Lesa Mayer and Ann Brown planned to take a long lunch and watch the entire Michael Jackson memorial service at a small downtown bar and restaurant. But they were about the only ones watching it.
When CNN cut to a shot of the CNN Center lobby, the women saw hundreds of Jackson fans watching on the big screen.
"We literally ran the whole way because we didn't want to miss any of it," said Mayer, 27, a bank sales officer. "This was the most appropriate place to be, everyone enjoying this moving ceremony together."
For most of the service, it was standing-room only at the CNN Center food court. Fans cheered the performances and speeches, and some wiped away tears.
Another 350 fans went to the Carmike Conyers Crossroads 16 cinemas -- some arriving as early as 7:45 a.m. -- to see the 1 p.m. service.
But the Atlanta reaction was subdued compared to the circus in L.A., where celebrities, media trucks and 8,750 ticket holders converged on the Staples Center.
Among them, Atlantan Chris Malatia. As he filed into the Staples Center, he explained why he made the cross-country trek to pay his respects.
"He changed music," Malatia, 53, explained. "He changed culture. He changed race. He brought the world together."
Many Atlanta establishments with TVs made no special arrangements. At the Taco Mac on Peachtree in Midtown, manager John Hill said he prepared his staff for an onslaught of customers, but it wasn't necessary. The service was being shown with the sound off.
"By and large, there is not really a demand for it," Hill said. "It's been on the 24-hour news cycle ever since he died and I think people are Michael Jacksoned out."
However, two customers came specifically to watch the service at the restaurant. Tyre Washington, a 49-year-old chef, said he came to watch Barack Obama's inauguration and figured this would be another hugely watched event.
"He's a legend," Washington said as he munched on chicken nachos. "I grew up in the Michael Jackson era. Who didn't love Michael Jackson? ... Looking at this right now [the service], it just sends chills through your body."
Jesse Tellez, 72, said he was mesmerized the first time he saw the "Thriller" video.
"I've always enjoyed him, except for the bad parts about him," Tellez said. "I loved his music -- that's what it's all about."
At the Carmike cinema, which had about 150 tickets to spare for its free viewing, Jean Jackson of Conyers said she came "to pay tribute to a great king" and "a person who really has made a great impact on the world for being such a great entertainer."
Across the world, hundreds of millions of fans were expected to watch the famed performer's memorial service on television.
All the major TV networks showed the event.
Nurse Patricia Anderson, a San Jose resident and Jackson fan who was visiting a friend in Atlanta, stopped into CNN Center to eat just as the service was starting.
"You get caught up in it and you don't want to leave," said Anderson, who wrote a poem about Jackson the day after his death. "This is a wonderful tribute to a person who was so talented. He allowed us to share in the genius of his music."
--Katie Leslie, John Spink, Richard Eldredge, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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