Columbia Theatre

583 Peachtree Street,
Atlanta, GA 30309

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50sSNIPES on May 23, 2019 at 5:36 am

The Intermission Snipe Of The Martin Theatre From Late 1962 When It Was A Cinerama Was Found On YouTube, But The Word “Georgia” During The Snipe Was Spelled Incorrectly, Because It Mis-Replaced The “G” And “I”.

JFB on January 28, 2019 at 2:46 pm

My parents went to revival meetings at the Tower Theater. They said that it had two balconies. They said I went with them but I must have been all of 2 or 3.

I remember seeing Peter Pan here after the cinerama conversion. They had dropped the ceiling under the second balcony and curtains ove r the walls. There was also wall to wall carpet. You could not bring drinks into the auditorium because of the carpet.

In the 1970s I saw King Kong there. The wall to wall carpet was still there and very smooshy.

I saw most of the major attractions there when it was the Columbia. The wall to wall carpeting was gone. This was the last place my father saw a movie. We saw Greystoke here. My parents were surprised at how it had changed.

Ralph Daniel
Ralph Daniel on October 27, 2018 at 2:48 pm

What did the interior look like after Cinerama conversion? Looking at the Erlanger picture, imagine a dropped ceiling under the second balcony. Now cover all the walls with curtains. This drastic change sealed the building’s doom when resue attempts were made prior to demolition.

StanMalone on July 18, 2018 at 3:27 pm

A pathetic sight of the marquee of the Atlanta during Christmas of 1972 has been added to the photo section.

MSC77 on May 9, 2018 at 4:03 pm

New article out on Atlanta’s large format and roadshow history. This and several other Atlanta cinemas get plenty of mentions in the piece.

rivest266 on April 14, 2018 at 10:11 am

Reopened as Columbia on June 18th, 1982 and closed in 1987.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 3, 2018 at 3:35 pm

Page 35 of the December 26, 1926, issue of The Atlanta Constitution says that an Atlanta architect named Raymond C. Snow designed the Erlanger Theatre. Another of his buildings, an office block at 161 Spring Street NW, was nominated to the NRHP, and the nomination form says that very little is known about Snow, but that established his office in Atlanta in 1923 and he appears to have died before 1930.

Reports of his death may have been exaggerated, though, as I found two later apartment projects by an architect of that name: Redmont Gardens in Birmingham, Alabama, built 1938-1939, and and Gilmour Court Apartments, Richmond, Virginia, for which permits were issued in 1938. This Snow’s office was in Washington, D.C., but it could have been the same architect.

I do wonder if that splendid Baroque interior of the Erlanger seen in the Constitution photo was actually designed by Snow, though. It is so different from the restrained, Georgian exterior of the theater itself and the very similar ground floor of the office block on Spring Street, which the theater’s exterior closely resembles.

Snow’s other surviving buildings also feature rather plain exteriors. It’s possible that the promoters of the theater hired another architect or designer to do the interior, which is quite splendid. If they did, the Constitution didn’t reveal who it was. But the Erlanger’s facade is so much like the building on Spring Street that I have no doubt they, at least, were both Snow’s work.

Cinerama on April 3, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Someone asked why they masked the screen for The Sound of Music. Because of the contract with Cinerama Inc. plus, it was better for the theatre as they didn’t have to pay any fees to them! Also, they would of had to stretch the 2.2 image to fit the 2.76 AR screen.

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.