Empire Theatre

42 Georgia Avenue SW,
Atlanta, GA 30312

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Empire Theatre

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The Empire Theatre was opened March 19, 1928 with “The Cohen’s and Kelly’s in Paris”. The same firm who did the Erlanger Theatre allegedly designed it. It was closed in the 1950’s and demolished in the mid-1960’s.

Contributed by Jack Coursey

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Don K.
Don K. on June 17, 2005 at 8:38 pm

The Empire Theatre seems to have been one of a group of Atlanta theaters that went out of business in the 1950’s. The theater was still in business in 1954, according to photocopies that I have of the movie section of the Atlanta Journal. The location would have been across Georgia Avenue from the location of present day Turner Field.

In the 1950’s this was essentially a slum area. The neigborhood was the focus of an urban renewal project in the 1950’s and 1960’s that cleared the land that was used to erect the Fulton County Stadium (which opened in 1965). This was in turn was demolished prior to the 1996 Olympics hosted by the city of Atlanta. Turner Field took the place of the previous stadium.

This urban renewal project that began in the 1950’s would change the east side of Atlanta in the subsequent years. Other neighborhood movie theaters in the this vicinity like the the Fairview/Memorial at 657 Memorial Drive, SW and the Temple at 456 Temple Avenue, SW
would also close in that era. Eventually, the racial makeup of Atlanta’s east side would change dramatically.

Apparently the Empire Theatre was demolished some years ago. Hopefully, someone whose memory of Atlanta goes back further than mine will be able to give us more specifics.

JesseBrantley on June 13, 2007 at 9:51 pm

I remember seeing the Empire Theater from the expressway well into the 1960’s. I remember calling the theater for the admissions and they were 25 cents for children and 60 cents for adults.

While in 6th grade, 1968-69, one of my classmates was complaining about how the Empire would not let him in to see an R-rated movie.

1234 on June 26, 2007 at 7:24 pm

The Empire Theatre opened March 19, 1928 with the film “The Cohens and Kellys in Paris”. Located on Georgia AVe. and Crew. Alpha Fowler Management. This theatre could still be seen from the expressway in the early 1960’s. This whole area was cleared when Atlanta Fulton County Stadium was built. in the mid 60’s

merrillanne on November 21, 2007 at 11:25 pm

My daddy was the manager of the Empire Theater for more than 20 years maybe 30, until sometime in the 1950s. His brother, Buster Hollyfield (Clifford G.) ran the snack bar/shop that ajoinned the theater lobby. They made the best Limeade’s you could ever want. When I would go to the theater, I would sometimes go upstairs and sit with the projectionist. I think his name was “Goppy”. There was a balcony and separate entrance for the “colored people”. I do not remember that area as being a slum (as mentioned in one of the above postings). The houses were nice, old Victorian styles, mostly 2 story. It was safe to walk any where in that area day or night.

Don K.
Don K. on March 13, 2008 at 1:10 pm

I may have somewhat exaggerated the rate of change. If so, my apologies. However, by the time the area was cleared in the 1960’s to make way for the Fulton County Stadium, it had declined considerably. It was adjacent to the working class neighborhood along Capitol Avenue where it intersected with Memorial Drive and Georgia Avenue. The urban renewal project of the the ‘60’s was regarded as progress at that time.

markp on March 13, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Oh yes, you had to love those urban renewal projects of the 60’s. Just look at how many theatres were lost in New York City because of it.

Don K.
Don K. on March 14, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Hope you didn’t miss the note of irony in my previous comment. The theaters that were lost in the urban renewal projects of the 1960’s were part of the erosion of the basic character of American communities in that era. Today. we seem to live in an age characterized by Walmart, Starbucks, and multplexes. Cities and towns across the country seem to have taken on a sameness that is not only boring, but rather depressing.

Having lived in New York City for a number of years, I regret the fact that I didn’t get to see the prime years of the Broadway theater district. Native New Yorkers told me that you could practically trace the decline of the Broadway district to the demolition of the Roxy Theater in 1960. So, I never got to attend the Roxy, the Capitol, or the Paramount. The Broadway that I encountered in the 1970’s was seedy and really depressing.

Atlanta suffered a somewhat similar fate. As the city rushed toward unrestricted growth, a great deal of the character of the community was swept away. It still amazes me that the people of Atlanta actually succeeded in saving the Fox Theater. Some of the neighborhoods in Atlanta, such as Little Five Points, still retain a certain charm. That quality is immeasurably enhanced by the fact the two of the theaters in Little Five Points have been preserved

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 23, 2015 at 3:58 am

In January, 1928, Motion Picture News noted that the Empire Theatre, then under construction, would be operated by Neighborhood Theatres, the regional Universal Pictures subsidiary partly owned by Oscar Oldknow.

agnesbry on January 23, 2016 at 10:54 pm

Hi, I remember the Empire theatre, in fact, the reason I am on this site because. I am writing a piece about the time my father had walked my brothers and me too the Empire theatre. This was doing the time, that Black Folk could only sit in the loft of the theatre, same as it was at the Fox, downtown Atlanta. Late 50’s & early sixties. The area wasn’t a slum back then, in fact lots of Jewish families lived in this area. There was the 5 and dime, and H&H Green stores across the street. Georgia avenue had lots of small stores. Hardware and grocery stores. The area later was given the name Summerhill. Take it from the strawberry ice cream was the best, funny this the was shape like a block.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 24, 2016 at 5:18 am

agnesbry: I think the block-shaped ice cream you mentioned must have the same kind that was sold at the concession stand in the neighborhood theater I attended in southern California in the 1950s. It came in a cardboard package about two inches square, and the concession stand attendant would peel off the package and stick the block of ice cream into a regular ice cream cone, with one corner down. You had to be careful with the first few licks or you could dislodge the block of ice cream and it would fall in your lap. I had completely forgotten about that ice cream. Thanks for reminding me of it.

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