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 but was reopened by Satellite Cinemas on April 22, 2016. It was closed in 2017.

Contributed by Jack Coursey

Recent comments (view all 31 comments)

StanMalone
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
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
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:

http://www.naplesnews.com/community/bonita-banner/james-duffy-atlanta-cinema-movie-theater-fraud-lee

Rstewart
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
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.

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on February 6, 2017 at 12:07 pm

It appears this theatre is open and operated by Satellite Cinemas (www.satellite-cinemas.com)

crunchocky
crunchocky on February 6, 2017 at 6:35 pm

That is correct. Satellite Cinemas Facebook page indicates that they reopened this theatre April 22 of last year, and as of this current week at least are still open and operating this theatre.

StanMalone
StanMalone on February 7, 2017 at 12:07 pm

I waded down to the bottom of their Facebook page and found this article on the reopening of the theater:

http://crossroadsnews.com/news/2016/apr/29/south-dekalb-cinema-reopens/

The company seems to consist of two theaters in Florida plus this one. It would be interesting to find out just how they settled on this location and what brought it to their attention. Who knows, maybe they will give the old Magic Johnson over at Greenbriar a try next.

For 25 years South DeKalb was a destination theater which had the entire area of DeKalb County south of Covington Highway all the way out to Conyers to draw from. Now, the AMC Stonecrest 15 sits only four exits down I-20 which pretty much makes SD a neighborhood theater. I think that this is the fourth operator to give this a try since the Duffy expansion. There have been at least three attempts to make the old Cineplex location at Panola and 12 work.

With the start of the multiplex era the cost of equipping a theater and projection booth was too much for anyone other than a national or at least regional company. The wave of theater bankruptcies and resultant lease breakings in the late 90’s produced a good number of completely equipped theaters available for movie buffs and well meaning amateurs to make their dream of running their own theater possible. Most of these fell victim to the realities of trying to compete against AMC and Regal, but a few located in just the right spot managed to make it although few managed to afford the conversion to digital projection.

This Satellite outfit obviously has some money behind it since they were able to convert the booth, rebrand all of the signage, and give the place a good cleanup. Hopefully they will be the exception to the rule and survive.

StanMalone
StanMalone on February 11, 2017 at 8:47 am

Looking at the website and the facebook page, it seems that they are only running 6 movies. With the expense of converting to digital I guess they wanted to make sure this place would work before converting all 12. Or, maybe they decided that there never would be enough product to justify 12.

When the Starlight Drive In on Moreland converted to digital they only did 4 out of 6 screens.

StanMalone
StanMalone on December 23, 2017 at 1:05 pm

I tried the website to see what was going on at this location and all you get is a blank page. If you click on the tab for all showtimes you get only the two Florida theaters. So, it looks as if this place may be closed yet again. I believe this would make the fifth time which has to be approaching some type of record.

I also looked up some yelp reviews on the mall itself and apparently it has turned into a real dump, and a not very safe one at that. One reviewer said that if it were not for all of the police and private security the place would be half empty. Makes sense since there is a police station in the parking lot next to the theater entrance.

As for the theater itself, a comment from 10/15/17 states that the theater is now closed.

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