163 W. Hancock Street,
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The Campus Theatre is typical of the many Art Deco sites built by the Martin (now Carmike) chain that once dominated the movie business in small towns throughout the southeastern United States. Most towns or counties with a population of at least 10,000 seemed to always include a theater named the Martin on the town square. In Milledgeville, the name was the Campus because it was located one block from the campus of Georgia College, which was located on the edge of downtown.
The entrance to the theater was a storefront located in an office building that fronted Main Street. There were other businesses on either side, and upstairs were professional offices for doctors, lawyers, and dentists. The box office was located outside in front of the entrance. You entered the theater after walking down a hallway that ran the depth of the office building. The downstairs held about 400 or so seats and the balcony about 150 more.
The projection booth was equipped with Century projectors, 2000 foot reels, and carbon arc lamps. The projectionist apparently was worried about seeing the cue marks so he placed a strip of opaque tape the length of the four cued frames. This double blackout at the end of each reel was distracting, but it was better than missing the changeover. They used a 2 to 1 ratio lens set up which meant that while the flat picture was nice and filled up the entire screen, the scope picture was badly cropped on both sides.
I attended the Campus many times while in college in the early 1970’s. They usually changed movies twice a week, showing one feature for Sunday – Tuesday, and a different one Wednesday – Saturday. Sometimes, a big hit like “The Godfather” would run for an entire week.
The Campus Theatre and the Martin-operated Starlite Drive-In were the only theaters in town although there were about a dozen first run screens in Macon, Georgia, a 30 mile drive to the west. In 1972 Martin opened a single screen in the new Hatcher Square Mall just north of town. The better films played there while the Campus Theatre got what the drive-in used to play. The drive-in was closed and is now a Wal-Mart.
In the 1980’s, Martin, now operating as Carmike, built a new six screen site in the mall parking lot and closed the mall screen and the Campus Theatre. The old downtown theater still looks much as it did the day it was closed up. The one sheet for its final attraction, “Married To The Mob”, is still in its frame in the entrance hall. The old fashioned Martin Theatres logo is still visible on the front. The building looks to be in good shape and the other store fronts and professional spaces upstairs are still in use. It seems to be a great candidate for renovation for someone with the money and the love of old theaters. It would make a nice venue for live shows although the college auditorium gets all of that business. Since Carmike apparently still holds the lease it is doubtful they would be willing to allow anyone to reopen it as competition to their mall site.
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