North Springs Theatre

7270 Roswell Road NE,
Atlanta, GA 30328

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North Springs Theatre

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The North Springs was initially single screen cinema and part of the Eastern Federal circuit. The theatre had a steep slope insuring an unobtrusive view of the screen. The theatre was twined in the 1970s and became a cinema and drafthouse in the mid 1980s until it closed down in 1990. It is currently being used as a nightclub.

Contributed by Jack Coursey

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

raymondstewart
raymondstewart on June 7, 2005 at 7:52 am

Same auditorium layout as the Cherokee, Toco Hills, Belvedere & Miracle. Was twinned in 78 as I recall, seated 331 on one side, 336 on the other. Some of the sound equipment was from the Georgia Cinerama, the speaker in #2 still had the CINERAMA insignia on it!(I was Asst. Mgr. at the NST for a while) Before the twinning it had a mural of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton on the wall of the lobby.

JackCoursey
JackCoursey on June 7, 2005 at 8:52 am

Since the North Springs is still somewhat intact (based on a cursory view of the property last year) do you think it could be fitted for Cinerama?

raymondstewart
raymondstewart on June 7, 2005 at 10:47 am

Do you mean is the equipment still there, not likely. Eastern Federal had a ground lease that has expired and they usually stripped the equipment out when their lease expired, so I’d guess the stuff is gone. I know that they stripped the Town & Country and Miracle when the lease expired. The Cherokee’s equipment was found here and there in the company (I think the projection stuff went into the Baronet) and they sold the lease back to the landlord at Toco Hills with the equipment intact.

Could you install Cinerama, no. The booth was small and there was a stairway that went up the right side. There was nothing on the left of the booth but the roof of the lobby, so no room for the alpha or charlie projectors. The Miracle or the Belvedere could have handled three projectors, don’t recall the Toco Hills booth setup.

JackCoursey
JackCoursey on December 26, 2005 at 12:53 pm

Here are a couple of recent photos of the former North Springs.

StanMalone
StanMalone on April 17, 2006 at 1:47 am

North Springs was the last of the big second run suburban theatres built by Eastern Federal. Like the earlier Cherokee, Toco Hills, Belvedere, and Miracle it had a very large auditorium, and a small everything else. It seated about 875 in three sections with two off center aisles and two more along the walls. The lobby was small compared to the size of the theatre but the box-office, managers office, projection booth, and janitors closet were the smallest I ever saw anywhere. There was no concession storeroom at all. Supplies were kept behind the screen with a chicken wire wall “securing” either end.

The theatre opened during Christmas of 1968 and I believe the first feature was Coogans Bluff. It usually changed movies every week showing whatever was on the “drive in break” that week. The first movie I saw there was Angel In My Pocket in March of 1969. I worked there from November 1971 until the spring of 1973. I was fortunate enough to work for an excellent manager, Mr. Neal Dolvin. Although the company was run so much on the cheap that it was not a good place to learn the manager trade, I did learn from Neal many lessons on hiring and managing a staff which I put to use later on.

In the office was a notebook with all of the theatres bookings listed, and only three or four times a year would a movie play for two weeks and never any longer. That changed on February 9, 1972 when Lady and the Tramp opened direct from its reissue first run at the Fox Theatre. It played for three weeks and did capacity business on weekend afternoons. On April 12, 1972 French Connection opened the day after it won its Academy Awards, and played to huge crowds for its six week run. Following that was a two week filler booking of MASH which was notable only for the incredibly poor condition of its print. This was a city wide booking, and every theatre in town was cursed with a print that had more yellow and green scratches that it did film emulsion.

The next day, June 6, 1972, Oh Calcutta opened for a three day run. This episode taught me a lot about how some theatre companies treat their employees as well as more than I ever wanted to know about the morality of public officials. The Fulton County Solicitor was up for re-election that year and despite the fact that Atlanta and Fulton County was littered with 35MM soft core houses and 16MM hardcore houses at the time, he realized an opportunity for free publicity when he saw it. On June 7, he “led raids” as the AJC so quaintly put it, on the three EFC theatres in Fulton County, the Ben Hill, Baronet, and North Springs. Off to jail went three managers, three projectionists, and the city manager. As the doorman, I did not have to make the trip, but stayed behind to answer the phone and explain to the hundreds of patrons who had purchased advance tickets for that nights showing why they were getting their money back.

EFC’s part in this shameful episode was to bail its employees out, and send them back to work that very night to run prints of MASH that just so happened to arrive almost before the paddy wagons had left the premises. This confirmed to me that EFC at least suspected what was going to happen and had a contingency plan in place. In the end, the EFC attorney pled everyone guilty, thus giving 7 good men criminal records, and paid their fines. I am willing to bet that they would have had a different strategy had the solicitor locked up the owners and bookers instead of employees who were just trying to make a living.

After this fiasco the theatre went back to its usual booking pattern only with a few more wide break first run movies mixed in. Among these were The Burglars, Cancel My Reservation, Rage, Shamus, Class of 44, Last American Hero, Last of Shelia, and the last two Planet of the Apes episodes. A look at these titles will tell you why they were wide breaks, i.e, get your money back quick before word of mouth kills the business.

EFC left town about 1978, but I was not around then, having fallen out of favor with the owners as all long term employees seemed to do in those days. Raymond can tell that part of the story as they were gone before I realized it. I did wander into the place shortly after that, and the independent owner was nice enough to invite me in and show me the booth. They had removed one projector and installed a tower. Later, a new owner twinned the auditorium and converted the place into a $ drafthouse. It stayed that way for many years. Around 2002 I was by there and a work crew was gutting the insides and turning it into a Hispanic themed nightclub. The owner let me in to look around and even offered me the old lamphouses which were still sitting in the booth. Had they been the old Simplex projectors I would have grabbed them. The carbon lamphouses from my time, where I had learned how to heat up a sandwich a la Alfredo in Cinema Paradiso, were long gone.

raymondstewart
raymondstewart on April 27, 2006 at 3:06 pm

In the late 70’s Eastern Federal was in a bad position in the Atlanta market. They had a few “big” houses that were in bad locations or just were not drawing. The public was more interested in going to a nice new twin and not a big, old barn. The Cherokee was closed and gutted, the lease on Toco Hills was sold back to the shopping center, the Miracle was still a good draw because of limited competition in Smyrna and the Belvedere was in a similar position. The Baronet/Coronet became a place for the less fortunate who could hustle up a buck to go to sleep. North Springs was closed, then sub-leased out to a couple of independent operators. At that point, as hard as it is to believe now, North Springs was too far “out” for an Atlanta/Sandy Springs crowd and too far “in” to draw from Roswell.

Eastern Federal was a big believer in ground leases, so they didn’t have any great expenses in closing the theaters and if they could find someone else to pay the utilities, it was a plus for them. At that point both Georgia Theater and Storey had plenty of similar properties, so they were not interested. Septum was only doing twins, and really only interested in old Jerry Lewis ones at that time. Martin had an agreement with GTC that they would operate the old drive-ins and the Rialto only, and GCC & AMC wouldn’t even consider EFC’s rag-tag bunch. Weis was dead, having run themselves into the ground. That left EFC with two choices, run them or close them.

After the independent operators made a few bucks at North Springs, Eastern Federal wanted it back. The area was beginning to build up between Atlanta/Sandy Springs and Roswell. I can’t say 100% who twinned North Springs. The story goes that the gold curtains in the #1 left house came from the closed Cherokee. I can’t say for sure and Stan Malone may be able to verify if the Cherokee was gold inside…anyway, Eastern Federal at that point wasn’t known for it’s employees longevity, so there were always a number of rumors as to what came from where and who did it. They were also never known for being big spenders, so they used what they could, where they could.

In the twinning the center section of seats was removed, the wall was built down the center and the seats reset. The #2 right house had the original blue curtains that matched the seat frames. The screens were moved back towards the booth about 10 feet and the area behind the screen was used for storage. The screens were equipped with up and down masking adjusted by a chain. The booth had a pair of Century SA projectors and matching optical soundheads. #1 had an older homemade tower for 6000 foot reels and a Xenon lamphouse, a new Altec amplifier and speaker. #2 had a newer homemade tower (William Sherrer was the tech guy at that point that built it) that was mounted on casters and could be rolled left and right to handle 6000 foot reels for double features. Another Xenon lamphouse sat on an ancient base. The amplifier was an unknown brand, I never could find a makers plate on it anywhere, and the speaker was an Altec with a CINERAMA logo on it, allegedly from the Georgia CINERAMA. A homemade automation system was built for each theater that could cue the lights up and down and open and close the curtain.

In the end there were two odd theaters with one aisle along the outside wall and another 5/8th’s of the way across. The good news is the side seats, which were not as often occupied as a single, became the prime seats and there were plenty extras left over from the removed rows to do a pretty good job seating the auditoriums. In the end there were 336 seats in one, 331 in the other. The screens were good sized, and given a good print the presentation was pretty good for a dollar house.

Around 1980 a single 5 tier platter was installed (brand escapes me), making it impossible to get to projector #1 if #2 was threaded and running. As Mr. Malone has stated, the booth was tiny!

In about 1983 Eastern Federal turned all their locations over to a guy named Chappelle, an employee of theirs at the time, who renamed the chain Chappelle Cinemas. This was the end for most of the Eastern Federal properties, as they all closed within months.

The Miracle was twinned after the North Springs, followed by the Belvedere, all in similar fashion.

My one lasting memory of my time at the North Springs was the day that the city manager at that time, Bob Denham came in along with Ira Meiselman, company president, who was in town checking things over. It was about noon and I was there building a print when they arrived. I had never met Mr. Meiselman, but we hit it off. There was a suggestion of lunch and he bemoaned Denham’s usual choice of fried chicken; at that point I suggested that I knew a place to go that he’d enjoy, Harry Baron’s at Phipps. From that point on I was his best friend, he said I was the only one in the Atlanta office who knew how to eat!

Working for Eastern Federal could be fun. If the money made it into the bank, nobody called the office to complain and the per-cap was up, they would leave you alone. As with all the theaters of the time there were a number of managers and employees who drifted through, often leaving behind a funny story or two.

While Parkaire was still a 1st run, we often got the movie as soon as they were finished and I enjoyed a nice relationship with the manager there who would just take the print off his platter and put it on my reel, saving me a number of build-ups. We also would swap CO2 tanks and such if somebody needed something. At that point both Parkaire and North Springs were rather isolated from other locations for each chain and were of little competition with each other for viewers $. I doubt that you’d ever find an ounce of cooperation like that between an AMC and a Regal location today.

While I’m no longer in the Atlanta area, I miss the old theaters. EFC put “For Rent” signs on the Miracle, but also welded the exit doors shut at the same time, so they never had any real intentions of leasing it. The Belvedere turned to porn and the North Springs to the Cinema and Drafthouse mode for a time. The Ben Hill and Cobb Cinema became churches and the Baronet/Coronet resides, like so many Atlanta theaters, in a landfill somewhere. The Town & Country went through a number of independent operators and was gutted at the end of the ground lease, only later to be redone by Lefont and gutted again. Virtually nothing remains of the old GTC, Weis or Storey chains, thank god we have Cinema Treasures to remind us of the old days!

franklinsweeney
franklinsweeney on February 12, 2008 at 4:34 pm

The North Springs was the very first theatre I worked. I began in late 1979……it seems so long ago. I had just moved to Atlanta and lived across the street. I needed to find a part time job to help pay the bills.

Eastern Federal owned the place and when I was first employed they had those god awful towers. Some time around 1980 or 81 they got a 5 tier platter system.

The office was on the ground floor and one could open the door and see the front door and concession stand. I’ll never forget the day when a new district manager walked in and found me eating in the office with the concession/doorperson. I was shocked. Most of the time I worked with EFC, Mr. Denham was the District Manager. He liked me a lot and got me out of at least one bad ‘checker reports.’

Of course, I helped him out with many bad managers that came and went during the time I was there. I wanted to name one here….but maybe I should not…..he was one of the most dumbest persons I have ever met. We had problems with our safe and put petty cash in a bag…….with extra change…..quaters, dimes ect…..

On one night this stupid person took this bag and dropped it in the bank night drop!!! The bank, being tired of other past problems, ran it as a deposit……( it was funny….at least to me) During this time I took a few weeks off and Mr. Denham called me at home to beg me to come back to get the place back in order until he could find a manager. (I had a full time job) I returned and the ROSE was playing. The staff told me that the movie had broken several times and that it was so bad that the customers would complain about it.

I then walked in to watch a bit of it. The end of the movie was near and Bete Midler was singing. All of a sudden you could see her singing but up-side-down. I laughed all that night.

Boy, I could tell you more stories……it was a fun theatre to run…….The A&P had a store in the same center…..I remember a Senior Dental student who had worked there 9 years and was telling me that he planned to open a Dental Office in Duluth GA.

I didn’t know there THAT was…….but, of course, I do now….he is probably rich now!!!

rivest266
rivest266 on October 20, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Trouble during the James Duffy management era: http://www.naplesnews.com/photos/2011/aug/15/329157/

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