Coronet Theater

630 Peachtree Street NE,
Atlanta, GA 30380

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Don’t remember much about the Coronet Theater, it was on Peachtree Street, just down from the Fox Theater. Was run by Eastern Federal in the late 1970’s. I was only inside once, briefly. Upstairs was the Baronet Theater

Contributed by Raymond Stewart

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

JackCoursey
JackCoursey on May 3, 2005 at 7:19 pm

The Coronet was part of the Eastern Federal chain. It opened in 1969 and closed in 1980. It’s address was 630 Peachtree St NE 30380.

StanMalone
StanMalone on June 6, 2005 at 8:49 am

A couple of years ago, a movie called BADASSSSSSSSSSSSSS came to Atlanta. It was the story of the making of the Melvin Van Peebles movie Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song, one of the groundbreaking films that helped pave the way for the Black movie explosion of the early 70’s. The reviewer for the paper wrote a short history of the movie and the Coronet Theatre which is where it played in Atlanta. This is a letter I wroe to him filling in more detail on those days at the Coronet:

Now that I am in my 50’s I do not pay much attention to movies, but as a teenager working at the Cherokee Theatre in the early 70’s I saw every one that came out. Since the same company, Eastern Federal Corporation, owned both theatres I sometimes found myself working at the Coronet and its upstairs mini twin the Baronet, when things were busy there.

The Coronet, located on Peachtree Street between the Atlanta and Fox theatres, was really built with the first run roadshow crowd in mind. It had 600 seats, 35/70MM projectors and a beautiful wall to wall curved screen. By the time it was built those days were about over for downtown theatres. The only movie of this type that played there was a 70MM run of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” It looked great on that screen but nobody came to see it. There was a brief time when the Coronet tried to cash in on the brief craze of sex oriented movies that came out in the late 60’s that were produced by some major studios seeing just how far they could push their new found ability to put anything on the screen. The most notable of these was something called “Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?” I am not kidding about this. You can look it up in the Internet Movie Data Base. Happily it was long gone by my time, but the people who were there at the time still talked about it.

The first of the successful “Black” movies that played at the Coronet was something called “Watermelon Man” with Godfrey Cambridge. That was an unexpected hit and woke the Eastern Federal people up to the fact that there was a vast untapped market for downtown theatres. Being new, the Coronet did not have a tradition or name like the Roxy, Grand, Rialto, Fox, or Rhodes, and the EFC bookers did not hesitate to go after their new audience. “Sweet Sweetback” soon opened and as you stated in your article was a massive hit and had a long run. It was marketed under that name because in those days the AJC would not print certain words such as sex, seduction, seduce, and especially badassssss in movie advertising. (They also required that some additional clothes be penciled in if the women pictured in the artwork were a little too revealing.)

After “Sweet Sweetback” came “Cotton Comes to Harlem” which was a big hit and “Shaft” which was an even bigger hit. This business encouraged Eastern Federal to take over a small office area just outside the Coronet’s balcony exit and put in the 110 seat Baronet Theatre. Even with their newfound success the Coronet had some slow times as “Shaft” was followed by movies such as “Honky” and “The Bus Is Coming.” It took a while for the black movie pipeline to fill up with quality product. The black audience may have been a new find, but that did not mean that they were any different from the white audiences of the time. If you threw junk up on the screen they stayed home.

1972 was the big year for the Coronet / Baronet. The first hit was “Cool Breeze.” By this time other downtown theatres had caught on to the Coronet’s act and moved in. The Martin chain got the sequel to “Shaft” and announced its entrance into the market with “Shaft’s Big Score.” The Coronet’s luck held though because they were left with the sequel to “Cotton Comes To Harlem.” It seemed that the crowds preferred Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson cleaning up Harlem to John Shaft, who was basically just a black detective inserted into a typical white crime plot. “Come Back Charleston Blue” (a very entertaining movie if you have not seen it)turned out to be the biggest hit of them all. After “Blue” came another monster hit, “Super Fly.”

Although it continued to do well, the biggest days of the Coronet were over. The other downtown theatres had seen the light and started getting the better pictures. The last big hit for the Coronet was “Gordon’s War” in the summer of 1973. I think 1973 was the high water mark of the theme. By this time I was working at the Atlanta Theatre and we broke all of the old “Sound of Music” and “2001” records with “Super Fly TNT” and “Chinese Connection.” The Loews Grand was playing “Coffy” and “Blacula” and the Rialto had “Shaft In Africa.” Even the Fabulous Fox Theatre got in on the act with a Jim Brown movie called “Slaughter’s Big Ripoff.” The Coronet was left with an independent production called “Brother on the Run.”

It was at some point during this time that the Coronet hoped to recapture the magic with the next film by Melvin Van Peebles called “Don’t Play Us Cheap.” Melvin and, I think, Mario were there for the opening and seemed like pretty nice guys. The movie was not a success, at least at the Coronet. It left so fast that I did not get a chance to see it, but the word seemed to be that the market had now changed and people were coming to the movie more for entertainment and not as much for activism.

All of this took place over the course of only three years, but it really did change things. Even James Bond got into the act as the 1973 version “Live and Let Die” had a plot that involved 007 with a Harlem based heroin ring. There were some other good entries like “Across 110th Street” but things got pretty cheap and raunchy after that as the producers found that if you could make the movie cheap enough you could turn a profit on the first weekend gross before the bad word of mouth killed off the movie. (Just like the horror film craze of the early 80’s.) Things hit bottom with a couple of Rudy Ray Moore films, “Dolomite” and “Disco Godfather” and a movie about the most successful pimp in town called “The Mack.” This last one led to an event in Atlanta that outraged everyone from the Mayor to the School Chief. A poll of Atlanta Junior High School students revealed that over 50% of the boys wanted to be Macks when they grew up. This did not cause much news until the administrators found out that a Mack was slang for pimp. You can look it up because I read it in the AJC.

In view of your article on the opening of “Badassssss” I thought you might be interested in the fading memories of someone who saw first hand the changes “Sweet Sweetback” ushered in.

raysson
raysson on November 17, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Wasn’t another venue Atlanta cinema “The Columbia Theatre” located on Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta?

StanMalone
StanMalone on November 18, 2008 at 10:46 am

Link for the Columbia page. Listed as Atlanta Theatre.

/theaters/4784/

rechols
rechols on November 12, 2010 at 2:34 am

Excellent commentary Stan – I always enjoy your comments and appreciate your encyclopedic
knowledge of Atlanta motion picture history. Hope you read the later comments, as I note that
most of your posts are dated 2005.
I lived at the Howell House on Peachtree for a while in the 70s. I used to get down to the
Coronet every now and then, don’t recall ever going to the Baronet.
I remember Sweet Sweetback – there were a lot of comments about it at Grady Memorial Hospital
where I work – mostly about the title – rather daring for the time. Few actually saw the movie.
The only movie I remember seeing at the Coronet was Death Wish with Charles Bronson. I loved it.
It spawned a franchise, and, as is most often the case, each sequel got progressively worse.
Jack – you’re a great contributor as well. Surprised to see the Coronet was actually open so long.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Stan and Ralph great stories should have popped over here sooner.for so long, not alot on CT about Atlanta Theatres.thankgoodness for Stan.

reg41
reg41 on February 14, 2013 at 6:31 pm

On a one-week trip to Atlanta in 1970 to take a short course, I went down past the Fox to check out the Coronet. The Baronet had not been added at that time. The film playing was “The Watermelon Man.” I remember being disappointed in the theatre, but I realize now that it was a forerunner of things to come over the next 20 years. It was long and narrow, compared to the other downtown theatres. There was one section of seats, with aisles down the left and right, between the seats and the walls.

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