Eighty One Theatre

81 Decatur Street SE,
Atlanta, GA 30303

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Eighty One Theatre

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The Eighty One Theatre was the second and largest Bailey’s theatre to open in the Atlanta area. It was opened in 1929, and operated as an African American theatre. The Eighty One was located a few blocks up from this circuit’s first theatre in the metro area, the Strand Theatre.

The Eighty One Theatre was closed in 1964. It has since been demolished and an office building was built on the site.

Contributed by Jack Coursey

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on November 2, 2006 at 2:50 pm

Operating in 1924 as a vaudeville theater:

Letter: Chattanooga, Tennessee to Charles Henry Douglass, Macon, Georgia, 1924 Dec. 15

“Letter from Sam E. Reevin, manager of Theatre Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A.), a Tennessee-based booking agency from 1920 to the 1930s for African American vaudeville acts, to Charles Henry Douglass, African American entrepreneur and owner of the Douglass Theatre, dated December 15, 1924, regarding stage acts booked at the Douglass Theatre. Reevin confirms that the Douglass Theatre is booked for three acts next week and lists the acts with their salaries. He mentions that the acts will come from the Eighty-One Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. Charles F. Bailey, known for being hard on performers, ran the white-owned Eighty-One Theatre, located on Decatur Street. Reevin advises the addition of a fourth act since next week is Christmas week. He directs Douglass to wire him if he can use only three acts, and that he will substitute a team act for Doorkey Singleton, an eccentric dancer. Reevin confirms that the Douglass Theatre is booked with the Mae Wilson Brown Beauties for the week of December 29, and mentions their route and salary. He advises that he can book the LaFayette Players in their new production, The Unborn, during the week of January 5th and reminds Douglass of the company’s good reputation. The company, originally based in Harlem, was in existence from 1915 to 1932 and produced serious, legitimate dramas, melodramas, musicals, and opera. Several alumni went on to star in Micheaux’s films and other race movies. Reevin adds that the show will play in Atlanta for two weeks. He requests that Douglass confirm the letter at once so that he can order the publicity matter, which will be free of charge. Reevin adds that he will send Douglass a slide of Miss Evelyn Preer, member of the LaFayette Players, star of several Micheaux films, and later actress in mainstream films, announcing the coming of her show”.

KenRoe on November 3, 2006 at 12:49 am

The Eighty-One Theatre first opened as a vaudeville theatre in around 1908. It was re-modelled in 1928 and was listed in Film Daily Yearbook’s from at least 1930 until at least 1955.

JesseBrantley on June 24, 2007 at 4:34 pm

On June 15, 2007, the AJC had a nice picture of this theater in an article about former movie palaces in Atlanta. The article said the theater lasted until about 1965 when it demolished for the expansion of Georgia State.

During the 1970’s when I attended Georgia State, they had a series of movies that played almost everyday. Sometimes the movies were in the Student Center Auditiorum (Current Cinefest), The Urban Life Auditorium or worse 602 BA where you heard the projector in the background. This theater could have been used for that or since it was also a live theater, the GSU players could have performed there.

What is bad is thinking of what you could have done.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 2, 2007 at 5:22 pm

A Kimball theater organ size 2/3 was installed in Bailey’s Eighty One Theater in 1925.

1234 on September 27, 2007 at 12:15 pm

Actually it was a 4 rank Kimball, The console and some of the pipework still exist from this organ. I have the string and vox. For a small two manual organ it had a complete toy counter and percussion department. Graham Jackson was the first organist as well as the music director for the 81. He was also organist at the Crystal theatre just up the street which also had a small Kimball organ and that opened a year or so before the 81 was remodeled.
Graham Jackson is best remembered for the photograph of him playing the accordian at the train depot in Warm Springs Georgia when Franklin Roosevelt’s funeral train left for Washington D.C.
Mr. Jackson is also the 1985 inductie in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

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