More than 75 years later, Plaza Theatre remains an iconBy Isadora Pennington
If you’ve been in Atlanta long enough, chances are you’ve been to the iconic Plaza Theatre at least once. You may have also heard of the Plaza around Christmas time of last year when the small independent theater stood by their decision to screen the controversial movie, The Interview. At the time, Sony had pulled the film in the midst of threats and controversy. The Plaza Theatre fought to show the film and when Sony eventually did release the rights, the Plaza was one of the first theaters nationwide to screen the movie.
Located in Briarcliff Plaza shopping center at the corner of North Highland and Ponce de Leon avenues, the circa-1939 art deco theater with its distinctive marquee has gone through many changes throughout the years. The shopping center was the first in Atlanta with off-street parking, and is also home to varied retailers like Urban Outfitters (once home to the much-missed Plaza Drugs with its busy lunch counter), Righteous Room bar, FedEx/Kinkos, Island Flowers, Buffalo Exchange and the equally historic Majestic Diner, which has been serving up burgers and breakfast since 1929.
During the 1970s, the theater shifted focus from blockbuster films to hosting mainly X-rated and burlesque shows. The owner of the property, Robert Griffith, chose to renovate the entire lot and the theater was later purchased by George LeFont in the 1980s. LeFont looked upon the historic theater with a new light, booking independent and classic films, a theme that remains to this day. In early 2013, the Plaza was purchased by current owner, Michael Furlinger, a theater enthusiast aiming to restore the space with ties to its history.