Tara Theatre, the storied 55-year-old film house, will reopen on Thursday under new ownership six months after Regal Cinema abruptly shut it down.
On Monday, the city of Atlanta finally gave Christopher Escobar and his management team a public health permit, the last one needed to enable them to open the doors for customers. The theater, which is at Cheshire Bridge and Lavista roads, was known for decades as a popular draw for lovers of foreign and art-house films.
Regal, the second-largest movie chain in the country, didn’t cite a specific reason why it closed Tara last November, but its parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last September.
Escobar, who also owns The Plaza Theatre four miles away in Poncey-Highland, said he felt the theater was worth saving and gathered investors to make it happen.
His other equity partners in the venture are cinema booker/operator Michael Spaeth, his wife, Kris Spaeth, and Steve Krams of Magna-Tech Electronic, which provides projectors to movie theaters. Former Plaza owners Jonny and Gayle Rej and Michael Furlinger have put in money as well, along with Plaza co-owner Matthew Rowles.
>>RELATED: Chris Escobar carves out future for Plaza Theatre
This Thursday, he is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony and is naming the four individual theaters after four important figures in the history of Tara.
Theater 1 will be named after long-time Tara general manager Eddie Parrott. Theater 2 is for the landlord Jack Halpern, who Escobar said took a less financially rewarding lease deal with Escobar’s group over others to ensure the survival of the theater. Theatre 3 will have the name of Kenny Blank, executive director of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and son of Home Depot founder Arthur Blank, who was able to facilitate the deal between Escobar and Halpern. And theatre 4 will have George LeFont’s name. LeFont is known as the Atlanta guru of art theaters and he converted Tara into a specialty arthouse in the early 1980s.
Escobar will honor the past by offering three classic movies on Thursday: “Star Wars,” which the theater debuted to massive lines in 1977; the 1963 comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” to honor the early years; and 1989′s “Back to the Future II.” The Tara will also screen the Cate Blanchett film “Tar,” which was one of the films Tara was offering when it shut down in November 2022. (Check taraatlanta.com for screenings times when they are ready.)
This weekend, Tara’s return will have three current films: “The Starling Girl,” “You Hurt My Feelings” and “Master Gardener” while the fourth screen will rotate classics. He also procured black-and-white photos of actors that LeFont used to have on the walls decades ago including those of Al Pacino, Groucho Marx and Spike Lee.
Since Regal dumped all the movie posters in the lobby, fans of Tara donated posters that will line the walls including films such as “Air Force One,” “Time Bandits,” “Taxi Driver” and “Full Metal Jacket.”
He also hopes to use his existing relationships with places like the video rental store Videodrome, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, the Fox Theatre and A Capella Books to hold special events there.
And the theater will serve Coca-Cola products, not Pepsi, which was the soft-drink company of choice under Regal’s contract.
About the Author