Phoenix Flies — Plaza Theater Tour

Minimal Standards
2 min readMar 27, 2023

Every March, the Atlanta Preservation Center schedules a number of tours focusing on architecture and history around in-town neighborhoods. The tours are free, but are limited to around 15 participants each and do require tickets. These tours fill up fast, but I did manage to schedule a couple that I hoped would be interesting.

On Sunday, I arrived at the Plaza Theater a bit before 11 a.m. A guy was opening the door and appeared to be getting the theater ready for the day. He offered to let me wait inside as it was still raining out (though there is a large marquee area that provided shelter). He turned out to be Christopher Escobar, the owner of the theater, our tour guide, and the guy who is spearheading the effort to bring the Tara back as well! The tour group assembled and he began telling us about the history of the building and surrounding plaza. He covered its inception in 1939 through various theater iterations (as one of around 100 neighborhood theaters in the 40s — 60s, a stint as an ‘adult theater’ in the 70s, being brought into George Lefont’s local chain of independent cinemas in the 80s). There were a couple of post-Lefont owners as well before Mr. Escobar bought it in the late teens.

He also walked us through the lobby and lounge areas and described how those had evolved and changed. We got a peek into the projection room and learned a bit about the transition from film reels to digital (and the expense involved). We then got to check out what are now 2 small theaters upstairs (the original balcony subdivided) and the main theater. We even got to see a backstage area which can double as a dressing room for any live performers / guests.

It sounds like they are a year into a planned ~ 3-year renovation of the theater. He showed some renderings of what is planned for 2023–2024. I thought the rooftop patio / bar area (with a commanding view of the Atlanta skyline from the highest point on Ponce de Leon Ave.) would definitely be worth seeing, once it is completed. They even plan to occasionally feature ‘movies under the stars’ there during the summer.

It turned out to be a really great tour! The hour and 15 minutes went by very quickly. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who has an interest in films in general and especially those who have enjoyed some of the independent theaters in Atlanta (most of which are now gone).