Friday, March 22, 2019

Phoenix Flies into Plaza Theatre

This year's Phoenix Flies tours, an Atlanta Preservation Center program, have been fantastic, including "Atlanta’s oldest operating and only independent cinema since 1939", Plaza Theatre

The tour was led by none other than the owner himself, Christopher (Chris) Escobar, who purchased the theatre in 2017. The tour started on time (Thank you, Chris!) and was entertaining and substantial! A few of us hung around afterward and got to see some additional spaces, too!


Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

The first time I ever saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show was in 2010 at Plaza Theatre! It was so AWESOME! Lips Down on Dixie, Atlanta's longest running cast, has delivered a screen-accurate performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday night since December 2000! Talk about "Time Warp"! 

The photo above is "the" Rocky Horror photo-op in the theatre! While the midnight performances are geared for younger adult audiences, I had such an amazing time when I went. If you haven't seen it performed live (simultaneous with the film), treat yourself!


Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

There were more approximately 30 of us on the tour—and we were greeted with free popcorn! It was a full theatre experience, plus we had a movie score playing while we were gathering. We were welcomed on the screening room "marquee", too!


Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Plaza Theatre | Lobby | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

There's a new ticket stand in the lobby, fashioned after some other Art Deco elements in the theatre. LOTS of new updates and upgrades are and will be influenced by the theatre's Art Deco design and decor. Being one of my favorite design eras, I was loving it!


Plaza Theatre | "The Interview" | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Plaza Theatre | "The Interview" | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Many of us on the tour didn't know that Plaza Theatre was one of a handful of small theatres to screen the world premiere of The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, (on Christmas Day in 2014)—and the exclusive theatre in Atlanta—an epic move on their part after major movie studios allowed a foreign government to influence our censorship practices. It was quite the scandal! 

Within 24 hours of announcing that Plaza Theatre would premiere the film, they gave approximately 40 interviews...to local and global news outlets!

In this same area—the Gallery—are the concessions stand—featuring only classic theatre treats, and a new bar—featuring more than 20 local craft beers and more! 


Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Plaza Theatre now has a movie house organ and a dedicated organist! Ron Carter, the lead organist, was there to play for us, share some of the history of theatre organs, and to let us know that Plaza Theatre will be featuring the organ—which sounds phenomenal!—during a monthly silent movie, as well as during the pre-show of The Rocky Horror Picture Show!

I'm super excited about a monthly silent film accompanied by a live organist. I've seen/heard the occasional silent movie with live music, but I don't know of anywhere else in Atlanta who's doing this. Do check it out!


Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

One of the awesome upgrades are the super cushy seats! There are a lot of theatres, even the mainstream theatres, that have thin seats that tax the tooshie, or "gluteus maximus" if you're more the scientific sort. I love that the seats have an Art Deco stitched design, too! 


Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

The "Legacy Lounge" has Art Deco stenciled walls (hand-stenciled by Chris and his wife!), Art Deco inspired pieces of furniture, and even the bathroom door handles are Art Deco! And there's more to come. Hearing Chris' ideas for what he wants to do to improve the physical space of the theatre as well as the programming was inspiring, to say the least.


Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Chris said the hand-stenciling needs touching up, but it looks awesome to me! I was shocked to find out that it was stenciled and not wallpaper! 


Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Theatres across the country were required to go digital by the end of 2013 and as expensive as it was to do, Plaza Theatre did just that, went digital. This was a move by Hollywood studios to save on printing and shipping 35mm movies to theatres across the country. They're even converting their 35mm inventory to save on storage space.

Not too long ago, after Chris purchased the theatre and was cleaning up, he found what he thought was—I forget what he thought it was, but it wasn't the 35mm projector that it turned out to be! He found two and one of them is on display in the theatre.

Chris hopes to have them restored and again show films on 35mm on special occasions.


Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Plaza Theatre | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Plaza Theatre has faced extinction, probably more than once, but with Chris Escobar at the helm, there's only the plan to expand, improve, and to continue entertaining

Make your way to Plaza Theatre to take in a film—the variety is vast! And if you didn't make it on any of the 200+ free tours and events in the Atlanta Preservation Center's Phoenix Flies program, make a note to do so next year!

2 comments:

Terry said...

Thanks so much. On one of Atlanta's greatest corners.

Jason Martin said...

Such an interesting place to visit with friends.
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