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Newspaper photo with an overhead view of the theater added to the photo section.
The picture attached to this caption has been posted in the photo section.
GLIMPSE INTO PAST- Razing of the Dinkler Plaza Hotel on Forsyth Street to make way for construction of another building in downtown Atlanta exposed this painted lettering from years gone by. The Forsyth Theater, opened in the early 1900’s at Forsyth and Luckie streets.
If you drive behind the building and stand at the edge of the lot you can see the concrete screen supports and the base of the foundation. When the 24 was built I think that they leveled the lot so it is likely that the top of the screen would barely reach the parking lot level now. If it were still there today the view of it would certainly be obstructed by the current theater building.
The theater opened on Friday, September 14, 1973. The opening features were Tom Sawyer and The Last of Shelia, two moderately successful movies from June. This was the pattern for this location as it generally booked whatever second run features were available fresh from their first run or intermediate engagements. This was not a bad way to make a living with a small, low overhead place in those days. It was still a time of exclusive runs which meant the first run movies opened either downtown, or more commonly by then in the first run theaters on the north side.
The closest intermediate run houses like South DeKalb, Greenbriar, Westgate, and Ben Hill were were far enough away that there was still some life left in a movie even after those theaters finished their runs. This started to change in 1975 when Arrowhead opened as a first run theater which meant that its big bookings like Godfather Part 2 and Jaws were pretty much played out by the time they would have been available to this little place. There were still good bookings available as Arrowhead could not play everything but the choices were diminishing and more theaters and wider release patterns were soon on the way.
Opening day ad in the photo section.
On Thursday, 9/27/1973, the Bibb cancelled their final showings of Detroit 9000 and in conjunction with a local radio station promoted their next attraction, Save The Children, with a free promotional screening. However, instead of giving the tickets away via some sort of contest, the station just invited everyone to come see the movie, free, on a first come first admitted basis.
The resulting chaos made the front page of the paper the next morning. A picture of the page with the story and a photo of the theater is posted in the Photo section.
Starting with the mid 60’s decline of the downtown theaters and the opening of the 70MM Cinerama equipped Eastwood Mall Theater, the Crestwood area was the place to go for the big first run movies. With the Eastwood a big draw Cobb Theaters, which had taken over Eastwood in 1968, opened the Village East Twin in the new Village East Shopping Center built directly across Oporto Madrid Road and later twinned the Eastwood. By the late 80’s the megaplex era was in full swing and in May 1989 Cobb opened this new 12 screen location, closing both Eastwood and Village East at the same time. Five years later it was expanded to 16 screens. In 1997 R.C. Cobb Theaters sold out in their entirety to Regal who then poured a ton of money into this place to convert it to stadium seating. Unfortunately for Regal it was at this time that the area started going downhill fast. Eastwood, Alabama’s first enclosed mall, which had been partially torn down and remodeled was soon completely torn down and replaced by a Super WalMart. The larger mid 70’s era Century Plaza Mall, built directly across the road from Eastwood Mall also closed at this time and has been demolished and replaced by an Amazon distribution center
From reading the comments on the news story linked to above, it seems that the entire neighborhood has declined. Crime and gang activity seem to be a problem and in 2006 Regal bailed out of this location after only eight years. A company called Edge Theaters which operated by picking up closed locations such as this and rehabbing them decided to give it a try. They reopened 12 of the screens but were soon introduced to the realities of their new location when on Christmas Day 2011 the place was overwhelmed by a social media generated flash mob which resulted in a massive police response and theater shut down on the busiest day of the year. By 2017 Edge said enough and Phoenix Theaters took over although it was still branded as The Edge 12 so as to take advantage of the big signage on the building. Two years later it was time for the Covid shutdown. Although the theater did reopen, Phoenix soon bowed to the inevitable and in April 2023 shut the place down again.
Eastwood Mall Theater was built by the Newman Waters Theatre Company in 1964 as part of the second phase western wing expansion of the mall that had opened about three years earlier as the first enclosed mall in Alabama. Although not unusual in appearance compared to most other theaters of its era, it marked a major change in Birmingham movie theatre history. Until then, all of first run movies opened at one of the four major downtown theaters, the Alabama, Ritz, Melba, and Empire. Eastwood was the first suburban first run theatre and the seating capacity was probably around 600. The style was definitely the 60’s living room look with draped auditorium walls and sofas and chairs in the lobby. The lobby was open air to the Mall itself and at night was secured by a wire gate. The box office was a desk like counter at the entrance to the lobby. The theater was built as a single screen 70MM Cinerama house and competed for that product with the Ritz, a 1920’s era downtown movie palace that had been gutted and rebuilt to show Cinerama in its original three screen format. The Eastwood Mall Theater opened on Christmas Day 1964 with Ann-Margaret in The Pleasure Seekers. The manager was Jimmy Popper who would leave a couple of years later to be the opening manager of the Midfield, a similarly designed (although not Cinerama) theater. In 1968, the Waters Company, which was also the developer of the Mall, exited the theater business to concentrate on its real estate development interests and the chain was sold to the R.C. Cobb company.
Among the movies I can remember seeing at Eastwood were Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, The Great Race, Khartoum, and The Battle of the Bulge. I am sure that there were others, and a look at that list shows that it booked a lot of prime movies. According to the fine research by Michael Coate linked to in the above comment the Eastwood ran the 70MM Cinerama releases Circus World, the previously mentioned Battle of the Bulge and Khartoum, Grand Prix, Ice Station Zebra, and 2001, as well as standard 70MM releases Paint Your Wagon, Song of Norway, and the 70MM reissue of This Is Cinerama. Business was so good here that in April 1972 Cobb opened a twin across the road in the new Village East Shopping Center. These were just a couple of ugly shoebox houses and perfect examples of the bland style of 1970’s era theaters. The Eastwood then fell victim to the twinning plague that swept the country in those days and was split down the center. Cobb soon bought up all of the independent theaters such as Midfield, Capri, Cinema, and in 1980 the four theaters of the ABC chain, by then owned by Plitt. In 1989 Cobb built a brand new 12 screen location in the Festival Shopping Center a short distance west down Crestwood Blvd and at that time closed both Eastwood and Village East.
As with so many of the early malls around the country, by the late 80’s Eastwood Mall found itself in a shabby state and far outclassed by the newer malls, Brookwood and Galleria. The mall was gutted and the wing that included the closed theatre was torn down and completely rebuilt, without a movie theatre presence. The wonderful website, Birmingham Rewound, has a page on Eastwood Mall that includes pictures of the theater lobby.
To the contrary, from the years 1968-1977 the Capri was one of if not THE top presenter of first run films in Atlanta. Of course no theater can get all of the hits, but for those years the Capri had more than any other. Every Christmas and summer you could count on the Capri to offer a big, highly anticipated movie. Because these bookings required big, upfront advances that required runs often exceeding four or five months it may have seemed like this was not a consistently major player, but it was. Among those attractions were Funny Girl, To Sir With Love, Out of Towners, Love Story, The Godfather, Poseidon Adventure, Pappion, Earthquake, and others that could certainly be described as showcase attractions. Even when not showing what is now referred to as tent pole movies, the bookings were strong with such as New Centurions, Oklahoma Crude, Dollars, and If.
There seems to be some sort of misconception that if a film was not presented in 70MM, assuming that it was even available in that format, then it was not a prestigious booking. If that were true then Atlanta was a cinema backwater as there were comparatively few 70MM engagements in that period. Such 70MM worthy movies as Fiddler on the Roof, Camelot, Lion In Winter, Thoroughly Modern Milly, That’s Entertainment, Ryan’s Daughter, Patton, Scrooge, Deliverance, Rollerball, Star Wars, and Funny Lady just to name a few played in 70MM equipped theaters for the most part but were run in 35mm usually 35mm mono. The fact that in those days many of the big theaters still had union contracts that called for two projectionists or time and a half pay for one on 70MM presentations gave theater owners little incentive to run a 70MM print even if one were available. It was not until 1978 when the Fox Theater reopened with its summer movie series using the 70/35mm projectors purchased from the Loews Grand that most of the 70MM releases from this era were finally shown in that format in Atlanta.
As for the Capri, that is a moot point as it never had 70MM equipment anyway. While none of its lengthy list of “showcase” worthy hits, or a shorter list of failures like Gable and Lombard or Lost Horizon ran in 70MM that did not mean that it was not a major player in the first run movie business of those years.
Whatever the plan for this old theater building is, it will be starting from an almost clean sheet of paper. At some point after it closed, the screens and speakers were removed and large roll up doors were installed in the back wall in each side. The seats were removed and the floor slope leveled with concrete. This turned the two auditoriums into massive high ceiling warehouses. The concession stand was stripped out and the lobby also used for storage as shown in a picture I posted in the photo section in 2021.
In the summer of 2022 the place was cleared out, the lobby gutted and the wall dividing the theaters removed. The lobby walls and restrooms remained and the projection booth was still intact complete with its Century projectors, pathetic Potts platters, Christie lamphouses, sound racks, and lenses as can been in another picture, this one of the booth that I posted in the photos.
After a short pause demolition resumed and all of the interior has been completely gutted to the point that it would be one big empty shell except that even the exterior walls have been removed. Now there is nothing left but a roof, a floor, and an open steel skeleton. By the time whatever it is that is going in this place is finished there will be nothing left to suggest either of its past uses. I have posted a final picture of the surviving building frame.
As for the history of the theater itself goes, as I write this, the overview as it is currently written is incorrect regarding digital capability and current use. It may indeed be rebuilt as a craft brewery as there are several of those in this increasingly tourist oriented town but that remains to be seen. There was a demo permit posted earlier but as yet no building permit indicating what it will eventually be. Also, it is obvious that this theater never had digital projection installed and I could see no evidence in the remaining booth equipment (when it was still there) that it ever had any type of stereo sound. Nor was there any evidence of speakers being mounted on the walls, when there were still walls there to inspect. Being built in the pre Dolby days it would have certainly been mono then but I could find no sign that it had ever been upgraded to optical stereo. Given the closing date in 2013, it is entirely possible that it was the end of film stock print availability that caused this location to cease operation as it was obviously not worth the cost to upgrade to digital.
What little demand for the movie going experience there is here is more than satisfied by the Swan Drive In across town now approaching its 60th year in operation. In 2012, the Ellijay twin, 20 miles to the south, did upgrade to digital projection and served the indoor needs of this area until 2018 when it was put out of business by the new GTC Mountain Cinemas.
Someone has finally come up with a redevelopment plan that meets with county and community approval. Plans call for the two anchor buildings, the theater as well as the closed Rich’s store to remain to be incorporated into the new development. The rest of the mall will be demolished and replaced by green space, retail, office, apartments, condos, and, of course, parking decks. Apparently the theater will remain open throughout the construction which is scheduled to be completed by 2028 and will get an exterior entrance.
The original Storey North DeKalb Theater was entered directly from the parking lot; there was no mall access although a mall entrance was just a few feet from the theater’s front door. Twinned in the mid 70’s, it was demolished in the mid 80’s when the mall was rebuilt. Cineplex opened a four screen theater inside the mall in this current location which was acquired by AMC and massively expanded to 8 and eventually the current 16 screens.
At the moment, the theater is among the very few businesses in operation, and the only one without an outside entrance. Since all of the mall entrances are sealed the only access is through the adjoining Marshall’s department store which has an outside entrance, or when it is closed, from the parking lot via an old freight / maintenance hallway that leads to the theater lobby entrance. If you try to leave the theater and enter the mall commons area you are blocked by a steel gate. In the photo section I have posted a picture showing the current arrangement.
Over the years I have worked at theaters that stayed open during twinning, Loews 12 Oaks, mall expansion and relocation of the entrance from parking lot to mall, Lenox Square (twice), major remodeling of the lobby, GCC Northlake and Akers Mill, and refurbishment of the auditoriums, Akers Mill and Greens Corner. I am certainly glad that I am not the poor manager that is going to have to run this place during five years of construction chaos. Good luck keeping the construction workers out of your bathrooms or finding an empty dumpster to put your trash in.
Thank you Michael for another one of your exercises in movie history. Not only is Fiddler a favorite of mine, but it represents the opening chapter in the history of my theater employment that lasted from its beginning here until the advent of digital projection, 41 years later.
Fiddler on the Roof was a big booking in the history of this theater as well, the beginning of the end really. When Martin purchased the old Tower Theater, gutted and converted it into the Martin Cinerama, this place was at once the most luxurious as well as the most technically advanced theater in town. It showed three strip Cinerama such as How The West Was Won, single strip Cinerama like It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, big roadshow musicals like Sound of Music and a better presentation or movie going experience was not to be found in the city. When Martin decided to exit the big city roadshow business in 1968, it sold off its four big Cinerama locations, this one going to Walter Reade.
Reade continued the high profile booking pattern with the likes of Where Eagles Dare and Goodbye Mr. Chips, but the times when suburban audiences were driving downtown at night to see a movie, especially such bland fare as this, were beginning to wane as most of the first run hits were now playing at newer theaters in the suburbs. The only really successful movie to play here during the Reade years was Carnal Knowledge. Then, for Christmas of 1971 Reade secured, with a $150K advance, what seemed like a can’t miss hit, Fiddler on the Roof, which would bring back the glorious days of Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Camelot.
Trouble started before the movie even opened when it was decided that The Atlanta, as the theater was then known, would not get one of the limited number of 70MM prints and would have to run a 35mm mag print. The Atlanta had the finest 70MM presentation of any theater in town with its dedicated 70MM carbon arc Cinerama projectors, but a 35mm scope picture looked pretty bad on that huge, curved 95 by 34 foot Cinerama ribbon screen. As required by United Artists that beautiful screen was ripped out and replaced by one half that size, 45 by 19. The smaller picture looked brighter but the deep curve was still there and so the image from the run of the mill 35mm projectors was no sharper. (Oddly enough, at this same time the only other Cinerama house in town, Martin’s single strip Georgia Cinerama had to rip out its big ribbon screen for a smaller solid one for its upcoming musical Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
When Fiddler opened in mid December, business was pretty good for the holidays but fell off fast. In addition to the problem with its location, the advertising was minimal at best since UA and Reade had declared the movie to be pre sold to the point that modest ads with the showtimes was all that was needed to bring in the crowds. Then problems really started to pile up. The 35mm four track print, which had to be printed on thinner stock to accommodate the magnetic striping containing the stereo sound, began coming apart even before the holidays were over. Of course UA blamed the theater’s union projectionists, but as with all roadshow engagements, even 35mm ones, there were two operators on duty with a lot of double checking and care taken to make sure everything was threaded up correctly especially after the film started breaking with increasing regularity.
As I said, the 35mm projectors were nothing special, unlike the 70’s, but they had been running film, including magnetic prints for years without this problem. Of course Wil-Kin was called in to check but they found nothing that would cause this and their only suggestion was to break the film down from the 6000 foot house reels back to the 2000 foot reels in order to reduce the tension, and to rewind the reels slowly by hand. This latter step was already being done since the print had to be checked for broken sprocket holes after each showing anyway. In all probability, the problem lay with the print. It had arrived not from the film depot in cans mounted on metal shipping reels, but in cardboard boxes on plastic cores, straight from the lab. The emulsion was noticed to be tacky and the print was built up and run that very afternoon so it is possible that it never had a chance to cure properly. Whatever the reason, it was still breaking when the run ended 22 having grossed only about $110K against its big advance. By that time so much footage had been lost that the running time was eighteen minutes shorter and one entire musical number, “Do You Love Me” had to be cut out. By this time the movie was an obvious failure here and UA would not even consider sending a replacement print.
According to Michael’s listing, Fiddler played 22 weeks here, leaving on May 18, 1972. The next booking, Concert For Bangladesh, did not start for another two weeks but Reade apparently decided that business was so bad that they would lose less money by closing up. The official reason for the shut down was repair to the HVAC system, which did need help. Some work was done but nothing that could not have been managed with the place open. I had never seen a movie theater temporarily close up and in those innocent days had hardly seen one close at all, but as it turned out, I had not seen anything yet. Business that summer was just fair with a wide range of movies that included a midnight show of War And Peace, all six hours of it. By November Reade gave up and shut the place down until their next big “can’t miss” booking, Man of La Mancha. Trouble was, La Mancha did not open until February so this huge, beautiful, showcase theater was closed over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays of 1972.
Personally, Fiddler will always be a notable film for me in that it was what was playing when I started working here. I started on February 21, 1972 which was Washington’s Birthday in those earlier times before the advent of Presidents Day. The point of mentioning that is that, being a holiday, the holiday admission rates were in force for this roadshow engagement. So, my first duty was to be polite while the customers complained to me about the premium being charged over an already overpriced hard ticket as well as the fact that the extra holiday matinee had pushed the start time of their show back 30 minutes to 8:30, thus ensuring an after midnight exit onto to the increasingly mean streets of Atlanta. In the photo section I have posted an ad for that day.
Fiddler on the Roof did not kill this theater despite efforts to write it down as a failure. As proof, in June, three weeks after closing out its run at The Atlanta it opened in the small move over house at the Lenox Square Theater located safely in the northern suburbs, at least in those days. It enjoyed a very successful summer long run there lasting until Labor Day. What it did do was sound the alarm that if the theater was to survive a different booking strategy was needed. This was confirmed the next year when La Mancha flopped out after only seven weeks. What was needed could be found directly across the street at the Coronet Theater. That summer (1972) they set their house record, never to be broken with a three month booking of Come Back Charleston Blue followed by another massive hit that fall, Super Fly.
So, in February of 1972, I was wearing a tux and escorting what few customers were arriving for the one 8pm show to their reserved seats. In the summer of 1973 I was dressed much less formally and working the lines that stretched down Peachtree for all day sellouts of Super Fly TNT and The Chinese Connection. Reade was happy for the increased business but even happier to see that this had attracted the attention of the Weis Theater Company. They were a Savannah outfit that had a big presence in Atlanta and wanted to cash in on this Blaxploitation gold mine and Reade was thrilled to get the hell out of town. It was at this time that the most tragic event in the life if this location occurred. In October 1973,, Atlanta Police officer C.E. Harris, working off duty at the theater was killed by two men he was trying to evict because they were harassing the girls working the concession stand.
In all, I only worked here 16 months, but it was and remains the favorite of all of the dozens of theaters I have worked in, or even visited through all of the years. It is too bad that the theater could have been saved as there was certainly a market for a 1500 seat house for the many shows that played the Fox that did not need 4500 seats. However, just as with the case of the Ritz theater in Birmingham, the remodeling and conversion to Cinerama stripped every bit of architectural detail and historical value out, and what little evidence of the past that remained was lost during its second gutting when it was reopened as the Columbia. In the end all that was left was an aging deteriorating exterior and a hollow concrete shell on the inside. It was finally put out of its misery in 1995. Having been alerted to its impending demise by a newspaper article written by a reporter who was a former usher, I stopped by one day and watched as the wrecking ball collapsed the final walls leaving only the steel frame.
I am not familiar with the Redrock 11, but if pressed on the matter I imagine Cobb would have pointed out that this was more than just an 8 screen movie theater and that their key to the claim is in the hype: “Biggest Movie ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX In USA.” I was never inside but I do remember the publicity surrounding the opening. Just the eight screen count was newsworthy as there was nothing else larger than the Homewood 4, later enlarged to 6, in Birmingham at the time. Even in Atlanta there was nothing larger than a couple of AMC 6’s although that would soon change.
The bigger difference was what was downstairs underneath the lobby and maybe even the slope of the auditorium floors. This opened at the height of the disco craze and one of the opening features was indeed Saturday Night Fever, six months removed from its Christmas opening. This lower area contained what amounted to a non alcoholic disco nightclub, a grill / snack bar that sold items like hot dogs and pizza long before those items became standard at theater concession stands, and a full sized (for the time) game room. This was before the era of gourmet coffee and the Cafe Noir type Starbucks style ripoffs of more recent years, but it did contain a boutique movie souvenir shop. This and the grill can be seen in the picture that is currently at the top of this page. It was quite an operation and about 15 years ahead of its time.
Within sight of this shiny new Cinema City was the ten year old Roebuck Plaza Theater, built and later twinned by ABC. It was at about this time that ABC sold out all of its interests to Plitt and within a couple of years Plitt had sold the downtown Ritz to Bowie and the rest of their Birmingham locations to Cobb. Unfortunately this Roebuck area, along with most of the northern arc from Irondale to Bessemer was in decline as the mines and steel mills were in their final days. Most of the growth was to the south in Vestavia Hills and especially Hoover. Six months earlier ABC had opened the Hoover Twin, bringing first run movies to the south side. Before long, the Galleria Mall would open taking all of the development, multi and megaplexes with it.
As for Cinema City, I don’t know how long the downstairs Entertainment Complex was a going concern, but after a couple of years I don’t recall much mention of it. The theater itself however mirrored the fortunes of its neighborhood. In 1983, only five years removed from its premiere as next greatest thing in movie entertainment, it was downgraded to dollar house status. It soldiered on until the age of the megaplex made it obsolete just as it had foretold the end of the era of twins and quads.
It has been a rough winter for the Spud. Late last year, during one of the first snowfalls a vehicle left the main road in front of the drive in and smashed into the truck with the giant potato on the flatbed that was parked at the driveway entrance. (Pictures of the truck and giant spud can be found in the photo section.) The offending vehicle left the scene leaving the theater owners to foot the repair bill.
Then, earlier this week a late season storm blew through the area and toppled the screen. The wind was from the west so it blew the screen to the east onto the parking field. According to the owner the screen, which is a total loss was insured. She said they will rebuild and hope to be open for the summer season starting the first week of June, as usual.
Good luck with that. I hope she is right as I had planned for another visit this summer, but given the current situation with construction materials and labor, June 2023 might be a more realistic target. Maybe they can erect a temporary replacement or perhaps even a blow up screen until repairs are complete. Fortunately, the overhead picture indicates that the screen just blew over face first onto the field and did not damage the snack bar or reach any of the rental houses that line the back perimeter.
In an example of how you can see things come full circle if you can hang around long enough to see it happen, there is a brand new state of the art movie theater now open only a couple of blocks and 60 years removed from the days of the Atlantic Theater.
This area was built up during the pre and post WWII years as a working class neighborhood surrounding the mills of Cabbagetown. When the mills closed the neighborhood started going downhill as described in some of the previous comments. At the turn of the century the area around Little Five Points started to boom and development started to push south into this area where land was cheap and available and there was little regard for what little evidence remained of the Battle of Atlanta which was fought here in the summer of 1864.
Currently this neighborhood resembles the many other intown areas that are being revitalized, or gentrified depending on your outlook, with million dollar homes going up alongside one hundred year old frame houses. Along Memorial Drive fancy new developments and shopping centers are going up alongside the light industrial businesses which have remained here through the years. Just west of this old theater site, near the intersection with Moreland Avenue is the swank looking Madison Yards development.
Among its tenants is a brand new AMC 8plex. It has been over 30 years since something as small as an 8 was built in this town (GCC Hairston 8 in 1988), but some sanity seems to be returning to the theory of how many screens are enough to the point that many of the Regal and AMC megaplexes have mothballed entire wings thus reducing the auditorium count. This Madison Yards 8, not to be confused with the old 60’s era Madison Theater across I-20 in East Atlanta, seems to have all of the bells and whistles regarding sound systems and digital projection. There was a nice set of pictures on the Cinema Tour FB page but they have been removed. While visible they seemed to show nice stadium seating houses typical of new builds and remodeling of recent years.
Hopefully AMC will be able to make a go of that location. The nearest competitors are the Plaza on Ponce and the Starlight 6 Drive In down Moreland and none of these three are exactly appealing to the same type of moviegoer.
The section of the odd numbered side of 2nd Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets has a pretty confusing theater history. There were four different theaters two of which had a combined six names. In a 2019 post “Backseater” on the page for the Melba which was located one block to the east summarized this block pretty well. Here is a more detailed run down theater by theater using information from the four CT pages, the Birmingham Rewound website and Facebook page, the book “Birmingham Theater and Retail District” by Tim Hollis, and my own fading memory.
Starting from 20th Street and working east to west, the first location is the Galax at 1919 2nd Ave. it’s lifespan was roughly 1920-50, and it apparently used that name for its entire run. Next door at 1917 was a building that housed a diamond store on its ground floor. Pictures from the photo section on the Strand and Galax pages show this store signage clearly.
Next, at 1915 is this theater, the Strand, the only one of these four that I remember. As stated above, it opened in the year 1915 and seemed to be the largest of these four houses by a good margin. At some point in the 1950’s the theater next door, the Capitol, by then known as Newmar closed. The Newman Waters Company, then and into the mid 60’s the largest operator of theaters and drive ins in the Birmingham area, closed the Newmar, bought the Strand and renamed it Newmar. In 1959 Waters might have disposed of this property, but regardless, the name was changed again, this time to the New Strand. In the fall of 1962 this theater closed and was demolished by August 1963.
The previously mentioned Capitol at 1911 2nd Avenue started out life as the Alcazar in 1910. It was renamed Capitol in 1923. In 1948 it was acquired by Newman Waters Theaters. Apparently that company had a Newmar Theater at another location (not listed on CT, at least under that name) that had closed. They then took on the Alcazar / Capitol and changed its name to Newmar. It closed some time in the 1950’s and that is when Waters moved next door and renamed the Strand the Newmar thus making it the third location with that name.
Finally, at 1907 was the Odeon. It’s lifespan was roughly 1910-1932. It is possible that this theater did not convert to sound and closed still with its original name.
There were no theaters in the next block to the west, but just beyond 18th Street on this same side was the Ritz, an organ equipped movie palace about two thirds the size of the much grander Alabama which opened the next year on 3rd Avenue. These two behemoths quickly relegated these four 2nd Avenue locations to second class status. I was never inside and remember the Strand only because it’s marquee was still there until it’s demolition. The buildings housing these other theaters still stood but there was no evidence suggesting their past life.
All of these theaters were located in a five square block area so when my family went to the movies we always parked at the Lovemans Department Store parking deck next to the Alabama. This was very convenient, not only to my father’s office building, but because there was a Krystal hamburger stand on the corner for pre movie dinner and next door a Dixie Creame doughnut shop for post dinner dessert. When we attended the Melba or the Empire directly behind it on 3rd Avenue we always walked east down 2nd past the Strand. I clearly remember it being demolished which would have been summer 1963.
In the photo section I have posted three pictures. Two from the Rewound website show the just closed Strand during the Christmas shopping gridlock in those pre mall, pre Amazon days, and an article from the Birmingham News regarding the demolition of a long standing and notable downtown theater. The third is a photo showing the building that now occupies the site of the Strand and Capitol theaters it was built as an expansion of the headquarters of the Birmingham Trust National Bank. Now it is the home to a church, at least the ground floor.
I see that Bob Foreman has also posted, in the photo section, an article from the local paper from 1958 that tells a good bit about the history of the theater and especially its current manager, William J. “T” Trambukis. Turns out that the history of these two was intertwined from the start. “T” started out here as an usher working his way up the ladder until being named the eleventh manager in 1954. This was a case of bad timing as the hurricane struck soon after. However it did give him a chance to shine as he supervised the repairs and got the theater up and running again.
According to earlier comments, “T” was still the
manager here in 1963, and it is possible he turned out the lights as the final manager for Loew’s when they shut it down in 1971. This whole story may explain something I always wondered about at the time, which was, why did Loew’s have a regional office in Warwick RI, a city they had no theaters in?
This theater was a big operation and there were department heads for systems, I guess HVAC, Engineering, Electricals, cleaning, floor staff, concessions, and box office in addition to assistant managers, secretary, and even a poster artist and house painter. That is more department heads than I had employees at the Loew’s theater I was trying to manage for him. No wonder he had so little use for my efforts.
As I said earlier, I did not have much contact with “T” just his twice a year inspection plus my initial job interview with him. Although the Grand and Tara theaters had in the past been managed by local hires from Atlanta, I was the first local hire he made instead of transferring an existing manager in from elsewhere in his region. The City Manager, also the manager of the Grand, was a nice boss named John Hebert who always treated me fairly and I know he felt badly when he had to pass on criticisms from “T”. He left Atlanta to be manager of the Loew’s flagship, the Times Square Loew’s State. I stopped by to see him when I was in NYC in 1984, and by then he was the City Manager of The Bronx.
Thanks for posting these articles Bob. They have brought back a lot of memories that are not nearly as unpleasant as I remember them being as I was living them.
There is a fellow named Bob Foreman who is a long time back stage employee of the Fox Theater in Atlanta, a theater with a similar history to this one. Bob runs a website called Vintage Theater Catalogs which started out telling details of Fox backstage, restoration, business, and technical history. Lately he has expanded to similar entries about other classic theaters.
Today he has published an article on the Loew’s State Theater in Providence that tells in great detail the story of a tragedy that took place in the summer of 1928 while this theater was under construction. After the completion of the installation of the electrical equipment connecting the theater to the city grid, the power was turned on resulting in a massive explosion which destroyed the power room and killed three workers, two employees of the Narragansett Power Company and the head of construction for Loew’s.
The cause of the explosion was never determined.
The article goes on to give a good overview of the ensuing history of this location richly illustrated with period photos, drawings, and maps. Anyone who is interested in the Loew’s State as well as the two hurricanes that damaged it and other downtown theaters and finally it’s rebirth as a performing arts center will find this article well worth their time.
In reading the comments to see if there was any mention of this event, I came across the name of William Trambukis, manager here in 1963. When I was managing the Loew’s 12 Oaks in Atlanta, the Regional Director headquartered in Warwick RI was none other than William J. Trambukis. It must have been an important job as the region not only extended south to Atlanta but west at least as far as St. Louis. I found “T” as he was called a gruff, unpleasant guy to work for but that’s fine, he had little use for me either. Fortunately I only actually met him twice as most of my supervision came from the Atlanta City Manager.
If there are any CT readers with an emotional attachment to this location, and I doubt there are, you might want to plan a visit to take a last look as a developer is requesting rezoning. No word on the actual plan but the zoning requested would allow for the construction of one of those Live, Work, Play developments that are so popular now. The signs are posted around the pie shaped area between the mall ring road, I-575, and the commercial development to the north so the mall proper is not involved unless perhaps it’s current zoning already allows for such.
Picture added to the photo section.
kpdennis: During your days of working in the UA office in Denver did you happen to work with a Jay McIntyre? He would have come there from Atlanta where he was in charge of the assimilation of the newly purchased Georgia Theater Company followed by Litchfield as well. I think he was from Ohio or maybe Pennsylvania and his first duty was to get rid of every projectionist (union or not). His second job was to get rid of every inherited manager who did not measure up to UA standards, which of course was all of them.
When he left he said he was off to Denver to be in charge of in motion seating. That was some type of system where the seats were supposed to move or vibrate in sync with the screen action. At least that’s what he said. Regardless he said it was a big step up the corporate ladder since Denver was UA HQ.
Apparently this theater is now open and has been for some time. An article on the al.com site about the Sidewalk Film Festival states that it will be returning to its downtown venues, the Alabama and Lyric Theaters, after relocating to the Grand River Drive In during the pandemic year of 2020. A look at the website for the drive in shows that they are now open with all four screens seven days a week.
They have gotten their FB page up and running and scrolling back it appears that they were open on weekends throughout the winter with programs of what new movies were available plus past movies and live events. The full menu Snack Shack is also open for lunch serving shoppers at the adjacent outlet mall and there is also a BBQ restaurant, playground, dog walk park, and miniature golf available.
This is great news, and hopefully it will be able to ride the Covid inspired drive in resurgence to continued full time operation. The fact that it now seems to be under the same management or possibly ownership umbrella as the Grand River Outlet Mall should help as its ability to draw in customers might make it a more viable business model than a stand alone operation.
News was quoting East Point PD. I didn’t realize that East Point extended this far west and outside of 285 until now. Maybe they annexed it to get the tax money. (Also, all of Fulton County is now incorporated with the city of South Fulton covering the old unincorporated areas that were left over.) I was not aware of this type of problem at MJ but it certainly sounds like a repeat of Old National. However by that time the shopping center and general area around Old National Highway was getting pretty run down. This Camp Creek development is still a popular destination with big box stores and retailers like Target and Home Depot. I’m sure those stores wish the theater had stayed closed.
Local news outlets are reporting that three young teenagers were shot last night as they were among about 200 young people leaving the AMC theater. The police spokesman said that for the last six months there have been problems with hundreds of young people congregating in the shopping complex with nothing to do after they leave the theater. As he put it, “…first the fights break out, then the guns come out, then the shooting starts.”
Recently there was another shooting behind the Longhorn Steakhouse and then there was the incident I described in the previous comment. The spokesman also said that they were going to talk to AMC management about not admitting teenagers at night unless they were with a parent. Good luck with that.
It will probably turn into another South DeKalb. They had Rich’s and Penneys as their anchors. Was the second anchor at GB a Penney’s? By the time I first worked at the theater in the mid 80’s there was a Burlington Coat Factory there. I managed the theater at SD in the mid 70’s, shortly after the mall opened. It was very neat, clean, and well run. By 1985 when I last worked at SD it was certainly on its way down. GB however was another story. In 1985-88 I could walk through the mall on my way to the theater and feel like I was in the early days at SD. They had a very active Merchants Association and the mall management was strict in enforcing the rules about store appearances. No cheap looking handmade signs or banners allowed and the mall area was kept spotless.
In the late 80’s a big Cub Foods store was built in the parking lot followed by the 12 screen Sony / Magic Johnson movie theater next door. Both of these places drew masses of people but by the mid 2000’s they were closed up. I think that the huge big box shopping complex at I-285 and Cascade, which had its own movie theater as well, was a big blow, much more so than Shannon Mall turned out to be. I am surprised to find out that the Macys, which is what the Rich’s was before the name change was still open.
Shannon Mall was carted off to the landfill years ago after sitting empty for years before that. SD is still standing but the last time I was there, about 2005 it looked like a third world flea market which is what Northlake resembled the last time I was there in 2015. That may be what happens to GB. At Northlake, which never had a movie theater but did have a GCC triple and an AMC 8 in satellite strip centers, Emory University has bought the old Sears location for offices and a new owner has plans to turn it into a live, work, play, shop complex. The Gwinnett Place Mall, which had 36 screens, all closed now of course, even pre Covid, in four different theaters in its satellite centers has recently been purchased by the county but no word on what the plan for it is. Meanwhile, North DeKalb, Atlanta’s first enclosed mall soldiers on. The latest plan for its demise, a Costco centered complex like the one at Town Brookhaven was denied by the county.
Finally, in years past there were some nice pictures in the photo section of this page that are now gone. They were from the Headland High School Yearbook of 1969 or 70. Several were group pictures taken in front of the theater entrance. They were dated by the presence of Butch Cassidy one sheets in the frames that are still intact in the surviving pictures.
Yes, it is now, thanks to the efforts of Ken Roe. Ken is the volunteer editor for CT and takes on the duty of reading every comment and making the necessary corrections. I don’t always agree with the way some of these changes in the overviews are made but he has to work within the parameters set down by the owners of this site. Ken lives in England so it was mid afternoon his time when I made my comment. By the next day the correction in the opening date had been made.
This was a pretty straightforward change. I do wish there was a way to make a designation when changes or additions are made to the overview based on info included in a new comment. That way, the original author of the overview will not be blamed if that new information turns out to be inaccurate. However, that is a small complaint when you think what a mess some of these pages would be if someone were not deleting spam or watching over the tone of some of the comments. Thanks for your efforts Ken.
Very interesting write up. Like the vast majority of comments regarding theater history and experiences, the story of this place could apply to countless other locations. When built, ABC was just ending their practice of using the great Ultravision projection system in their new construction. Perhaps this Vistarama system, which I have never heard of, was its successor. Several ABC’s of that era had the box office off to the side, and like this one, had it moved to the center when the once fine original auditorium was twinned.
In my experiences with Loews I find several things that are common to this place. Having to pull drapes in front of the auditorium doors to keep out the afternoon sun is something I remember from several theaters. The design of having the concession stand back up to the auditorium under the overhang of the booth is common to all three Loews theaters I worked in as well as one ABC Ultravision location. Having a DM office located in the theater is also a situation I have less than happy memories of. In three of those storerooms were taken over and in another I was evicted from my office and relegated to a closet previously known as the checkout office.
There are two corrections I would make here. First, the Overview states that the theater opened in 1960. That is a typo as it was obviously 1970 since Airport was the opening feature. Second involved the twinning. It is doubtful that the first week of Star Wars played on the Vistarama screen. It is likely that the theater was closed up for the two to four weeks normally associated with a twining project and that it opened one side only with Star Wars. Either the other side was not finished or the release date for A Bridge Too Far was not until the next Friday and they decided not to put some one week filler in to occupy the screen. I worked at an ABC where the second side of a newly built twin opened later for this reason.
It is also possible that they used the Loews system of twinning. In their two Atlanta theaters they twinned they closed for two days and installed a screen in one corner. That was what they used to operate with while the wall was constructed and the screen and booth were set up for the other side. Then they moved to that side and finished up in the other. A check of earlier ads should show a shutdown of 2 days to 2 weeks followed by the opening ad for SW then the twin ad a week later. So, unfortunately, no one got to see Star Wars on the big screen.