Showing 1 - 25 of 394 comments
Sounds like Steve did you a favor. I doubt that you would have had that much fun working at Akers Mill. Your comments about how much fun it was to work at the Promenade are so common to that era of mid 70’s to mid 90’s. When I was a teenager the theaters were all single screen locations with much smaller staffs. I don’t recall more than four or five employees working at the same time, and often that was about the total number on the staff. Not as much social activity together as a result.
Now, with the size of these megaplexes, the staffs are so large that all of the employees probably don’t even know each other. Some of these places have more managers on the staff than I had employees when I was managing theaters from ‘74 to '83. As Mike Rogers is fond of saying, “ours was a different era for sure.”
This is a link to an article at al.com reporting on a multiple shooting in the parking lot of this theater on Christmas night. It makes no reference to anything happening inside the theater and the shooting seems to have taken place among the “hundreds” of people milling around in the parking lot.
You must have worked there before 1986 since that is when they removed that island concession stand, put the new one against the wall and surrounded that mirrored post with game machines. I started working the booth in 1985, so if we were there at the same time then I accept the compliment. The projectionist belonged in the booth, not downstairs socializing.
As for Steve Crisp, he was a good manager and friend. I first met him in 1972 when he was managing the Capri in Buckhead (Buckhead Theater on this site) which was the flagship of the Weis operation here. In the late 70’s when Weis sold out and left town Steve followed me as manager of the Loews 12 Oaks. Loews left town a couple of years later and Steve moved over to Akers and GCC replacing Larry Anderson as manager. Larry, who had moved over from Perimeter Mall to open Akers became a DM. Steve left Akers in 1986 to open the new Merchants Walk 8. In 1995, against his better judgement, he was talked into moving to Parkside which had opened in 1987 and had failed to find a manager who could get the job done. The fact that the southeast division office was located upstairs at Parkside did not help.
By the end of the decade the theater business had changed a lot from what it was when Steve and I started. I finally left Parkside, where I was the projectionist, in 1999. I lost track of Steve when he left a few months later and moved to Ashville NC. I regret to say that Steve died of a heart attack a couple of years ago.
Steve was a good friend and a good man to work for. He had the ability to be even tempered even in the most stressful or aggravating times, and was good at balancing the duties of management while making his theater an enjoyable place to work without having the staff running wild.
On one of the Mini-Cinema pages, Cone Maddox, the co-founder of the chain along with Bob Gentry noted that the Madison was the first theater that they operated. Since they started building and opening their mini cinemas in 1968, this would have been some time before that.
Dennis: Thank you for your comments. You know a lot more about GCC than I do since they only came to Atlanta in 1973 and I did not work for them until 1977. I can only speak for the Atlanta area, but we started getting shopping center theaters here in 1963 or so and those theaters had very large screens and much nicer seating, usually rockers, but even the stationary ones were better than those two position seats that GCC was still installing in 1978. I always thought that those two position seats were uncomfortable since the straight up position was too upright and the reclined position tended to make you feel like you were sliding forward. Maybe you had to be just the right size for them to feel right. Never the less, I never met a GCC manager or floor staff that did not hate the things since they all had to be pushed back upright during between show clean up.
As for the screens, I have worked in many theaters with shoebox auditoriums and small screens that were the result of twinning. However, as I said in my comment of 10/17/2005 (hard to believe that I have been writing on this site for over 10 years), Akers, as well as Southlake and Northlake, were built in this shoebox style by design and the poor presentation could not be blamed on twinning. By 1984 when the Gwinnett Place 6 was built they were beginning to make some improvements in auditorium shape and screen size and by 1986 with the Merchants Walk and Parkside 8’s they were finally building nicely designed theaters although there were still limiting their Dolby installations to two to four screens per location.
As I have said before on other GCC theater pages, I appreciated the presence of GCC in Atlanta as I made a good living working for them for a good many years. However, the first generation locations of Perimeter Mall, Northlake, Southlake, and Akers, had as poor a presentation as any theater I ever worked in. In Atlanta at least, those early locations were in very high profile places but by the time they were building the better quality theaters they were placing them either behind or on the back end of shopping centers or hard to find access roads.
All that said, the quality of the presentation never seemed to bother the public as they flocked to these shiny new GCC theaters for a good 15 years before the newer designs made them obsolete.
By the way, the DM’s in Atlanta in my time were Larry Anderson, Larry Pittman, Dave Pollard, and Jeff Lynn. Did you know any of them?
I have just re-read the comment by Dallas and realize that I misunderstood it the first time. As a result, my reply to Michael’s comment is not really relevant. So, I will try again.
Since Tuscon in 1975 was not nearly the city it is today, it is possible that they had an exclusive run on Jaws with the only restriction being a minimum length run which was certainly not an issue here. Not only would Universal been unlikely to care if another house was added, they might have even been in favor of it. That way, even more of the box office would be earned at the start of the run when the film rent was higher.
I have seen this done a few times when theaters knew that they had a hard opening date for the next attraction booked and wanted to get in as much business on their current hit as they could before they had to let it go. Much more common, at least in my experience, was the practice of putting an exclusive run hit in the smallest house knowing that people would wait for the crowds to die down since there was no where else to see it. This way, the the run could be extended and more of the box earned later in the run after the rental rate had decreased.
Of course this was all during the 70’s. Now there is no such thing as exclusive runs and the first weeks gross is an important part of the word of mouth campaign.
Perhaps it was not an official or even contractually legal two screen booking. I can recall many episodes especially in the pre megaplex and multiple print years where theaters added an extra house for a night or even a week. Much more common was moving a hit into a larger house and vice versa with a flop despite the bid being for a specified number of seats house.
Chris, thank you for the compliment. I do my best although my memory does play tricks on me from time to time. It is nice to know that there are people out there who value such efforts.
As for your question, the above ad is on the correct page. This is confusing to someone who did not live it, but the easiest way to keep it straight is to remember that the other theater never had “Sandy Springs” in its name and kept the same owner the entire time. It opened as “Cinema 285” and before too long was renamed “Hammond Square Cinema” when the shopping center it was in was renamed. (The reason for all if this is in my intro for that theater on its page.) It was run by Georgia Theater Company for its entire run.
This location started off as “Sandy Springs Mini Cinema” the third of what would be a chain of five mini cinemas in the Atlanta region plus some out of town locations. In 1971 it was renamed “Sandy Springs Theater” by its franchisee when they pulled it out of the Mini Cinema chain when the chain was sold. In 1973 another new owner purchased all of the Atlanta properties and reunited them under the Mini Cinema name calling them “A Division of Conners Capital Corp.” (Except for the Peachtree Battle and Ansley Mall locations which had already been sold off.) In the summer of 1974, all of these plus the under construction triple on Franklin Road in Marietta were sold to Weis Theaters which was a major player in the Atlanta first run/exclusive run market.
This might not be exactly accurate, but it is the way the story was told to those of us who worked there at the time. The ad above is from the spring of 1974 based on what was playing. By this time I had graduated from college and was managing a theatre for Georgia Theatre Company. I can date this by the Papillon sub-run ad and the Great Gatsby ad to the right. (The Lenox ad was for Where The Lillies Bloom.) This was just a month or two before the chain was sold to Weis. The reason such a low rent film was playing in this neighborhood location was simple. The current owner, not nearly as nice to work for as the original people, owed money to all of the major studios for unpaid film rent plus National Screen and every concession supply house in town. The only distributors he could get product from were minor independents that he did not yet owe money to.
As to why Weis even got involved I do not know. They were a Savannah outfit and controlled that market, but they had no sub-run locations here. Maybe they wanted some or maybe they foresaw the coming of the end of the exclusive first run days and wanted a wider presence for the wide break patterns to come. If so they were very smart as in 1977 they got three of the four Atlanta bookings for Star Wars. However, they soon blind bid their way into the poor house and sold off their properties and left town.
Sandy Springs was the only one of their locations that did not continue on as a theater for at least a few years.
I wonder if this location was a Cobb Theater. The sign looks identical to several Thunderbird Drive Ins that the Cobb company operated in Georgia and Alabama.
While in college I often attended the Starlite Drive In in Milledgeville Georgia. It was a Cobb theater and they also did the “Banko” thing on weekends.
Sorry, but it looks like I have opened a can of worms here. The address is now correct, but the name of the theater is now wrong. The name of the theater that the comments on this page refer to is “Sandy Springs Mini Cinema.”
Cinema 285 is the original name of a theater across the road and down a block which was located at 5930 Roswell Road 30328. It is now an AKA name since the shopping center that it was located in was renamed Hammond Square shortly after the theater opened. The name of the theater was changed by its operator, Georgia Theater Company to Hammond Square Cinema in a vain effort to give people a better idea of where to find it. Its page on CT is:
In summary, this page should be named Sandy Springs Mini Cinema. The address is now correct. The status should be “Demolished” and 350 seats can be added if you wish. Under previously operated by, delete Georgia Theater Company and put Weis Theaters. Under previous names leave Sandy Springs Theater and add Weis Sandy Springs. Sorry for the confusion. These corrections should clear things up. The problem stems from two theaters with almost identical time lines being located acrss the street from each other. Also, the introduction is almost completely wrong. I think that Jack was using newspaper ads for his sources and these places changed names and in the case of this location owners as well. The customers were also confused as it was common for someone to walk in and after seeing what was playing ask where the movie they were looking for was. It was always at the other theater.
If you need a nice, short into for this page, try this:
“Built in an existing storefront by Modular Cinemas of America and opened as the third Mini Cinema during Christmas of 1967. Always a single screen second run neighborhood theater. Closed 1979.”
For what it is worth, all of the information on the Hammond Square Cinema page is correct.
If you Google “James Duffy” you will get page after page of legal documents along with a few more newspaper articles. It looks as if he, at least in more recent years, was in the “getting sued” business rather than the movie business.
Before I started running projection booths I was in the management end although only as a theater manager, never any type of home office work. However, almost everyone in this business in Atlanta had heard of James Duffy. He first came to my attention when he bought up the old Georgia Cinerama, removed the wall and opened it as one of the first drafthouses. I think the actual name was Cinema ‘N Drafthouse. According to one of those leagal documents the McDonalds that now sits in the parking lot there bought the property and moved him out. The building is now a church.
Duffy then moved his operation to the North Springs and stayed there for several years although according to an article in the Knoxville paper, not without problems with the landlord, the IRS, and a whole slew of creditors. For a while he also controlled the old Capri Theater in Buckhead. In the late 90’s GCC, which was on its last legs, had some kind of relationship with Duffy and the DM office at Parkside (where I was working the booth at the time) had the Drafthouse people using some of that office suite.
When GCC shut down, Duffy took over the Hairston 8 and ran it as a dollar house under the EFW banner. The closest I came to working for him was in 2001 when one of the former GCC managers who was now working for Duffy called and asked if I was interested in running the booth at Parkside/Sandy Springs which they had just taken on. Their problem as it was explained to me was that one of their people wanted to show how well he could run the booth. This person went into the Parkside booth which had been closed for over a year and cranked up the sound to the point that several of the drivers were blown. I did not really want to get involved with EFW since I had heard of problems with bouncing paychecks and since this type of problem was really beyond my ability anyway I declined. I guess they finally got someone to get everything running although when I went back into that booth to work for George Lefont I found that they had just robbed the drivers out of some of the existing speakers that were not damaged so that some of the 4 channel houses only had about one and a half channels working.
From the stories in the papers, it seems that Duffy then went into the theatre building business in partnership with local governments, mall and property owners, and investors. Some very nice and impressive theatres were indeed built, but if those stories are true then everyone from the taxpayers to the ticket takers got left holding useless checks, or maybe no check at all when the theatre closed down.
I think that anyone who has been in this business very long has probably heard stories like this especially involving small independent operations, but this case with so many theatres spread over so many states is certainly imressive.
The address on this page needs to be changed. The correct address is 6125 Roswell Road, Atlanta Ga. 30328. It is now the location of the Brickery Restaurant. When the Sandy Springs closed up, it was completely gutted for a seafood restaurant and in 1990 that one gave way to the Brickery. This December (2015), the Brickery will close and the entire shopping center will be demolished for a new development. This was the first shopping center built in Sandy Springs and dates to about 1960. The theater was built in 1968 and closed about 1979 or so.
The current address at the top of the page is for an apartment complex about a mile south and inside I-285.
An August 2011 article in the Knoxville News Sentinel has this paragraph about the North Springs:
North Springs Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse — Atlanta
One of the few Drafthouses the Duffys operated, the North Springs Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse, opened in June 1991, just six months after McDonald’s purchased the property where the Duffys' prior Atlanta Drafthouse had been, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Less than seven months later, three construction supply companies sued for unpaid bills. Three judgments totaling $7,292.51 were ordered, one of which was paid off two years later.
In late 1996, U.S. Internal Revenue Service agents raided the theater, seeking $48,490.95 in unpaid payroll and corporate income taxes and late fees.
The theater had re-opened by March 1997, according to a Journal-Constitution report. The landlord filed an eviction suit for unpaid rent in September 2000, and the theater closed shortly after.
This is the link for the entire article:
A Google search of James Duffy turns up many pages, mostly filled with court actions.
RStewart: Thank you for that comment. I looked on the North Springs page that I had commented on years ago and found a link to an article in the Naples Florida paper. It was an investigative report on a Naples Theatre owned by James Duffy and what happened to it. Even if you have no connection to any theater in it the article is well researched and makes for interesting reading. It is not a pretty story. Here is the introduction:
Court cases found: 69
Number of money judgments: 47
Judgment total: $24.6 million
Amount paid: $141,208.84
Total theaters found: 88
Number of theaters announced that never opened: 21
Number of theaters open less than 3 years: 37
Number of theaters open 3 years or more: 30
Number of states: 26
Number of theaters in Florida (most of any state): 17
The link for the entire story is here:
I have just noticed that in the comments above, there is no mention of the fact that this place is closed again, probably forever. That American Screenworks era lasted less than a year I think. There was a big legal tangle with the developer who I think was named Duffy, and a lot of creditors from the construction. At least one and maybe two more operators gave it a try, but just as with the old Magic Johnson location across town at Greenbriar they were not able to make it work.
GTC made tons of money with South DeKalb and Greenbriar during their prime days in the 70’s (and in the case of Greenbriar, the mid 60’s) but this is just another case of nothing lasting forever.
This is from a comment by “dmorgan” made on the page for the Candler Road Mini Cinema which was located across Candler Road from the mall. We were talking about the incredible jump in business during the summer of ‘78 at South DeKalb after the twin was quaded in the fall of 1977:
“I remember SD would get Jaws 2, Grease, Heaven Can Wait, Foul Play, and Jungle Book that summer. Saw those movies there or the Glenwood Drive In. Boy, talk about timing. I would say summer 1978 was the first official blockbuster summer as we would come to know it. (Star Wars, of course, kicking things off the summer before with Jaws as a primer in ‘75.)
Like you, and as more of a youngster moviegoer, I was saddened with the butchering of SD into a quad. That being said, they sure got to play a lot of successful product, and nobody seemed to care as I can remember packed houses, lines outside past the Barrel of Fun. (Although I do remember long line down the mall for Freaky Friday on a Saturday when it was a twin!) I think they were the only quad around except Akers Mill at the time."
South DeKalb was in a great location for an intermediate break house when it opened. All of the first run theatres were either downtown or on the north side, and getting a hit from one of those locations was like getting it first run. In 1974 I remember The Sting, Herbie Rides Again, and Longest Yard having repeated sellouts when they arrived after the end of their exclusive northside runs.
After the days of exclusive runs ended starting in 1977, South DeKalb still did tremendous business since the closest first run competition was Stonemont on Memorial Drive. The Belvedere never was much of a factor and Candler Road Twin did not even register. 1978 was one of the busiest summers ever but I remember Escape From Alcatraz, Prophecy, and Amityville Horror in 1979, Airplane, Empire and Urban Cowboy in 1980, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tarzan, and Eye of the Needle in 1981.
I left South DeKalb after that summer and followed Tommy Pike up to Greens Corner which was a brand new and even busier location. South DeKalb started a slow decline about 1984 or so, but was still doing well when GTC sold out to UA Theatres in 1987. UA had little use for a quad in those days when eight was starting to seem small, and no use at all for the employees they inherited from GTC. I do not recall when this location closed, but those years I was there from 1974 until 1981 were very happy and enjoyable times.
Thanks for taking the time to record your memories of that very busy and fun time. I am impressed by your memory. I can remember those days, but then I was living those experiences every day for a living while you were just an avid moviegoer. I am going to cut and paste your South Dekalb paragraphs onto that page and comment there. That way anyone interested in that location will see them.
GTC made a mint with that UA contract and it was safe since they did not need to do any bidding, blind or otherwise to get good movies. Sometimes there were off years like ‘74, but then '75 was one of the all time busiest so they had a good deal there. Just the 007, Pink Panther, and Woody Allen movies insured a good flow of product. The only ones I remember them not playing were the roadshows of Fiddler on the Roof and Man of La Mancha, the Cineramas like Mad Mad World and Last Tango In Paris because they did not want to be raided.
Cone, glad to see you are still keeping up with this site. You may be interested to know that the site of the Sandy Springs, which has been the Brickery Restaurant for decades is about to be demolished. The entire shopping center has been sold for a big new retail and apartment development. Thanks again for providing me with a great place to work during my college years.
I think that when Candler was first sold it was part of a block of mini cinemas and perhaps GTC did not want to take on the whole lot. Or, maybe they were interested but Weis outbid them. A couple of months earlier GTC had been involved in the strangest change of ownership I ever saw when they purchased the Parkaire Twin from Loews. (You can read that one on the Parkaire page if interested.)GTC was a pretty conservative outfit and maybe Parkaire took up all of the money they were prepared to risk.
Also, 1974 was shaping up to be a bad year at the Lenox Square since it was tied to the United Artists Pictures contract. I think that the top grossing film there all year was Sleeper which was really a Christmas 1973 release. Point is, although 1974 was a very good at several of the theaters I worked in, the owners were obsessed with Lenox. If things were bad there they might have been less inclined to expand.
In the fall of 1977 SD was twinned on each side and Christmas of 1977 and spring and summer of ‘78 were huge. When Weis left town a year of so later it is probable that they did not consider Candler worth worrying about to the point that they did not even track it. I recall that in late '80 or so SD was booked with Coal Miners Daughter. The manager called the booker to tell him that Candler, a dollar house at the time, was at that moment running that movie. The response from the booker was: “O, thanks. I forgot about that (blank)hole.”
As to its location, you are correct. I saw it every night when I was managing SD since I had to use the NBG right next to it for the night deposit drop. (The family that owned GTC also owned a lot of NGB stock.) However, the shopping center extends out towards Candler Road more than I remembered it so I could not find the exact spot when I last was by there.
Second point first. Being Ultravision, the South Dekalb auditoriums were almost square and had 540 seats. So when split they were not quite as long as Village and Suburban after twinning but with 338 seats were almost as big. In all three cases, they used the seats removed for the wall to add rows in front. I was only in the original Village a couple of times but I recall thinking that it had a wider and shallower auditorium than the Eastern Federal houses where I was working at that time.
I worked at the Village for most of the summer of 1974 and got to know the twins well. They might have been a little wider than South Dekalb because I remember that they had six seats per row on the new wall side and seven on the outer section. However South Dekalb and Suburban had rockers and the Village had smaller stationary seats so that might have been the reason. I was one of the unfortunates who was tasked with the job of pulling and reinstalling those Village and Suburban seats. At the Village, two men could move a seven seat row by themselves. At Suburban we had to break them up into threes.
As to your question about business, my stock answer is that any theatre, given the right movie at the right time will pack ‘em in. I can remember capacity crowds at almost every theatre I ever worked in. I even saw them shut the gate at the Starlight Drive In to avoid a gridlock because all of the fields were full and the driveways as well. I can remember full houses at the Village both before and after the dollar days which started about 1977 due to the opening of the GCC Northlake in the summer of '76.
Georgia Theatre almost never sold out of a location and I did see them close a few down, like the Hammond Square. So, since I was obviously wrong in my earlier comment about the Village closing in 1978 instead of maybe as much as 10 years later, it probably made money as a dollar house. If they got a big movie that had not played at Northlake they could do pretty well. Superman played at Stonemont and Buford Highway so Village was well positioned to draw new crowds when they got it.
As to the closing date of the Village, I think that can probably be guessed as sometime after 1987. That was the year Georgia Theatre sold out to United Artists Theatres. UA wanted an Atlanta presence without having to build one up so they just bought GTC just as Regal later bought up Storey. Those people came in here with a vengeance intent on getting rid of as many of the GTC people as they could as soon as they could. As they were only interested in locations like the Lenox, Southlake 8, Shannon 8, and Greens Corner, this applied to theatres as well.
All of the drive ins and the rest of the indoors were soon closed up and their employees let go. No effort was made to match the managers, projectionists, or janitors with openings that the theatres they were keeping open. Indeed, those people had been moved out with the same undisguised glee as the people at the closed up locations were. Those of us lucky enough to stay in the business by finding jobs at other theatres had the pleasure of watching this initial group of thugs kicked out when UA went through an ownership change, and later that group hit the road when Regal took over.
Sometimes payback is not a bad thing.
This is an interesting theatre. I worked at all of the General Cinema Theatres in Atlanta and I am familiar with all of the Georgia and South Carolina locations and I have never known one to be located in anything other than a purpose built location. It was always either a new free standing building or part of a new shopping center.
The 70MM projector was probably a Cinnemaccanica Victoria 8. All of the comments here seem to indicate that this location was equipped the same as two Atlanta locations opened at that time, the Merchants Walk 8 in 1986 and the Parkside 8 in 1987. They also had the single THX / 70MM house. The only 70MM to play there were Far and Away and Dick Tracy.
When Gcc closed down, Merchants Walk was taken over by Georgia Theatre Company and converted to stadium seating. However, the Parkside had a history much like this one. In fact, the current operator has also just removed the original seating and put in recliners. The seat count in the large auditoriums dropped from 340 to 133.
That story may be exaggerated somewhat, but it is what I was told. Actually, it makes some sense. GTC never met a theatre that it considered too small to build or twin. The final incarnation of the Lenox Square Theatre, their pride and joy, had two theatres in what had once been the lobby of the original #1 house. They seated 110 and 118 respectively and had such tiny screens that the sides of the scope picture and the top and bottom of the flats were cut off.
GTC had an odd habit of buying up theatres that they really had no use for just to keep the competition from getting them. In the 10 years or so that I worked for them this happened four times. The theatres were the Loew’s Parkaire, the Garden Hills, the Georgia Cinerama (Georgia Twin on this site) and this one. In each case there was a successful GTC nearby that they wanted to protect, in this case, South DeKalb.
While they were willing to buy and operate them that did not mean that they were willing to compete with their own locations or operate them at a loss. I had forgotten until I looked up its page that the Septum started out as a four, but when word got out that it was on the way, that is when GTC started to look to get out. Having Conyers to yourself (except for the Moonlit) was one thing, but they were not interested in trying to operate Salem Gate against a brand new quad.
I doubt that GTC would ever have put in the type of money involved to quad the Salem, but it made for a good story. And, since Septum ended up buying it, maybe it is true. Now, maybe someone can tell me why GTC never bought the Candler Twin.
I can not say for sure when this location closed, but it was probably later than 1964. Cobb Theatres took over the operation of the Waters Drive Ins and their only indoor, the Eastwood Mall in the late 60’s.
Dennis: I actually have a copy of the opening day issue of the Atlanta Times. I hope those people in the picture got their fill of movies quick because I do not think that the Times lasted even a year.
Evan, can you shed any light on the Septum connection to this location:
The Birmingham Rewound website has blessed us with this page:
It is the program for the grand opening of the Eastwood Mall Theatre. Among other revelations, it shows that I was wrong in my first comment where I wrote that the theater was opened by Cobb Theaters. It was opened by Newman Waters who operated most of the Birmingham area drive ins including the Starlite Drive In which was located adjacent to the mall. The Waters family was also the developer of Eastwood Mall.
The opening of the theater took place on Christmas Day 1964 at 2PM, and the feature was “The Pleasure Seekers” starring Ann-Margaret.