Columbia Theatre

583 Peachtree Street,
Atlanta, GA 30309

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Columbia Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Erlanger Theatre started life in 1926 as a live 1,790 seat playhouse with stage and four floors of backstage dressing rooms. There were 672 seats on the main level, 190 in the first balcony, and 928 in the second balcony. By 1950 it had been renamed Tower Theatre and was operating as a movie theatre.

Sometime around the late-1950’s, the Martin Theatres chain took over and completly rebuilt the inside to the plans of architectural firm Finch, Alexander, Barnes, Rothschild & Paschel. It became the Martin Cinerama Theatre, equipped with the 3-strip system. Later two 70mm projectors were installed.

It was taken over by Walter Reade in 1968. It was later taken over by Weis Theatres and was re-named Atlanta Theatre until they closed it in the late-1970’s. In 1982 it was taken over by an independent operator and reopened as the Columbia Theatre which operated until closing in 1988.

By then the building was owned by the North Avenue Presbyterian Chuch located next door, and they demolished the theatre in 1995 to build a parking lot.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 61 comments)

Cliff Carson
Cliff Carson on July 9, 2013 at 9:37 am

It’s really too bad about theaters like this in downtown Atlanta. By the mid to late 70’s the city was getting a reputation of being a dangerous place to visit and people who generally drove to see “event” films stopped going. Big films opened in wider release and in more theaters. The days of the roadshow picture were over.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 18, 2015 at 4:39 pm

The J. Evan Miller collection of Cinerama Theater Plans lists the remodeling of the Tower Theatre for Martin Cinerama as a 1962 project. Plans were by the Atlanta architectural firm of Finch, Alexander, Barnes, Rothschild, & Paschal.

Coate
Coate on March 24, 2015 at 10:12 am

It was 50 years ago today that “The Sound of Music” premiered at the Martin Cinerama. With a reserved-seat run of 89 weeks, it’s almost certainly the long-run record holder for this venue. (Anyone know of something that ran longer?)

“The Sound of Music” also was, I believe, the second of four consecutive Julie Andrews movies to play this venue between 1964-67. That period would’ve been bliss or hell depending on whether or not local moviegoers were a fan of Julie!

Also, on a related note, I would like to mention my new 50th anniversary retrospective for “The Sound of Music” can be read here. It includes a film historian Q&A and a list of the film’s roadshow engagements. I hope fans of the movie and/or theater buffs enjoy the article.

StanMalone
StanMalone on March 24, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Thank you for that note Michael. I am sure that 89 week run is a record for here or any other theatre in Atlanta. I do not know how long GWTW played in its initial run at the Loews Grand starting in 1939, but that is the only one that I would think even comes close.

I think that you are correct about the four consecutive years of Julie. Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, Hawaii, and Thoroughly Modern Millie ran from fall of 1964 until late fall of 1967. If Julie had repeated her Broadway role, it would have been five in a row since Camelot followed Millie here and ran until May 1968. It still could have been five if Martin had decided to book Star instead of Camelot since they opened at at the same time.

I have worked in a lot of theatres in my time, but this one is my all time favorite. I started in February 1972 wearing a tux and escorting patrons to their reserved seats for Fiddler on the Roof. I left in September 1973 after the incredible business done by Super Fly TNT and Chinese Connection led the Weis Theatre Company to buy out the lease from Walter Reade.

This was a great place for a new theatre employee to work. Four stories of backstage dressing rooms, two Cinerama projection booths, a huge basement, and an additional projection booth and entire upper balcony hidden above the false ceiling provided endless areas to explore.

Because the downtown theatre business was undergoing such changes during this time there was a wide variety of bookings. In addition to the roadshows Fiddler and Man of La Mancha, there was the 70MM reissue of This Is Cinerama (which occasioned the 35 by 95 foot Cinerama screen to be reinstalled) Junior Bonner, Concert For Bangladesh, Elvis, KC Bomber, Girls Are For Loving, Russ Meyer quadruple features, kiddie shows of The Alamo, and midnight shows of War and Peace.

There was no place like it at the time and never will be again. Now, it is just another parking lot.

RodneyK
RodneyK on May 21, 2015 at 8:13 am

Went to the Columbia Theater to see Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. They had a free sneak screening the night before the movie opened..

StanMalone
StanMalone on June 2, 2015 at 1:39 pm

To Ed Solero regarding your post in March of 2013: I finally got around to writing a comment on the page for the Suburban Plaza Theater:

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/11669#comment-561979

In it you will find some information, hopefuly accurate, about the Martin chain and how they dabbled in Cinerama and first run theatres before retreating to their old small town roots.

Thanks for those screen shots which are nice reminders of those eight years or so.

Edisaurus
Edisaurus on December 19, 2016 at 8:14 am

Thanks for the correction, Stan! I had moved to Marietta a few months before seeing Song of Norway in 10th grade and clearly didn’t know my way around Atlanta yet, especially from the vantage point of a school bus. I think when I finally did go to the Columbia, I was so impressed by the big screen that I assumed it was the same theater where we’d seen Song of Norway.

There was another theater I was trying to remember. I think it might have been called The Weis and I envision it being on Peachtree Street around 10th but I’m not sure. I saw a Jimi Hendrix documentary there in ‘73 and it was terrific but I never could place where that theater was. (I still wasn’t driving and didn’t know my way around Atlanta then, either!)

StanMalone
StanMalone on December 19, 2016 at 8:31 am

Yes, that would be the old Peachtree Art Theater at 13th Street. It changed hands in 1970 and reopened as the Weis Cinema in the summer of 1971.

Here is its page on CT where it is listed as Peachtrtee Art:

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/11690

Ralph Daniel
Ralph Daniel on November 3, 2017 at 3:07 pm

FWIW: When “The Sound of Music” was shown, the screen had to be masked off to a smaller size due to Cinerama contract requirements that no movie except official Cinerama movies could be shown full-screen. I wondered why they did that at the time. TSOM was the last movie I saw with my father, as he died later that year.

jumboloan
jumboloan on November 3, 2017 at 3:30 pm

I saw Aliens 2 here. I got really drunk on 151 so the movie was not scary. It was the only time I saw a movie drunk because after that I wanted to enjoy movies more. This place was really classy and big. Such a loss but at the time downtown was not a place people frequented so there was not enough business to support it.

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