South Dekalb Cinemas 12

2801 Candler Road,
Decatur, GA 30034

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South Dekalb Cinemas 12

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Built as a twin cinema in 1971 by the Georgia Theatre Company, each of the auditoriums were split in the 1970’s to allow for two additional screens which gave a total seating capacity for 1,312. Later operated by United Arts, then Regal Cinemas. The theatre was closed and gutted remaining empty for several years.

Years later, an addition was built on the back-side of the mall, adjacent to the old theatre. The original theatre space then became part of a new cinema complex, known as the De Kekalb Cinemas 12. It was closed in 2015.

Contributed by Jack Coursey

Recent comments (view all 26 comments)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 6, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Yes Stan, Daniel Village theatre a GTC had no doors leading into the theatre if you didn’t set middleways or up front you heard popcorn popping or the girls at the concession talking.Never realised they had other theatres like that,Very stupid design.It wasn’t until it was Twinnned that doors were put up.Great Story.

jeterga on September 5, 2010 at 6:50 pm

The 72,808-square-foot building will house a 12-screen multiplex attached to the mall. It will be triple the size of the mall’s old cinema

The $13 million cinema was made possible when DeKalb County approved a $2.8 million tax package in May 1998 to help seed the project.

South DeKalb Mall has been without a cinema since 1997, when the old cinema was closed. The Theaters will seat 3,600 in stadium-style seats.

jeterga on September 5, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Tene Harris, the mall’s general manager, said that work crew had guttied the old cinema which will be replaced with a12-screen theater with stadium seating.

The new complex will also have a jazz bar and a small arcade inside. She said the bar would be only admit patrons who are 21 years and older.

It will be the second Atlanta cinema for American Screen Works, which also operates a cinema at Memorial Drive and South Hairston Road the former general cinema 8.

The 30-plus year-old mall used to have a cinema but it closed in the mid 1990s because of disrepair.

The new complex comes five years after a deal between the mall’s previous owner, O'Leary Partners, and Magic Johnson Theatres to build a 12-screen cinema at the 800,000 square-foot mall fizzled.

The 40,000 square-foot theatre complex , which will include digital sound in all auditoriums, advanced ticket pick-up and an enhanced food and beverage menu, is part of the mall’s redevelopment program

Atlanta-based American Screen Works, whose parent company is the Restaurant Entertainment Group, has been in the movie business since 1979. It operates 32 cinemas in cities like Orlando, Denver, Washington DC, Seattle, Cincinnati and Minneapolis

jeterga on September 5, 2010 at 7:33 pm

American Screenworks will be opening its new $10 million cinemas at the Gallery of South DeKalb on April 20, and the Atlanta-based company and mall management are expecting the throngs to come.

Sayed Raza, American Screenwork’s operations manager, said construction crews are working round-the-clock to have the 42,000-square-foot facility at the rear of the mall ready for Opening Night.

“It will be ready,” he said Friday as crews unfurled acres of green, orange and black print carpet and painters added final coats of paint and a slew of women swept and vacuumed construction dust from the cinema’s 12 auditoriums.

The new cinema replaces a smaller old asbestos-laced 24,000-square-foot cinema that closed in the 1990s.

American Screenworks stepped in to build the cinema when a deal with Magic Johnson Cinemas fell through under the mall’s previous owners.

StanMalone on October 6, 2015 at 2:46 pm

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.

StanMalone on October 6, 2015 at 2:53 pm

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.

Rstewart on October 6, 2015 at 5:31 pm

There was “Duffy” involved in some of the various cinema and brewhouses back in the day around Atlanta. He was rumored to be tied up in some sort of monetary games back with the North Springs and a couple of other locations.

StanMalone on October 7, 2015 at 5:49 am

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:

Rstewart on October 7, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Wow! It is amazing how guys like this can line up financing and con property owners. I had heard that the closed Cineplex 6 screen in Kennesaw that EFW re-opened stayed open after EFW bailed to try to get the employees some money to cover their bounced checks with the landlord’s blessing.

StanMalone on October 8, 2015 at 4:54 am

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.

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