Columbia Theatre

583 Peachtree Street,
Atlanta, GA 30309

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ArdentGuy on January 31, 2018 at 1:41 am

The Columbia must have been heavily advertised. I remember driving long distances to see Aliens and The Untouhables on such a huge, wonderful screen.

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.

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.

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:

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 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:

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

galateasca on July 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Is it possible that this is where my high school class came to see “Gandhi” in 1982? We went to a small alternative high school located near North Druid Hills and I am sure we came to the Columbia to see the film. I came back a few nights later with a date to see it again because the theater was so old school and extraordinary.

StanMalone on June 26, 2013 at 6:09 am

Edisaurus: Nice memories, especially the last two paragraphs. The theatre itself was still in pretty good shape into the 80’s, but there was also retail on the Peachtree sidewalk frontage and the old Barnett Sign Shop space in the rear facing Piedmont. Also there was a huge basement area that was impossible to secure from the outside. There were constant homeless living there who would occasionally smoke the theatre up with their camp fires to say nothing of the rat attracting garbage they would leave.

Your first paragraph is also nice and accurate as far as the movie goes, however, you have the wrong theatre. Song of Norway payed at the original Phipps Plaza Theatre in 70MM Christmas 1970. It did so poorly I do not recall it ever getting a sub run in the neighborhood theatres.

I hope you will post some more of your movie theatre experiences here. I think that all of the Cobb County theatres from that era have pages.

Edisaurus on June 26, 2013 at 5:38 am

The first time I went to the Atlanta Theatre was on a high school field trip from Marietta to see the Edvard Grieg bio-musical THE SONG OF NORWAY in the early ‘70’s. I was so impressed by the giant screen and thought the movie was fantastic!!! Looking at it now on DVD, I can see that it had a pretty cheesy '70’s style to the cinematography but at the time it seemed majestic and it introduced me to the greatness of Grieg’s music and the beauty of Norway. I’ve wanted to go there ever since.

The last time I went was to The Columbia see Aliens. You could see an occasional rat running around in the aisles and that was scarier than the movie! I guess there was plenty of popcorn to keep them well-fed.

I loved this theatre and its big screen and was saddened by its demise. Wish I had seen a film there in Cinerama!

StanMalone on March 6, 2013 at 6:29 am

Ed: Martin was a big chain in the southeastern US. and is known as Carmike today although it has been through bankruptcy and ownership changes over the years. Martin had several drive-ins and a couple of indoors in Cobb County, which would be like Long Island is to NYC. In 1961 they purchased the old Rialto in the center of downtown Atlanta, tore it down and rebuilt it as a first run theatre. (The Zieg in your town is almost an exact duplicate of the layout and floorplan.) They also bought the old Tower Theatre across the street from the Fox and turned it into the Martin Cinerama. A couple of years later they built a new single strip 70MM house, the Georgia Cinerama in the suburbs.

Those nice screen shots you have posted could have been used at any of these theatres. I think that this theatre (Martin’s Cinerama) opened with Brothers Grimm followed by HTWWW and then on to IAMMMMW in 70MM. After that it was Mary Poppins and Sound of Music while most of the single strip Cinerama played at the Georgia.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 6, 2013 at 5:29 am

This pic and this one were posted to the photos page for the Martin Cinerama in New Orleans, LA. They look like images taken from pre-show reels from OTHER theaters, advertising the Martin in Atlanta. Is it possible these were exhibited as far away as New Orleans? I imagine they’d have been from theaters a bit closer to Atlanta than that. Did the Martin chain ever run any non-Cinerama neighborhood theaters? I’ve only ever seen the name associated with Cinerama exhibition.

Cliff Carson
Cliff Carson on August 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm

When I was a little kid my dentists office was in the building directly across the street. His window looked down at this theatre and I remember the colorful marquee for THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE

simonlake on August 10, 2012 at 10:19 am

Hi Stan.. I think your right about where Rubin lived..I carried him home a few nights after we closed due to his car being in the shop or something like that..Best i can remember that is where i carried him to…Really nice guy and another one of the Hamburger, Hot dog crew, we all loved the Varsity… Take care. Tom..

CSWalczak on July 20, 2012 at 7:28 am

This page, from Roland Lataille’s Cinerama site, has several pictures of this theater over the years.

StanMalone on April 26, 2012 at 10:15 am

I remember your grandfather well. Along with Mr. Carmichael and Reuben Woods, he was on the crew when I started working there as an usher in 1972. After I became a projectionist I never worked with him in a theatre but did work with him often running AV shows at hotels and the Congress Center.

After all of that type of work ended I would still see Reuben at the occasional lunch where many of us would get together and trade stories about the good old days. In fact, I saw him at one of those about a month before he died, and was one of several former or retired projectionists at the graveside service.

I recall that he lived on Aruba Circle and was part of that first big real estate buy out that resulted in the construction of the king and queen buildings in Sandy Springs. While I was going through some old union files I found his transfer card from the Key West FL. local and gave it to him at one of our lunches.

Reuben was a good guy and fun to work with. Even when I was just an usher he would always welcome me in the booth when I wanted to show someone around. Those were some good days when the projection business was a craft and you had to pass a test and be licensed by the city to work in a booth. By the late 80’s it had degenerated to the point of sending which ever doorman or concession attendant was available to thread up the projectors. Sure, they would lose a show now and then and occasionally tear up a print, but it was better than paying a responisble person a living wage to do the job right.

the job right.

flarsen on April 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Spent much of my youth with my grandfather in the projectionest booth. His name was Ruben Arnold. Used to love watching the movies from up there.

alienchow on March 28, 2012 at 9:26 pm

I saw Dune and Aliens there. Amazing screen and sound sysyem.

rivest266 on February 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Martin Cineramas were in Atlanta, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chattanooga, Nashville and Seattle.

simonlake on August 25, 2011 at 7:17 am

Stan..Do you remember a guy by the name of Bob or Robert Roberts? I ran into him in Rota Spain in 1976, he use to work at one of the Theatres down past the Fox on the opposite side of the street, he was probably 17-18 at the time.. The projection guys at the Atlanta really loved the Varsity, did you ever make any runs for them, that was just about all they ate. Those guys were making pretty good money to be in the 1970’s. I believe the down town guys were the only union ones around at the time.

simonlake on August 25, 2011 at 6:57 am

Hi there..No i didn’t play any ball while i was there. They kinda made me the City Manager but it really didn’t put any more work on me other then getting the previews picked up and out to the others. When i got there we ran the Concession stand so i guess the out sourceing did work out to good, when your returning 60-80% of your box office back to the Company in California you have to make as much as you can on the concessions or not make much. I didn’t have time for much of anything as i was working 12 hr days. The last time they tried to robbed us the deputy sheriff i hired and myself walked out the back and the back door had the one way school type door, when they closed you were out of luck getting back in that way, he and i got pinned down in the parking in a cross fire between 3 guys for nearly 10 mins, we had 3 guns and held our own but that was it for me, if i wanted to get shot at on the job i might as well be on active duty and i got the hell out of there and went back into the service. I belive your right, i think Bob Harmon was his name, he had kind of a pot belly, real nice guy..Wayne Cobb hired me in Macon, i had just gotten out of the Army and went for an interview for a theatre in Macon and he asked me if i would move up there, i didn’t know the place had been involved in so many robberies and the lobby killing, if i had known that i wouldn’t have moved up there to start with..I had a lic to carry and me and the Deputy started keeping a 45 Thompson, 2 pistols and 12 ga shot gun to walk out with at night. The night we got pinned down they called in the SWAT team and had the hilo’s flying around the building, the robbers were on top of the building and some how they got away. We saw a woman using a phone booth right down the street get gunned down one night as we were walking out, she was just talking and a car pulled up and opened fire on her, we stepped out in the street and fired on the car but they were hauling tale toward down town. Sounds like we just missed each other while working there..I just retired from the Navy about 9 months ago, really glad i went back on active duty, i had 36 yrs in when i retired and they made me get out but thats ok, i got to see the whole world after leaving the Atlanta theatre. Plus i am mainly in one peace. Take care. Tom