Columbia Theatre

583 Peachtree Street,
Atlanta, GA 30309

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Martin Theatres, Walter Reade Theatres, Weis Theatres

Architects: Raymond C. Snow

Firms: Finch, Alexander, Barnes, Rothschild & Paschel

Previous Names: Erlanger Theatre, Tower Theatre, Martin Cinerama Theatre, Atlanta Theatre

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Columbia Theatre

The Erlanger Theatre opened December 27, 1926 as a live 1,790 seat playhouse with “Earl Carroll’s Vanities” featuring a cast of 100. It had a large 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 completely rebuilt the inside to the plans of architectural firm Finch, Alexander, Barnes, Rothschild & Paschel. On October 3, 1962 it became the Martin Cinerama Theatre, equipped with the 3-strip system and opening with “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm”. 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 on June 18, 1982, closing in 1987.

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 65 comments)

Cinerama on April 3, 2018 at 3:32 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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 3, 2018 at 6:35 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.

rivest266 on April 14, 2018 at 1:11 pm

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

MSC77 on May 9, 2018 at 7:03 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.

Ralph Daniel
Ralph Daniel on October 27, 2018 at 5:48 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.

JFB on January 28, 2019 at 5:46 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.

50sSNIPES on May 23, 2019 at 8:36 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”.

pauladdis on May 17, 2021 at 4:29 pm

I worked here in 1982. I worked at the concession stand. I also helped the projectionist hook up the wiring for the new speakers they were putting in. I was 15 or 16 at the time. I got this position because I had also worked at the Garden Hills Cinema, which was also owned by André Pieterse. I remember that the popcorn here was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. It was magnificent theatre in the grandest tradition.

Cliff Carson
Cliff Carson on July 14, 2021 at 2:24 pm

The hideously cruel oh so fake Presbyterian church demolished what should have been deemed an Atlanta Landmark in order to build a parking lot so they could reap more greedy dollars from surrounding poor people. Shame on them. Shame on the city of Atlanta for allowing it to happen. The one thing the south doesn’t need is another church. They’re on every corner. Simple greed and there’s no other word for them.

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