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HomeGeorgia & USAA Chapter Closes: Atlanta's Film Community Remembers the Tara Theater

A Chapter Closes: Atlanta’s Film Community Remembers the Tara Theater

Members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Emory Film Group in front of the Tara Theater.

With the closing of the Tara Theater on November 10, an Atlanta era came to an end.

After more than 50 years, a spokeswoman for Regal Cinemas confirmed the closure of the Tara, which first opened in 1968 as Loew’s Theaters, named after the fictional plantation in Gone With the Wind (Lowe also operated the long-gone Twelve Oaks Theater in what is now Plaza Fiesta too).

Years later, Atlanta art house legend George LeFont purchased the theater, and the theater transferred ownership many times over the years before landing at the Regal.

Now, members of Atlanta’s independent theater community are in mourning. Kenny Blank, executive and artistic director of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, said Tara’s loss will be felt deeply.

“From the old-fashioned charm of the cozy auditoriums to the retro foyer, there’s nothing like Tara,” Blank said. “We regret the closing of this beloved theater.”

Christopher Escobar — owner of The Plaza Theater in Ponce Highlands — also mourned the loss, especially the closing of the theater to Regal, the parent company filed for bankruptcy in September.

“This is unfortunately at risk when we leave our cherished historic sites in the ownership of non-local mega-corporations,” Escobar said. He added that the loss was especially difficult given that LeFont owned both the Tara and the Plaza at one point, and called the two theaters “brother and sister theaters.”

“It’s heartbreaking because for generations, the Tara was one of the few art house theaters in the city that introduced Atlantic residents to indie films, foreign films and boundary-pushing pictures,” Escobar said. “Places like Tara only mean something because people have been going there for decades, making memories and sharing experiences, and it becomes normal for them to see and connect with their community.”

One group that made memories and formed a community in Tara may have felt that loss a little more acutely. A film group consisting of members Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Emory, began meeting after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to save the movie theater.

Carol Winn, a Tara regular, was concerned about the drop in attendance she saw, especially after the onset of COVID. She put out her tentacles, looking for someone to join her once a week to watch a movie.

Wynn said the group never had more than 20 people visit in a week, but the few that did come out were strong.

“We tried to preserve this theater,” Winn said. “I guess we were naive to think we were the only ones who could save it.”

Wien has been watching movies at Tara for decades, as have other people I met on a cold morning outside the now-closed theater. There are Bill and Michio Elena, who have lived in Atlanta since 1975 and lived just a few blocks from Tara for their first seven years in the area. There’s also Gordon Shriver, who moved to Atlanta from rural Minnesota 40 years ago.

“It’s hard to believe that I’ve been going to this movie theater for over 40 years,” Shriver said, recalling the dates of shooting movies and seeing movies like “Dangerous Liaisons” on the big screen. “To see it closed now is the closing of a chapter.”

Relations between this small group are calm and comfortable. The jokes come easily and they never seem to run out of things to talk about – probably because they all know their stuff. Previously, Vin taught film courses at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College (formerly Georgia Perimeter College). Bill Allen taught classes about Broadway Emory Continuing Education (ECE). Shriver worked in radio and even wrote a book about horror icon Boris Karloff titled “Boris Karlov: a man remembered.”

All of these people are well-versed in film and entertainment, and Tara provided them with a creative platform where they could watch art house films, independent films, foreign films – films that you wouldn’t be able to see at a network multiplex.

“All the good movies are here,” Michio Allen said. “All the films we are interested in are always shown here. So this is the place to be.”

Each week, Mithio sent the group an email inviting them to watch a movie of their choice on Tuesday. When they walked into Tara, it felt like they were walking into an old friend’s house. The theaters were familiar, they knew the workers, and the workers knew them.

“The word is cozy,” said member Susan Cook. “It feels cozy, like you’re walking into someone’s media room to watch a movie.”

On November 8, the group members met for the last time to watch a movie in Tara. They didn’t always watch the same movie, but as the movies came out, the members stopped by nearby Rains Thai and Sushi Bar to discuss what they saw. On that fateful Tuesday, Vena went to see The Decision to Leave, a new South Korean mystery directed by Park Chan-wook. At the end of the film, a worker she befriended approached her when the lights came on.

“She came to me personally and said it was over,” Winn said. “I thought she meant the movie was over, but she was crying. That’s how I realized that Tara was over.”

After that, the worker headed to the Thai restaurant to inform everyone else. It was a dark moment, the end of an era.

“I hope somebody buys it and keeps it open,” Bill Allen said.

Despite the closing of Tara, the group plans to support independent cinema at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, and anyone interested is welcome to join. But nothing can replace Tara.

“It’s going to be sorely missed by the whole community,” Winn said. “It was such a sight.”

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A Chapter Closes: Atlanta’s Film Community Remembers the Tara Theater

Members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Emory Film Group in front of the Tara Theater.

With the closing of the Tara Theater on November 10, an Atlanta era came to an end.

After more than 50 years, a spokeswoman for Regal Cinemas confirmed the closure of the Tara, which first opened in 1968 as Loew’s Theaters, named after the fictional plantation in Gone With the Wind (Lowe also operated the long-gone Twelve Oaks Theater in what is now Plaza Fiesta too).

Years later, Atlanta art house legend George LeFont purchased the theater, and the theater transferred ownership many times over the years before landing at the Regal.

Now, members of Atlanta’s independent theater community are in mourning. Kenny Blank, executive and artistic director of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, said Tara’s loss will be felt deeply.

“From the old-fashioned charm of the cozy auditoriums to the retro foyer, there’s nothing like Tara,” Blank said. “We regret the closing of this beloved theater.”

Christopher Escobar — owner of The Plaza Theater in Ponce Highlands — also mourned the loss, especially the closing of the theater to Regal, the parent company filed for bankruptcy in September.

“This is unfortunately at risk when we leave our cherished historic sites in the ownership of non-local mega-corporations,” Escobar said. He added that the loss was especially difficult given that LeFont owned both the Tara and the Plaza at one point, and called the two theaters “brother and sister theaters.”

“It’s heartbreaking because for generations, the Tara was one of the few art house theaters in the city that introduced Atlantic residents to indie films, foreign films and boundary-pushing pictures,” Escobar said. “Places like Tara only mean something because people have been going there for decades, making memories and sharing experiences, and it becomes normal for them to see and connect with their community.”

One group that made memories and formed a community in Tara may have felt that loss a little more acutely. A film group consisting of members Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Emory, began meeting after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to save the movie theater.

Carol Winn, a Tara regular, was concerned about the drop in attendance she saw, especially after the onset of COVID. She put out her tentacles, looking for someone to join her once a week to watch a movie.

Wynn said the group never had more than 20 people visit in a week, but the few that did come out were strong.

“We tried to preserve this theater,” Winn said. “I guess we were naive to think we were the only ones who could save it.”

Wien has been watching movies at Tara for decades, as have other people I met on a cold morning outside the now-closed theater. There are Bill and Michio Elena, who have lived in Atlanta since 1975 and lived just a few blocks from Tara for their first seven years in the area. There’s also Gordon Shriver, who moved to Atlanta from rural Minnesota 40 years ago.

“It’s hard to believe that I’ve been going to this movie theater for over 40 years,” Shriver said, recalling the dates of shooting movies and seeing movies like “Dangerous Liaisons” on the big screen. “To see it closed now is the closing of a chapter.”

Relations between this small group are calm and comfortable. The jokes come easily and they never seem to run out of things to talk about – probably because they all know their stuff. Previously, Vin taught film courses at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College (formerly Georgia Perimeter College). Bill Allen taught classes about Broadway Emory Continuing Education (ECE). Shriver worked in radio and even wrote a book about horror icon Boris Karloff titled “Boris Karlov: a man remembered.”

All of these people are well-versed in film and entertainment, and Tara provided them with a creative platform where they could watch art house films, independent films, foreign films – films that you wouldn’t be able to see at a network multiplex.

“All the good movies are here,” Michio Allen said. “All the films we are interested in are always shown here. So this is the place to be.”

Each week, Mithio sent the group an email inviting them to watch a movie of their choice on Tuesday. When they walked into Tara, it felt like they were walking into an old friend’s house. The theaters were familiar, they knew the workers, and the workers knew them.

“The word is cozy,” said member Susan Cook. “It feels cozy, like you’re walking into someone’s media room to watch a movie.”

On November 8, the group members met for the last time to watch a movie in Tara. They didn’t always watch the same movie, but as the movies came out, the members stopped by nearby Rains Thai and Sushi Bar to discuss what they saw. On that fateful Tuesday, Vena went to see The Decision to Leave, a new South Korean mystery directed by Park Chan-wook. At the end of the film, a worker she befriended approached her when the lights came on.

“She came to me personally and said it was over,” Winn said. “I thought she meant the movie was over, but she was crying. That’s how I realized that Tara was over.”

After that, the worker headed to the Thai restaurant to inform everyone else. It was a dark moment, the end of an era.

“I hope somebody buys it and keeps it open,” Bill Allen said.

Despite the closing of Tara, the group plans to support independent cinema at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, and anyone interested is welcome to join. But nothing can replace Tara.

“It’s going to be sorely missed by the whole community,” Winn said. “It was such a sight.”

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