Market: Atlanta, Georgia
Category: Entertainment and Recreation
Sub Category: Cinema, Event Venue, Film, Movie House, Movie Theatre, Movies, Partnerships, Sponsorships
The Plaza ranked as one of the ‘Top 20 Movie Theaters in the World’ by Men’s Journal 2014, Serving since 2011, Christopher Escobar is the longest serving and first minority Executive Director of the 44-year old Atlanta Film Society, the media arts organization named “Best Nonprofit” by Creative Loafing and producer of the Academy Award-qualifying Atlanta Film Festival named “Best Spring Festival in Atlanta” by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and “Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine and “10 Best Film Festival” by USAtoday two years running. He has been named a “40 under 40” and “CFO of the Year” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, “Best of Atlanta” by Atlanta Magazine and the “Creativity & Arts Award for Community Impact Arts Administrator” from the Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts. Escobar has been featured in Vice, Variety, Slate Magazine, The New York Times, TIME, ABC, PBS, NPR, NBC, Fox News, NPR, The Wallstreet Journal, The Washington Post, CBS and CNN. He has served on boards for Georgia Production Partnership, Plaza Theatre Foundation, Rialto Center for the Arts and Georgia State University’s College of the Arts. He has also served on grant review panels for Fulton County Arts & Culture, Georgia Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts many time. In 2017, he purchased the historic Plaza Theatre—Atlanta’s oldest and only independent cinema and converted the theatre from being a strategic partner of the ATLFS to making the theatre’s number one philanthropic priority. Christopher holds a B.A. in Film & Video as well as an M.A. in Moving Image Studies with a concentration in Production both from Georgia State University.
The Plaza Theatre is a movie theatre located in Atlanta, Georgia. Opened in 1939, it is Atlanta’s longest continuously operating independent movie theatre and a city landmark.
1939 – 2006
Designed by architect George Harwell Bond, the Plaza Theatre opened on December 23, 1939, as an art deco cinema and live theater space. It was the neighborhood cinema for the Druid Hills, Virginia Highland and Poncey-Highland neighborhoods of Atlanta. It is an anchor of the Briarcliff Plaza on Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta’s first shopping center with off-street parking. The first film screened was the Joan Crawford-Norma Shearer vehicle The Women.
Several “big films” had second runs at the Plaza Theatre after having played their roadshow release downtown. Among them were Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and King of Kings (1961).
In the 1970s, the Plaza became an X-rated adult cinema and live burlesque theatre, screening such risqué fare as Teeny Buns and Swinging Sorority, until the entire shopping center was renovated by owner at the time, Robert Griffith.
In 1983, movie theatre entrepreneur George LeFont bought the theatre and renovated the 1000-seat space by converting the balcony area into a second auditorium. The LeFont era witnessed an influx of independent, foreign, and art-house movies that would become the norm from 1983 to the present. The 1990s and 2000s witnessed a financial struggle for the Plaza, and the theatre was put up for sale in 2006.
2006 – present
In late 2006, Atlanta natives Jonathan and Gayle Rej purchased the theatre, and in early 2010, the Plaza Theatre Foundation became a nonprofit organization. Retaining the original marquee and many of the original furnishings, the Plaza Theatre became the longest continuously operating theatre in Atlanta.
Since 2000, the fan group Lips Down on Dixie has hosted Atlanta’s contribution to The Rocky Horror Picture Show cult following, screening the film at midnight every Friday, with pre-show activities and a “shadow cast” live performance and audience participation simultaneous with the movie.
In the 2000s, the Silver Scream Spookshow was hosted at The Plaza by Atlanta horror personality “Professor Morte”. The show paired live comic and burlesque performances with screenings of classic science fiction movies, including Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, and many films in the Godzilla franchise. Similarly, Splatter Cinema has brought re-creations of grisly movie scenes to the Plaza’s lobby, paired with screenings of classic horror films such as Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs!, as well as movies in the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Also during the 2000s, The Plaza screened many other classic films, including Easy Rider, Back to the Future, Five Easy Pieces, as well as showcases of local independent films.
In 2010, the Plaza celebrated its 70th anniversary with screenings of 1939 films, including The Wizard of Oz and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies co-hosted the event. The Plaza also hosted the Atlanta premiere for the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; Scott Pilgrim stars Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman and director Edgar Wright were present at the premiere. Similarly, the director of the emerging cult film The Room, Tommy Wiseau, made guest appearances at the theatre in 2010 and 2012.
In early 2013, the Plaza Theatre was sold to theatre enthusiast Michael Furlinger, underwent long overdue upgrades including digital projection, new seats, and other treatments as well as began screening mainstream films such as the Angry Birds and The Smurfs movies.
In early 2017, Asana Partners purchased the Briarcliff Plaza (where the Plaza Theatre is located) from the Griffith family for $18 million. The sale came as a surprise to the community as the property was not listed for sale.
In late 2017, the theatre was sold to Christopher Escobar, also the Executive Director of the Atlanta Film Society, and has been returning to its former appearance, showcases, performances, and independent and international films.
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