One year under new ownership, Tara still losing money but in better shape

Owner Christopher Escobar hopes it will be cash-flow positive later this year.
Tara Theatre

Credit: Natrice Miller

Credit: Natrice Miller

Tara Theatre owner Christopher Escobar (center) celebrates with supporters after the ribbon cutting during the grand reopening on Thursday, May 25, 2023. The theatre is reopening after being shut down last November. (Natrice Miller/

This is the type of comeback movie that seemed to have a happy ending.

A storied 56-year-old Atlanta movie theater, the Tara Theatre, is abruptly shut down by a big conglomerate, then gets scooped up by a group of local investors led by an avid film lover and entrepreneur who already owns another classic theater. The theater reopens with big fanfare before a full house of admirers. Credits roll.

A year later, the story remains unfinished. Tara owner Christopher Escobar, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said he has been able to double revenue from Regal Cinema’s final year with the theater off Cheshire Bridge Road, which remains focused on a range of independent and foreign films.

But the theater is not yet cash-flow positive, he said.

“We are headed in the right direction,” said Escobar, who also owns the 85-year-old Plaza Theatre four miles away. “We got a lot of help when we opened. We still need help to keep it open. It’s not cheap to keep it going with rent and utilities and insurance.”

Things did not go entirely smoothly. It took him more than a year to get a liquor license for the Tara from the City of Atlanta.

“Business license renewals are digital and rather efficient, but the liquor license process is still heavily paper-based and very slow,” Escobar said. Given how much he makes at the Plaza in liquor sales, he believes the delay has cost him at least $90,000 in potential revenue.

Christopher Escobar, new owner of the Tara Theatre, works inside the Tara in Atlanta on Monday, May 22, 2023.  (Arvin Temkar /


icon to expand image


And since Regal stripped the space of almost everything save the chairs and screens, he had to spend more money than anticipated to install new equipment, including projectors that could air 35 mm and 70 mm films.

He also faced issues beyond his control. In November 2023, a fire gutted an apartment complex across the street that closed Lavista Road for nearly six months. And less than a mile away, Cheshire Bridge Road was cut off for five months after a massive fire under an overpass until earlier this month.

The area, he learned after he took over, has also been prone to power outages far more frequently than at the Plaza in Poncey-Highland. Every couple of months, on average, the Tara has lost electricity, sometimes for hours at a time. The nearby Publix invested in a massive generator, something he said he can’t justify spending money on.

Escobar also learned how parochial and loyal Tara customers. One time, “Asteroid City” was playing at both theaters. When the power went out at the Tara, he told patrons to drive 11 minutes over to the Plaza. Most decided to come back to the Tara the next day instead, he said.

Tara’s audience is not only distinctive from that of the Plaza but much older. It’s an audience that didn’t fully return after the pandemic had largely subsided, which is partly why Regal closed it in the first place.

He said Tara patrons don’t even see films at the same time as those who go to the Plaza. The Plaza is largely an evening and late night crowd. The Tara? Not so much.

“We are trying to get folks to show up at the Tara after 8 p.m.,” he said. “Sometimes it’s busier in the afternoons than the evenings. I keep thinking I should market it as: ‘The Tara: your mom’s favorite movie theater!’”

Even their buying behavior is different. While Plaza ticket buyers tend to do so in advance, Tara customers generally just show up.

The broad-based formula, though, is the same for Escobar at both theaters: a blend of special events, new movies and older ones.

“The model of a mix of new and old films has proven to be the way to go for sustainability,” he said. “Sometimes the new stuff does well, sometimes the older stuff.”

Despite the problems, Escobar said the Tara has generated plenty of great moments the past 12 months including the first live event involving Jewish matchmaking, a private screening for Francis Ford Coppola, a sold-out André 3000 listening party and an appearance by the Atlanta duo the Indigo Girls for the duo’s documentary.

Rosemary Magee and Amy Alznauer from Emory University speak to Maya and Ethan Hawke on May 10, 2024. CONTRIBUTED


icon to expand image


He does try to cross-pollinate movies at the Plaza and Tara by holding a series of films by the likes of Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan and Alfred Hitchcock. He also held screenings of the new Flannery O’Connor film “Wildcat,” with discussion from Ethan and Maya Hawke at both cinemas.

And since Escobar also runs the Atlanta Film Society, he is a big fan of film festivals and has hosted several so far at the Tara.

The Atlanta Greek Film Expo. The Atlanta Indian Film Festival. We welcomed back the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. We hosted movies for The Atlanta Film Festival for the first time,” said Escobar, who also happens to run The Atlanta Film Festival.

The Indigo Girls perform at a screen of a documentary about them "It's Only Life After All" at Tara Theatre Atlanta on March 29, 2024. CONTRIBUTED


icon to expand image


For six years in the early 1980s, George LeFont owned both the Tara and Plaza. Escobar sees himself as a torchbearer of sorts for LeFont, who died last year, and has named auditoriums at both theaters after him. But it’s not any easier to own a theater today when so many people have become accustomed to watching films at home.

“My hope for year two is we beat operating costs and continue to grow programming partners, build food offerings and establish a sponsorship program where companies can sponsor the Tara,” Escobar said.

Jonathan Rej, who used to co-own the Plaza with his wife Gayle and invested money into the Tara, remains a huge fan of Escobar. “There’s no one better in town to run that theater than Chris,” he said. “I’m confident it’s in great hands.”


1. “Barbie”

2. “Oppenheimer”

3. “The Boy and the Heron”

4. “The Zone of Interest”

5. “Asteroid City”

6. “Maestro”

7. “Dune: Part Two”

8. Andre 3000′s “New Blue Sun” events

9. “Killers of the Flower Moon”

10. “You Hurt My Feelings”


1. “Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope”

2. “Tenet” (in 70 mm)

3. “Prisoners”

4. “Deep Cover: An Evening with Bill Duke”

5. “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”

6. “The Trial”

7. “A Matter of Life and Death”

8. “Carol”

9. “The Royal Tenenbaums”

10. “Werckmeister Harmonies”

SOURCE: Tara Theatre, ranked by tickets sold