The show must go on!

After the Regal-owned cinema shut down last November, Tara Theatre is returning to Atlanta’s collection of arthouse cinemas this Spring in an effort led by Christopher Escobar, owner of the beloved Plaza Theatre and executive director of the Atlanta Film Society. This time around, Escobar has goals to help elevate the theater to its massive potential among Atlanta’s arthouse cinemas by doing what previous management has failed to do: embrace its history and engage with the community. 

Located in Northeast Atlanta, The Tara is the city’s second oldest movie theater after Plaza Theatre, and it’s one of only three arthouse cinemas in the Atlanta Metro area. The theater opened in 1968, but became a famed destination along with Plaza Theatre for indie and foreign films after George Lefont acquired it in the 1980s, when they operated as sibling theaters. The Tara was also the first cinema in Atlanta to screen “Star Wars,” as well as the horror sensation “Blair Witch.” Despite its rich history, Regal Cinemas decided to discard the theater in nationwide efforts to reduce debt. 

                                                                                                                                                  The entrance to the Tara Theatre. (Nathan Rubin/Film/TV Desk)

However, like many others in Atlanta’s film community, Escobar couldn’t bear to see the historic venue robbed of its agency and stripped to its structural bones. After the property owners told him they were open to keeping the building a movie theater, Escobar immediately got to work with the help of several partners. This included Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Executive Director Kenny Blank, who welcomed Escobar to announce The Tara’s reopening at the Festival’s closing ceremony on Feb. 21.

“There’s still a lot of hoops to jump through, but we’re hard at work,” Escobar said.

Escobar said the theater is set to reopen this spring, and an official date will be announced soon.

Dubbed “The Hollywood of the South,” Georgia has a rich film history. The Tara plays a crucial part in Atlanta’s continued celebration of filmmaking and the moviegoing experience. Escobar said the effort to reopen the theater demonstrates that “Atlanta does still value its art houses.” 

While under management by large companies like Regal Cinemas and United Artists, The Tara’s role in Atlanta’s developing film history was suppressed and its potential influence stifled. Escobar, however, will allow nothing of the sort. 

Escobar said that management having a more direct connection with the audience is crucial. 

Ideally, Escobar said the theater’s management will have a “two-way conversation” with its audience about how the theater is run to facilitate a more genuine connection between the theater’s programming and those moviegoers who engage with it.

Escobar said he hopes to use his experience managing Plaza Theatre to help The Tara Theatre operate in a similar fashion, while still maintaining the historical charm that comes with its independence as a theater. In this effort, he said he also hopes to mend the long-estranged relationship between The Tara Theatre and Plaza Theatre, restoring their relationship to the glory of that of the early 1980s. 

“We will market them together,” he said. “By and large, most of the titles coming up will be for one theater or the other, but occasionally something will make sense for both.” 

The goal is for the theaters to continue to develop their distinctive and independent aesthetics while simultaneously working together to engage with Atlanta’s community in meaningful ways and enrich the moviegoing experience. 

“We want to open up for collaborations and opportunities to have different organizations and local brands to be co-presenters,” he explained. 

In addition, Escobar said he has plans to launch a subscription that would provide large discounts and special perks to attendees at both theaters, a special offer sure to attract cinephiles all across Atlanta. Think the Regal Unlimited Pass, but community-driven and with much more variety. 

Tara Theatre is fundraising to ensure it can continue to keep its doors open. Through pre-sale tickets and website donations, Escobar said the theater has yielded over 75% of its $50,000 fundraising goal, as of March 14. 

More than anything else, Escobar said he wants to bring the cinematic experience to as many Atlantans as possible. Like a true cinephile, his final sentiment was a homage to film. Surrounded in his home office by movie posters and film paraphernalia, playfully emulating the determined lunacy of The Joker in “The Dark Knight,” Escobar said, “This town deserves a better class of cinema, and I’m going to give it to them.”

While the future of The Tara may be one of hopeful mystery, one thing is clear about the relationship between the theater and moviegoers all across Atlanta: this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Nathan Rubin is a Junior from the Carolinas double majoring in Film & Media Studies and English. Outside of being Arts & Entertainment Editor at the Wheel, Nathan is a Writing Editor for Alloy Literary Magazine and hosts a queer radio show on WMRE. When he's not staring blankly at a blinking cursor, you can find him watching way too many horror movies and drinking way too many Baja Blasts.