Showing 1 - 25 of 316 comments found
Chuck, I do not know much about Birmingham theatre history after 1970. When we moved, Cobb was the dominant company in town. ABC operated the downtown Alabama and Ritz while the Melba and Empire were operated by someone else. Maybe different someones. I do know that Cobb took over both of those locations later before shutting them down. The last theatres I recall being built were the Thunderbird DI in Vestavia Hills and the Homewood 6, a converted bowling alley. Both by Cobb.
Mike: I knew Karen Shaw when she worked at South DeKalb during her high school years.
Ed: Martin was a big chain in the southeastern US. and is known as Carmike today although it has been through bankruptcy and ownership changes over the years. Martin had several drive-ins and a couple of indoors in Cobb County, which would be like Long Island is to NYC. In 1961 they purchased the old Rialto in the center of downtown Atlanta, tore it down and rebuilt it as a first run theatre. (The Zieg in your town is almost an exact duplicate of the layout and floorplan.) They also bought the old Tower Theatre across the street from the Fox and turned it into the Martin Cinerama. A couple of years later they built a new single strip 70MM house, the Georgia Cinerama in the suburbs.
Those nice screen shots you have posted could have been used at any of these theatres. I think that this theatre (Martin’s Cinerama) opened with Brothers Grimm followed by HTWWW and then on to IAMMMMW in 70MM. After that it was Mary Poppins and Sound of Music while most of the single strip Cinerama played at the Georgia.
Alice opened the same day as Lenny, 2/14/75. It did very well on its own, and even better from the overflow on the shows that Lenny sold out. A couple of times Lenox played the same movie in both houses with alternating show times, something common today but unheard of back then. As Cliff said, movies would sometimes move to #2 when still doing well when they had to leave the big house. Cliff is incorrect on another point. No Russ Meyer film ever ran here. I think that Midnight Cowboy was the only X to run at Lenox. They even passed on Last Tango In Paris.
Great picture from VJ day 1945. On the far right, Loew’s Grand, next to it is the Paramount / Howard, and up Peachtree on the left is the Roxy marquee. Just below the Roxy sign you can just make out the top of the marquee of the Capitol.
Reade owned the US rights to War and Peace. In Atlanta we ran it as a midnight show in August 1972 and March 1973. Intermission at 3AM, out at 6:30AM. Included in the ticket was breakfast at the coffee house across the street for anyone who made to the end. 23 reels if I remember correctly.
Question for Vito: Did your previous comment mean that the year long run of “Fiddler” at the Rivoli was 35MM? I always assumed that it was 70MM.
As for the “roadshow” subject: In Atlanta, any 70MM required two operators or one man at time and a half. Same for any reserved seat engagement even if it was 35MM. At the Walter Reade Atlanta, where I was working, they started out reserved seat for both Fiddler and LaMancha and changed to reserve performances once the crowds died down although LaMancha was dead from the start. They still used the hardticket but seating was open and only one operator was required.
It seems that the digital conversion has yet to take place at this location. Click on the story under the “News About This Theatre” section and you can watch a segment from the local TV station. It describes the problems that all of these small theatres are facing with the cost of conversion and warns that the Retro may close if the owner can not raise the money.
I saw LOA in the fall of 1963 when I was 12 and still too young to enjoy this movie. As was our custom, the entire family went to what was a sparsely attended Saturday afternoon showing. We usually went to the movies on Friday nights, so I assume that this was due to the long running time. Seeing this on a Saturday afternoon when I would have been playing neighborhood football while my parents worked around the house and yard is probably the reason I even remember LOA at all from that first viewing. I would have much rather stayed at home or gone to whatever Walt Disney movie was available. Within a couple of years I would be old enough to appreciate this type of movie as I did with Sound Of Music, and most especially my favorite of all of the Lean films, Doctor Zhivago.
In 1971 I saw the reissue at the Loew’s 12 Oaks Theatre in Atlanta, my first visit to this theatre that I would find myself managing one day. I enjoyed the movie, but did not think that it was in the same class as Zhivago, which is what I was hoping for. The presentation was only fair with the huge 1200 seat auditorium sounding pretty hollow since the theatre only had mono sound.
I finally saw LOA in 70MM at the Fox Theatre during the 1978 Fall Film Festival, and the great picture and sound made it much more entertaining. In 1996 I started working in the Fox booth and have had the pleasure of running LOA twice, once in 70MM, which led to one of the more disgraceful episodes of my booth days. Like all projectionists, I have had my share of snafu’s, but for the most part I was able to recover to the point that the audience rarely noticed. And, as I was once told, if no one sees your mistake it didn’t happen. In this case, 2000 people noticed when I managed to trip over the return film path. Under the glass of my desk I keep a four frame strip of Omar sitting at the oasis, with one of the frames burned out. I find it a good reality check.
I have just read that this location is to be aquired by Carmike. If past history is a guide, that means that any quality of presentation is on its way out the door probably followed by any existing employees.
This link has an article in Boxoffice about the opening of this theatre. Really nothing about the theatre that Christofer did not relate, but it does give some information about the history of Modular Cinemas.
Yes Mike, Weis did buy out the remaining Minis in Atlanta during the summer of 1974. The first two, Peachtree Battle and Ansley Mall had already been sold, so Weis got Sandy Springs, Doraville, Candler Road, and the under construction site that became the Franklin Road, later renamed Cinema 75.
I believe that I remember you Ginger. I worked the booth here from 1997-99, starting when Aaron retired until they did away with the union operator. In those days Lynn Zieburtz was the manager, and I can remember about four different assistant managers, two male, two female, but I can not recall any names. I always liked working for Lynn, especially the way she scheduled the booth in a way that allowed me to work all of the union hours in only 3 days, Thursday through Saturday.
I recognized you at Gwinnett because I also remember seeing you when I worked at Parkside from 1995 on. Lynn managed some there as well, but the regular manager was Steve Crisp. In fact, I am sitting in that booth right now, on a Friday morning, waiting for a late arriving print to show up so I can put it together.
Happy to see that you stumbled onto this site. There are plenty of my former employees and co-workers that would have some fine stories to tell if they only knew it was here.
I remember your grandfather well. Along with Mr. Carmichael and Reuben Woods, he was on the crew when I started working there as an usher in 1972. After I became a projectionist I never worked with him in a theatre but did work with him often running AV shows at hotels and the Congress Center.
After all of that type of work ended I would still see Reuben at the occasional lunch where many of us would get together and trade stories about the good old days. In fact, I saw him at one of those about a month before he died, and was one of several former or retired projectionists at the graveside service.
I recall that he lived on Aruba Circle and was part of that first big real estate buy out that resulted in the construction of the king and queen buildings in Sandy Springs. While I was going through some old union files I found his transfer card from the Key West FL. local and gave it to him at one of our lunches.
Reuben was a good guy and fun to work with. Even when I was just an usher he would always welcome me in the booth when I wanted to show someone around. Those were some good days when the projection business was a craft and you had to pass a test and be licensed by the city to work in a booth. By the late 80’s it had degenerated to the point of sending which ever doorman or concession attendant was available to thread up the projectors. Sure, they would lose a show now and then and occasionally tear up a print, but it was better than paying a responisble person a living wage to do the job right.
the job right.
Mclean: I think that the theatre you are talking about was the Buckhead Art. It was located at the five points intersection of Buckhead.
To see all of the grand opening ads that rivest has been kind enough to supply just click on the photo tab next to the overview tab at the top of this page. The ad is in the photo section.
An article in the Birmingham paper describes the shut down of this theatre during the early evening shows on Christmas Day, the busiest day of the year. It seems that there was already a large crowd of teenagers causing trouble in the theatre and an even larger crowd in the parking lot. According to the police a social media flashmob showed up and the off duty police at the theatre had to call for help.
According to the comment section, the same type of thing happened at the Rave in Vestavia, but it did not cause the theatre to close. Another comment said that Hoover had slapped a curfew on the Patton Chapel Rave to stop this type of problem with unattended youths.
I first saw this great movie in December 1970 at the old Martin Cinerama which by then was operated by Walter Reade under the name “The Atlanta.” I was only an occasional moviegoer for most of the 60’s and had not even heard of this movie until the previous May when, for some unknown reason, the song “Somewhere” was chosen by some unknown person to be the class song that we sang during our high school graduation. When it appeared at the Atlanta as a two week pre Christmas filler, I stopped by to see it on my way home from class at Georgia State.
In those days, the Cinerama ribbon screen was still in use, and although 35MM, especially scope, always looked a little fuzzy with that deep curve, the size of the picture and the four track mag sound gave it an impressive presentation. However, it was the choreography, which I had never seen anything like, that impressed me the most. And Natalie Wood on the 68 X 34 foot screen of course. I enjoyed it so much I stayed for another show since it was continuous performances. I was puzzled by a movie that had no credits, but I did enjoy what I assumed was walkout music as well as the overture. (15 months later I was working at this theatre and asked the projectionist why they did not show the credits. Answer: To save carbons of course.)
Two months later WSS showed up at the Candler Road Mini Cinema, a little hole in the wall neighborhood theatre. The screen was tiny, the sound mono, and the quality of the projection poor, but I did experience something that few patrons of this movie can claim; an intermission. I do not know why this movie is never presented with an intermission since the place for it, right after the war council, is so obvious. Maybe it was there during the roadshow. Anyway, the Candler had one, though not in the correct spot. Instead, they waited one more reel, until the end of a 6000' reel thus avoiding all of that heavy work associated with an extra changeover. That reel ended right in the middle of the rumble. So, with Riff pinned against the fence, an astrodater, with sound no less, appeared and I (the only one in the house) had to wait 10 minutes for the fight to resume. In one respect, the Candler showed itself to be able to equal and even exceed the magnificent Atlanta Theatre. Not only did they kill the light at the end fadeout, they cut off the projector as well depriving me of the pleasure of the music.
In June 1971, again as a filler, WSS returned to the site of its Atlanta premiere, the Rhodes Theatre. Here I finally got to see the entire movie the way it was meant to be seen. Not only did I get to see that great credit sequence, but I found out that the overture was actually supposed to have something on the screen while it was playing. The film was only 35, but it was mag, and seeing it this way was almost like seeing it in a real theatre for the first time. When business was so good it was held over for a second week, I helped myself to another showing, this time talking the family into seeing it with me.
In the fall of 1972 WSS made its network premiere It was considered such an event that, in Atlanta at least, an ad, complete with artwork, was placed in the movie section of the paper with the TV station logo where the theatre would normally be.
When the Fox Theatre started showing a summer movie series after being saved from the wrecking ball, WSS was an occasional attraction and I was always there to see it. When it returned in 1996 I was working in the Fox booth, my only experience with this movie as projectionist. As it turned out, my love for this film, and my numerous viewings of it paid off in a big way. While not new, the print was a recent one with a Dolby soundtrack, and in pretty good shape. However, some previous “projectionist” had not only shown a lack of technique by cutting the heads and tails without leaving a frame attached, they had also shown their lack of interest by swapping the leaders and tail on two of the reels. As anyone who has worked in a booth will confirm, unless it happens with the first or last reel there is no way to catch this mistake if you do not know the movie. Since I did know it, I was able to catch it and avoid having hundreds of people cursing me.
This was not a ground breaking movie for me when it comes to being exposed to a whole new medium. As far as musicals go, that honor belongs to Sound of Music. However, coming when it did, just as I was leaving home and going to college, it caused me to take much more interest in movies. Within a year I was tearing tickets at a theatre beginning the first of my 40 or so years in this business.
I believe the name of the manager you replaced was Bob Harmon, or something close to that. In those days, Walter Reed Org. subbed out their concession operation and Bob was a concession manager in NYC. He moved over to theatre manager to return to Georgia. I am sure that he must have wondered what he had gotten himself into when he arrived at the magnificent looking but somewhat chaotic operation he was now responsible for. He was a nice guy to work for and certainly deserved better than what he got from some of the employees he inherited. I left for college in September of 1973, just a couple of weeks before the sale to Weis, something that no one saw coming. It was just a couple of weeks after that the shooting occurred.
Bob stayed on with Weis although I am sure by then he was counting the days to retirement. I remember a Saturday I stopped by to see him while I was home from school. This would have been in the spring of 1974. I was surprised to find him working the box office desk. Seems that Weis had a strange set up in Atlanta where the city manager, a very good man named Sidney Katz, was in charge of the Capri, Fine Art, both Broadviews, Weis Cinema and Peachtree Battle. The newer pick ups, the mini cinemas and the Atlanta, were under the supervision of the Macon city manager, Wayne Cobb. One Saturday, Wayne showed up and not liking the attitude of some of the employees, started giving orders as soon as he walked in the door. The first Mr. Harmon knew of the presence of the city manager was when all of his staff showed up in his office to tell him they were quitting.
Cobb, who at that time at least, did not understand the politics of running a business in Atlanta, sent out a call for all available Weis employees in the city, and also called up some from Macon. I guess that got them through the weekend, but the next time I was by there I was told by the projectionist, Jim Williams, that Bob was gone. I guess you were there by then. I did run into Wayne Cobb a year or so later. At that time I was working for ABC and we played Sunday morning football with some of the other theatre company employees. After we beat the Weis team one week, Wayne sent out a call for help from some of his Macon people. They were a worthy opponent, but they had spent the 90 mile drive up drinking the after game beer stash, and it was the roughest, wildest game I was ever involved in before degenerating into a brawl at the end.
Were you there for that one?
For me, Raiders was one of those rare chances to see a movie without any hype or expectations. I had seen it on the Paramount release schedule listed in the chart at the back of the Boxoffice magazine, but in those days of limited previews and no internet, I knew nothing about it. I was working at the Lenox Square Theatre at the time and at 10 AM on Tuesday 5/19/81 we hosted the southeast regional bid screening. We ran a lot of those and most were of scant interest to me or the bookers and there was seldom more than half a dozen present. On this day a much larger crowd showed up and I decided to watch some of it although my main interest was making it across the street to Phipps Plaza that night to see an advance screening of Outland. By the time the opening sequence was over I was hooked and poor Outland never did have a chance.
We ran the 6/5 advance preview to a sold out house and opened it on 6/12 to overwhelming business. Lenox, which had once been a great place to see a movie was by now a pathetic venue with long, thin, auditoriums, keystoned projection, postage stamp screens, seats not pointed towards the screen, and hollow sound. Raiders at least opened in the only Dolby house which really only added volume since the house was too narrow for proper balance. Three weeks later it did not even have that since it moved to a mono house to make way for For Your Eyes Only. However, Atlanta audiences never seemed to care about presentation any more than the theatre owners did, and Raiders did huge business, as did Bond, Clash of the Titans, and Eye of the Needle.
Raiders lasted until Christmas then left to make way for Sharkeys Machine. By February, it was in the dollar houses although Phipps Plaza brought it back for its first 70MM Atlanta engagement. Although it may be damming it with faint praise, Phipps did have the best presentation in Atlanta, and one of the very few 70MM houses. Regardless, I finally got to see it the way so many people in these comments have described it, and it was a real treat. In July, the Fox Theatre brought it back as part of their summer film series, and again in March of 1983 for a five day engagement, all in 70MM. Huge crowds for both engagements. In 1996 I was working in the booth at the Fox and ran Raiders as the middle feature of our well attended Spielberg day of Jaws, Raiders, and CE3K.
I don’t have an all time Top Ten. I doubt that Raiders would be in it if I did, but I have always enjoyed watching it, and that day in May of 1981 when I saw it with absolutely no preconceptions will always go down as one of my most memorable movie going experiences.
Thanks for those great pictures Alonzo. They really bring back some good memories. From the look of them they might be from opening day. The interchange in the background does not look very heavily developed, and the overhead shot shows the field extending only to the point of the concession stand. When I first attended a movie here in 1971, the field extended a good ways further back. I also did not know that there was a picnic area on top of the concession stand. I can say for certain that it was not there in 1974 when I first worked here.
The shot of the marquee is nice, but in later years a second marquee was added underneath and was used to list coming attractions. Looking under the marquee and at the picture with the truck, it is easy to see that the house for the manager was located in the screen structure. It was a very nice, good sized house, but the screen area was so big there was plenty of room in the left side for a speaker repair shop and yard equipment storage. Look closely and you will see that you could just walk in the front door from lot level. Also notice that the truck is sitting on a bridge. In the early 70’s the creek under the bridge rose out of its banks and flooded the house and boxoffice. To protect the managers house, a wall was built around the front entrance up to the window level.
That worked well until March 25th, 1975, when a much bigger flood washed over the wall and through the windows, once again flooding the manager out. This was an especially cruel twist of fate in that the managers house from the recently closed Bolton Drive In had been moved onto the back corner of the lot and within a week would have been ready for the manager to move to higher ground. The manager, Mr. Lewis Vickery, took it all in stride.
It was during this time that construction was underway to twin the place by regrading the back half of the lot so the ramps faced south. Again, the lot would have been repaved in another week, but when the water receded it took most of the new ramps with it. The twinning was eventually finished and this was the way the place looked until about 1982 or so. Then, the I-285 / I-85 interchange was rebuilt and greatly expanded. This expansion took out the access road, the bridge, the marquee, boxoffice, entrance, and then entire screen complex. A smaller steel frame screen was built much closer to the projection booth and a new box office and entrance was built at the end of a new access road cut from Northcrest Road.
Also at this time a steel storage building was built between the concession stand and the managers house to house Georgia Theatre Company archives. In the late 80’s, after GTC had sold itself out to United Artists Theatres, I heard that all of that material had been scooped into the dumpster when UA closed all of the drive ins. I am glad to see that Alonzo has managed to find a few images from some of these places that I enjoyed working in during the days when theatre work could be a pleasure as well as a job.
Thanks for the list Michael. I am pleased to see that you got your Birmingham and Atlanta information for your Sound of Music article before you decided to restrict it to reserved seat engagements. Three things about that list stand out for me.
First, I see that the engagements at Lakewood and North DeKalb started the same day as the one I described attending at the Ritz Theatre in Birmingham on its page. I wonder if this was some type of regional or nationwide Christmas (unofficial) reissue to take advantage of the holiday business. It might have been what amounted to a moveover in Atlanta, but in Birmingham it had been over a year since the end of the roadshow engagement.
Second, I attended the June 1968 engagement at the North 85 Drive In. I recall the field being crowded and it must have done well to stay for two weeks, a very rare event at a drive in.
Third, I recall the ad in the Storey ladder for the August 1969 Emory engagement. They had block lettering over the title reading “Going Out of Release Until 1973.” I thought that was just some angle to try to get people to attend, but turns out it was true.
I guess that about wraps the SOM discussion here, but there was one other thing I thought of while looking at the microfilm the other day. In those days when newspaper movie ads had some character instead of looking like the phone book, it was the norm to see the artwork in the ads updated with new scenes and a fresh look as the run lengthened. In all of the SOM ads then and later I do not recall anything other than the classic Julie Andrews “dancing” pose. Just like with the Scarlett and Rhett picture on the GWTW ads, it was all you needed to see to know what was playing.
An article in the Atlanta paper on 8/1/61 states that the Martin chain had purchased the Rialto. This would be the old Rialto which Martin soon demolished and replaced with the current building. I have always thought this was one of the best loooking theatres I have been in and almost identical to the Ziegfeld in New York City.
Thanks to JB, Mike, and Michael for starting this thread on the Sound Of Music booking at the Lakewood. The question of the length of the run gave me an excuse to engage in one of my guilty pleasures, namely going to the library and looking through microfilm newspapers ads of theatres from ages past. The ads from those days indicate the following: Sound Of Music opened 12/23/66 and ran 10 weeks, leaving on 3/2/67. On 3/3/67, both theatres (North DeKalb and Lakewood) opened a movie called Quiller Memorandum. It must have been a bomb because on 3/10 the Lakewood opened a return of Born Free although Quiller did continue at the North DeKalb. I did not go much further, but it does not appear that Sound Of Music was brought back as a filler which might have been the cause of some confusion.
Two items of interest here. The quality of the microfilm is not good enough to read the text lineup, but looking through the ads I could not find any other theatres playing Sound Of Music during the 10 week run, so it looks as if these two might have had an exclusive booking for this intermediate break. Also, starting on 3/3/67 no other theatres picked it up. Michael, do any of your notes shed any light on this? Maybe Fox decided that after 100 weeks of constant availability it was time to give it a rest.
JB: Do not start to doubt yourself because of this. As I have said before on other pages on this site, I have posted several theatre stories that I remember participating in just as clearly as if they happened yesterday only to have Michael post a correction. Only once among these events have I even been close to being right, and that was only because of a matter of talking about Atlanta bookings in terms of the city limits as opposed to Atlanta as a regional booking zone. Once I was even foolish enough to dispute a correction he made on a comment of mine regarding Star Wars. I was wrong of course.
On the general subject of Sound Of Music itself, Michael has written a very nice article on this site. http://cinematreasures.org/news/23149_0_1_0_C/
Here is a link to a newspaper article about the episode I described in my first comment involving George Ellis getting locked out. I was under the impression that Lewis Osteen, the guy who did this, was the GM of the chain. The article indicates that Osteen had purchased the mini cinema chain from it founders. I never cared for Osteen but thought Gentry and Maddox, the founders of the company, were good people to work for. I was suprised that this event ever took place.
The article clears this up since it seems that Osteen was not a hired gun working for the owners, but was the actual owner. During the Osteen years I would sometimes go to the film depot but come back empty handed because there was a COD tag on the print and Osteen had not paid the up front money or the rent from a previous booking.
The Buckhead Art was built in 1969 in the storefront space of the old Wendler and Roberts Drug Store. With the exception of a very short effort as an art house is was 35MM softcore its entire life. In the early 90’s it was gutted and replaced by the first of many bars to occupy that space during the prime years of the Buckhead Village party days. In all it lasted about 20 years.
The drive in at Lindbergh was the Piedmont Drive In. It was operated by the Dixie chain and later sold to Storey. Its page on this site is: