Silver Screen Time Machine

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The Plaza Theater and Videodrome have many things in common, but the most important isn’t film. They both pride themselves on what they bring to the city: an appreciation for things long lost. Walking into either establishment is like stepping back through time. The Plaza and its classic marquee, Videodrome and its floor to ceiling movie rentals.

The Plaza Theater is the oldest operating cinema in the city. It is minority owned and has made a commitment to the arts and local community. The walls are lined with old movie posters and painted with art deco accents. Owner Christopher Escobar told me he wants to recreate the old school experience of going to the movies right down to their red and white striped popcorn bags. But I think that’s what going to the movies is. Getting your tickets through the glass window and walking inside. Buying candy and a fountain drink at the concessions stand, putting your phone away and sharing a few hours in front of that giant screen. It is in a sense, timeless.

Videodrome is the last movie rental establishment in Atlanta. They are coming up on their 21st year and have survived the arrival and invasion of streaming services and torrent sites. Video clerk Scott Irvine describes the store as a “living archive” and a “deep reservoir of film history.” They have an extensive collection of horror films, a room organized by directors, and the store is divided by country of origin. One of the bigger draws is their collection of cult films, movies that have fanatical followings. These movies generally didn’t get much attention when they were released but somewhere along the line they gained an audience and reputation.

This is where The Plaza Theater and Videodrome converge. Drawing from Videodrome’s extensive library, they have organized Plazadrome: a series of screenings of cult films from the 60s, 70s, and 80s the third Thursday of each month.  They’ve screened Hausu, a 1977 Japanese film directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi; The Astrologer, a film only available for theatrical screenings; Lifeforce, a 1985 science fiction horror film; Fantastic Planet, a 1973 French animation; and Night of the Comet, a campy 80s horror film. They’ve already announced the next two: Phantom of the Paradise, an 80s rock opera by Brian De Palma (August 16th) and Something Wild, a 1986 crime comedy starring Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels (September 20th).

Atlanta is constantly changing. Neighborhoods are revitalized in a way that keeps their original charm. Decrepit buildings are given their luster back. Plazadrome is seizing Atlanta’s current resurgence to create an art house film culture and the city is responding.  Several of the screenings have sold out and the movie posters created by local artists are a draw in and of themselves. People are discovering films they might have never encountered otherwise and Plazadrome is gaining a following of its own.

I asked Plaza Theater owner Christopher Escobar why this works in a city like Atlanta and he told me, “In Atlanta, people like to keep it a little strange. It’s outlandish but beautiful. A spectacle,” and I agree. Atlanta is a city of the strange - Doll’s Head Trail, The Clermont Lounge, Monstrosity Championship Wrestling, and now, Plazadrome.