neal Dolvin when I first started in theatres, but I have never been able to locate him. The last I heard he was managing in North Carolina for Eastern Federal so I was hoping this might be him.
As for this theatre, I managed an Ultravision twin at South DeKalb in Atlanta. Each side had 540 seats and those were the best looking theatres with the best picture of any I ever worked in. Each side was twinned in 1978 which made them among the worst presentations I ever worked.
Thanks again for the reply.
Mike, back on 6/21/2010 you made a mention of a manager named Neal. Would you happen to remember his last name?
It is odd that this theatre stayed open for 23 years and managed to avoid the twinning plague. Those great Ultravision theatres were almost square and as a result were prime candidates for twinning, or should I say “shoeboxing”?
Thanks for posting this. During the early 70’s when I was going to college in Milledgeville GA, the downtown Campus Theatre and the Starlite DI, both owned by Martin would put these out. Also the Pal in Eatonton. I always looked forward to the end of the month when we could count on the new schedule coming out.
I have been to this drive in. 1994, September. This area is on the western side of the Tetons (in the appropriately named Teton County) and is not as spectacular as the eastern side above Jackson Hole. Still, it was a very nice town and included a drug store with an old fashioned soda fountain where they served hand made milk shakes. Going into the drug store as well as the drive in had a going back to the 50’s feel.
At the time of my visit the schools were out on a two week “spud break.” In fact, the entire town seemed to be focused on getting the potato crop in so it definitely had a different feel to things. The only thing that did not seem to be affected was the high school football team with the courageously politically incorrect name of the “Bombers.” Their practice and game schedule continued on uninterrupted.
As for the drive in, it was a nice little well run establishment. Driggs sits in something of a flat valley so while you were parked on the field it seemed like you could see for miles. The snack bar had a lot of character and the people were friendly.
I am glad to see that they were able to make the transition to digital, although as the article mentioned there is a lot more to it than just installing a new projector. The expense of upkeep, updates, and bulb changes will be much greater than with the film projector and they will go on forever.
Good luck to them.
This is actually a duplicate listing. When the Roswell Town Center closed up the space was included in the Area 51 development. CT has a somewhat ambiguous policy on how to handle situations like this. This theatre sits on the same footprint as the old one, but is a completely different operation. I think that it should have its own page, but on the Roswell Town page there are comments about this Aurora Complex. On the other hand, if you changed that page to Aurora, people looking for the Roswell would not be able to find it since AKA names are not recognized by the search engine.
Thank you for that note Michael. I am sure that 89 week run is a record for here or any other theatre in Atlanta. I do not know how long GWTW played in its initial run at the Loews Grand starting in 1939, but that is the only one that I would think even comes close.
I think that you are correct about the four consecutive years of Julie. Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, Hawaii, and Thoroughly Modern Millie ran from fall of 1964 until late fall of 1967. If Julie had repeated her Broadway role, it would have been five in a row since Camelot followed Millie here and ran until May 1968. It still could have been five if Martin had decided to book Star instead of Camelot since they opened at at the same time.
I have worked in a lot of theatres in my time, but this one is my all time favorite. I started in February 1972 wearing a tux and escorting patrons to their reserved seats for Fiddler on the Roof. I left in September 1973 after the incredible business done by Super Fly TNT and Chinese Connection led the Weis Theatre Company to buy out the lease from Walter Reade.
This was a great place for a new theatre employee to work. Four stories of backstage dressing rooms, two Cinerama projection booths, a huge basement, and an additional projection booth and entire upper balcony hidden above the false ceiling provided endless areas to explore.
Because the downtown theatre business was undergoing such changes during this time there was a wide variety of bookings. In addition to the roadshows Fiddler and Man of La Mancha, there was the 70MM reissue of This Is Cinerama (which occasioned the 35 by 95 foot Cinerama screen to be reinstalled) Junior Bonner, Concert For Bangladesh, Elvis, KC Bomber, Girls Are For Loving, Russ Meyer quadruple features, kiddie shows of The Alamo, and midnight shows of War and Peace.
There was no place like it at the time and never will be again. Now, it is just another parking lot.
I have noticed that the name for this page has been changed from Garden Hills to Fine Art. It does not matter to me, but I thought that the CT policy was to list theatres under the name they were using when they last operated as movie theatres. I know that this is not applied uniformly. Another problem with this practice is that when an AKA name is listed, the search engine will not recognize the name. So, in this case, a search of Fine Art will bring you to this page, but a search of Garden Hills which is what this page was listed under for years will yield a “No Results Found” answer.
The entire strip is in the process of being demolished:
Ron, Dave, and David: Thank you for your replies. I always try to acknowledge when someone addresses a question or comment of mine. I did not do so here because I just became aware of them. For some reason I did not become automatically subscribed to this location when I posted my comment as used to be the case. I just happened to find out about this omission when I became aware of it on another page and did some back checking.
David, your explanation is certainly possible. For many years I worked as a projectionist for GCC in Atlanta. On a couple of occasions in those pre platter days, or at least working a booth built during the pre platter days, we did what you described. We would drop the last night show of a dud or kids show and would break the movie we were adding a show for onto the 2000 foot reels. (We never had a second print.) We would then start the last scheduled show at its regular time and then another one 30 minutes later, “biking” the print from house to house. It was extra work breaking down and rebuilding the prints every day, but in those days I was young and enjoyed doing anything to bring some variety to the job.
If any of you remember those GCC summer movie camps, we would run the same print in all four houses this way, starting at 10, 10:30. 11, and 11:30. It was the closest thing to “doing it like the old days” that I was able to get to.
Thanks again to all of you for your information about that address. I was always intrigued by it and it is nice to know the whole story. Now if we can just get CT to fix the auto subscribe.
“As for the grand-opening date for the Arlington Park Square 8, I knew it was only a matter of time before the CT editor came along and deleted my comment and revised the overview to, insultingly, make it appear the original contributor had it right from the get-go. Am I the only one who thinks this editorial policy needs to be reconsidered?”
Comment by Michael Coate 3/17/15.
Michael, I certainly agree with your last paragraph in you comment of 3/17. I think that it is fine for the editor to correct bad information in the introduction, but some kind of notation along the lines of “Editor’s Note” should be used to show it was added later. There are pages where I have spotted an error in the introduction and written a comment correcting it. Later, an editor has come by and incorporated my information in the introduction, just as was done here. At least they deleted your comment. On some of mine, they left my comment intact making it look as if I was correcting something that was the same as what I was writing.
Also, I think that whenever they change the text of someones writing, such as with the introduction of this page, they should delete the name of the person who first wrote the intro. After all, although that is not the case here, who is to say that the information that was added was correct? Maybe the original post was correct and changing it amounted to hanging incorrect information on someones name.
Another problem along these lines is the practice of deleting posts without any type of notation such as “Post Deleted By Editor” or “Post Deleted By Member.” In my post above, I refer to the first post by scheifler where the wrong opening date was mentioned. It also made mention of a late change in the layout due to copyright problems with the blueprints. This entire post was removed by the editor which caused the second post by scheifler to now be the first one and it has nothing to do with what I was talking about. There are many pages on CT (and not just involving me) where people have commented on photos, links, or information contained in comments that no longer exist.
Dallas, I have never seen any of these theatres, but I did work for GCC for many years in Atlanta. I find your writing very interesting since it in many ways matches events that were taking place in Atlanta at the same general time. Keep up the good work. It is information such as this that make CT such an interesting forum for those of us who worked in theatres.
Regarding the information in the second paragraph of the above comment, you might find the picture and story of this theatre interesting:
UA got into the Atlanta market by buying a local chain (Georgia Theatre Company) and then built a couple of locations that were interchangeable not only with their other theatres but is seems those in Dallas as well.
Looks like they ordered blueprints, seats, projectors, etc… in bulk and then scattered them all over the country. These are the poster child for the bland 80’s and 90’s style of movie theatres which unfortunately includes the bulk of my movie theatre work. Still, better than a megaplex.
Michael, I see that you are still tilting at the CT windmill. I wish everyone was as careful with their postings as you are and had your high standards for accuracy. I wish you well my friend, but trust me when I say that there are enough errors, mistakes, (including some of mine although done with good intentions) and careless clutter on CT to bury you and a hundred more like you. Good luck with your never ending quest.
As for you Dallas, I have enjoyed reading all of your well writen posts on Dallas area theatres. I wish that we had someone like you doing the same thing for the Atlanta area. I do the best I can with the ones I know about, but Michael still has to keep an eye on me.
As for this theatre, I am interested in the first post by scheifler. The description of the layout matches exactly that of the Merchants Walk 8 which was opened in the Atlanta area. (Marietta is the city although it is in unincorporated Cobb County.) To add weight to your opening date here, Merchants Walk opened in October 1986, and one of its opening features was also Top Gun.
I wonder if Merchants Walk was the copied blueprint mentioned or perhaps they used it for this location if they had the rights to it. For what it is worth, I never cared for the V shape since it resulted in two projection booths. There is a picture of the Merchants Walk on its page: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14884
That is the brand new Eastwood Mall in the middle with the west wing under construction. That white building sticking out next to the new wing is the Eastwood Mall Theatre. This is probably a 1965 view.
As a northsider, I never attended this theatre and only drove past it once. I believe it opened Christmas 1974 with its prime feature being Godfather Part 2.
Starting in 1971 Weis went on a big expansion in Atlanta converting the old Peachtree Art into the Weis Cinema, opening and then twinning the Broadview, buying the Peachtree Battle Mini Cinema and then in the summer of ‘74 the rest of the mini cinema chain, finishing and opening the Franklin triple, and then building this one. I never worked for Weis so I can not say for sure, but I think that Arrowhead and Broadview were the only ones that were Weis built. All of the others were pick ups of existing theatres and since the Broadview was a conversion in an existing shopping center that would make this one the only one built new from the the ground up.
Weis used the same decorator in all of their Atlanta locations and this resulted in a lot of curves, bends, odd colors and strange lighting in the lobby areas as described above. I personally did not care for the style, but it certainly attracted attention. Mike Rogers has described the Weis Cinema in Augusta as having some sort of lighted tunnel that you walked through.
Weis was a believer in putting up big advances to outbid the competition for the best movies, and in the first half of the 70’s this worked well for him, especially in the Buckhead theatres, Capri and Fine Art. Love Story, Ryans Daughter, Poseidon Adventure,
Godfather, American Graffiti, Last Picture Show, just to name a few. When the exclusive run practice started to ease up and outlying areas started to get the big bookings Weis started building places like this. He hit it especially big with Star Wars when he opened it here, Franklin Road, and Doraville on opening day. Loew’s Tara was the only non Weis booking for Star Wars.
In the late 70’s some bad booking choices combined with the arrival and / or expansion of national chains AMC and GCC caused Weis to sell off most of his properties outside of his hometown of Savannah. Some locations went to AMC, Lefont, and Drafthouses and others closed up. This one hung on for a while but the birth of the multi-plex and mega-plex meant the end for anything less thatn 12 screens.
dallas…. Thank you for that concise and well written history of this theatre and mall. I worked for GCC for many years in Atlanta and your comment could apply to several GCC properties and malls here with only the names changed. Augusta Ga. and Columbia SC also have identical stories. GCC always seemed to be a step behind the competition, building triples while everyone else was building sixes and then building eights when 15 to 20 were the norm. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, the area malls seemed like the new downtown and it is still hard to believe how many of them are now Wal-Mart Supercenters or just vacant lots.
Regarding the ad that Rivest was kind enough to provide, I noticed that they managed to get the showtimes wrong from day one. Lucky Lady was a 2 hour movie and the evening showtimes are listed as 7:30 and 9:15. Probably meant 9:45. I am sure all of us who were managers, projectionists or both have plenty of horror stories related to mistakes like this.
As for this location, the GCC address that we mailed all of our paperwork to was 22 Flutie Pass which referred to Doug Flutie’s game wining heave against Miami. Could the GCC offices mentioned in the overview be at this location with a different address? I see on the map that this is very close to Boston College so that would seem to make sense.
Regarding the three managers listed in the overview, I probably worked for Keith Black. When UA took over Georgia Theatre in the mid 80’s they brought in a lot of their own people and Keith showed up a couple of years later as the DM. Got to be the same guy since he said he came to UA through Litchfield. He seemed like a pleasant enough person although as a projectionist I did not have much contact with him even though his office was next to the booth.
You would be amazed at how many people think GWTW had its premiere at the Fox. I saw a star of one of the stage shows greeting the crowd from the Fox stage and saying how great it was to be performing at the theatre where GWTW opened. Crowd loved it of course, and I never heard anyone comment about it.
Digital projectors are expensive. I heard that they only installed 4. Three on the north field and one on the south.
The theatre I was asking about in the above post was named “Village.” It is not listed on CT and I do not know enough about it to start a page. Hopefully someone else will remember it.
When this was a movie theatre was it named Martin? I recall seeing one movie here, Part 2 Walking Tall which would make it summer of ‘75. There was another, much newer single screen to the west of downtown that I also attended, but do not see a listing for anything like that.