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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.
Opened in November of 1967, an odd time of year for a drive in to open even in the sunny south. The opening night program was “Rough Night In Jericho” with two co-features, “Deadlier Than The Male” which was a summer attraction at the Alabama Theater, and Rick Nelson in “Love And Kisses.”
Also on opening night, 10 Thanksgiving turkeys and 10 hams to the lucky winners along with performers from the Shrine Circus. AH, showmanship.
Thank you Greg for that fine comment. Entries like yours are the reason I wade through so much CT clutter in the hopes of finding such theater stories to compare to my own. I generally look through the comments of any theater 8 screens or less since stories from the megaplexes are so different from my memories.
In Atlanta, UA kicked out the projectionists union in 1990 although the way they did it got them slapped with an NLRB complaint and as a result the union got two more years. In 1972 I learned to run the projection equipment the same way you did although in my case it was the union projectionist who was tired of the work and was more than happy to let this enthusiastic young kid do the work for him. Lucky for me since I made a good living at it for the next 40 or so years. I still get the occasional call to run a movie at a film festival since most people working in theaters today have never even seen film much less run it.
I hope you will take the time to put more of your stories here.
It is probably more like a “2” missing in front. 8plexs were the standard GCC build in the 1986-88 era and there were 8 or so of them that were identical plans with the only difference being the on exterior caused by the nature of the individual locations.
If this is one of them then the auditoriums were probably arranged as two sets of four with the seating capacities of 378, 302, 220, 171. Times two of course.
Another note related to my first comment. An ad from August 1966 has a kiddie show at 10AM on Saturday. It was playing at Eastwood, Capri, Fairfield, and College. Apparently all of these were Waters Theaters. On the CT page for the Capri, the intro consists of a mention of these Saturday morning kiddie shows.
On the CT page for the Homewood Theater, also run by Waters, I mentioned in my comment that I recall attending several kiddie shows there although my recollection is that they were on weekdays. That would have been 1960-62.
This is a link to the Birmingham Rewound website which offers a fine history of Birmingham mostly via old newspaper articles. This entry for June of 1966 shows some movie ads with a “ladder” style ad which includes the Fairfield. It shows the current attraction as “Battle of the Bulge” which was the Christmas feature at Eastwood Mall.
There is no theater company name on the ad but most if not all of the drive ins listed were operated by the Newman Waters Company which also operated the Eastwood Mall Theater as well as the mall itself. It is possible that Waters owned all of these theaters but did not include Eastwood in order to keep its first run and first class status distinct from the neighborhood and drive in trade. Or, it is possible that by this time they had disposed of these theaters.
This theater is an exact copy of the Parkside 8, later renamed Sandy Springs 8 that GCC opened in Atlanta in 1987. This is the CT page for that theater:
Compare the photos and it is hard to tell them apart. The independent that runs the theater now did the digital conversion and the place is still going strong after 30 years and four owners.
In 1988 GCC opened another almost identical theater the Hairston 8 in Stone Mt. just outside Atlanta.
In November 1965, while still operated by Waters, this location and its sister Fair Park, College, and Fairfield Drive ins presented the Birmingham premiere of the AIP classic “Doctor Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.”
I have never seen it, but when running the Drive Invasion dusk to dawn shows at the Starlight Drive In in Atlanta I did run an old preview of it that I found stored away with all of those Filmack drive in intermission classics. Although faded, it was in good shape and in scope no less. Very rare for those days.
The correct address for the Capri was:
2304 Center Point Road.
I do not know when it was built, but the first appearance in any of the papers I have looked at is in March 1965. The feature was “How To Murder Your Wife.”
Article in the local paper about running a preview for an R rated movie in front of Finding Dory. If you read into the article it seems that they might have decided at the last minute to add a house for Dory and then started the previously scheduled R rated movie instead.
I am sure that many of us who worked in theaters have similar stories to tell.
“I saw some similar shows there, for example something set in a swamp with Claudia Jennings and many alligators…”
That would be “Gator Bait.” Great drive in movie. Ran it at the NE Expressway Drive in in Atlanta with its co-feature of “Unholy Rollers” which was another Claudia Jennings movie we had run a couple of years earlier. Those were the days.
Mike, I think that the date is wrong on this one. Cactus Flower was a Christmas 1969 release and Airport was summer or spring of 1970. Boatniks was also a 1970 release.
In a follow-up to the comment of David Zoring on 2/22, I read recently in the AJC the Larry’s body is still at the county morgue, unclaimed. I know that I grew up in a different era, but you would think that the Fox would cough up a few bucks to have him cremated. After all, he was the organist for 20 years or so.
I would say that they should put the urn on the organ lift and let him ride up and down for eternity but they would never go for that. I can also see that they might worry about precedent, but still….
It has been about 8 years since I have worked the Fox, so I am not familiar with the culture there now, but there was a time that if management refused to get involved then the employees might have taken up a collection. Just as with the whole Joe Patten eviction saga, a sad commentary on the way things are today.
Don, Good to see that you have found this site. I will contact you soon. In the meantime, if you have not already done so check out the Screening Room (Broadview) page. I am sure you remember that engagement. Also, the Silver Screen (Peachtree Battle) one as well. I think that Heather was there when that one ran.
The status of this location should be changed to “Closed” probably for eternity. Roughly speaking, the original mall theater lasted about 25 years, 10 as a 1000 seat single and 15 or so as a twin. This parking lot location lasted about 15 years total although it was closed in between some of the different owners.
This is a link to the al.com website with a story on the opening of this location. In the body of the article are links to drive in history in Alabama and a feature on the nine Alabama drive ins currently in operation.
On May 5, 2016, Coyote opened their second location in Leeds, Alabama, just east of Birmingham.
Yes, Joe is gone at the age of 89. There was a small private memorial service in the chapel of Crawford Long Hospital for family and a few close work associates. There is talk of a public memorial service in the future, but no word on if the Fox will offer to host it.
In a very appropriate alignment of events, James H. (Jimmy) Williams, a long time Atlanta projectionist died on the same day at age 90. Jimmy moved from the Roxy (also managed by ABC) in the late 50’s and worked as a regular Fox projectionist for many years. After the Fox reopened in ‘78 he would occasionally work a shift on the Summer Movie Series.
All of the old timers who were such a part of those great years are now moving on. Those of us who were young enough and lucky enough to have worked with them in their later years have some great memories, to say nothing of the many stories we post here.
It is hard to make out those showtimes, but it looks as if they were running this 92 minute movie every 100 minutes.
My parents, who are long gone now, grew up in Atlanta in the 20’s. There was a sidewalk photographer who set up between the Grand and Paramount and would take candid shots of people as they walked by hoping to sell them the next day. I have pictures of both my mother and father, who did not know each other at the time, walking up the sidewalk with the Grand marquee in the background.
This link to the Atlanta Time Machine website shows both the Capitol and Roxy theaters. It has been linked to before on this page but the link no longer works.