30 Days of Plaza Theatre: Day One, The Beginning

Posted on: May 7th, 2012 By:

The Plaza Theatre is Atlanta’s oldest continually operating cinema, but this art-deco treasure is in serious danger of closing. In recent years, under the stewardship of the amazing Jonny and Gayle Rej, the Plaza has been undergoing a renaissance with edgy bookings of cult and classic movies, often accompanied by stage shows. It’s home to the Silver Scream Spookshow (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON IN 3D June 30), Splatter Cinema (ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST this Tues May 8), Blast-Off Burlesque‘s Taboo-La-La (BEYOND THE VALLEY OF DOLLS on Sat. June 2), monthly screenings of THE ROOM (with star Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestaro in person, May 11, 12 & 13), THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW every Friday at midnight complete with stage show led by Lips Down on Dixie, as well as all sorts of special screenings and regular first runs of art, foreign, indie and just plain cool movies. For the next 30 days, we’ll be reminding you of what’s great about The Plaza – articles, fun facts, and more – and urging you to support this amazing Atlanta institution by seeing a show or making a tax-deductible donation. It’s really come down to use it or lose it. Atlanta has lost so many great places, and we don’t want to think of an Atlanta without The Plaza.

For our first day, we asked Gayle Rej to go back to the beginning and give us a little history lesson…

[Coca-Cola tycoon family] the Candlers built the Plaza shopping center and Plaza Theatre in December 1939. It was a big deal because it was the first place in the city with off-street parking – making it the first official shopping center in Atlanta. There were giant klieg lights from the city, and Mrs. Candler-Griffith (the builder’s daughter and the mother of the current owner) was very young and was in a hotel room across the street at The Ponce de Leon Hotel looking down at all of the excitement. The first movies shown were THE WOMEN and then Frank Capra‘s MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON starring Jimmy Stewart.

Tune in tomorrow and visit ATLRetro every day for the next 30 to find out more about The Plaza!

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Taboo La-La! Blast-Off Burlesque Stirs Up Some FEMALE TROUBLE, John Waters Style, At The Plaza This Saturday!

Posted on: Nov 16th, 2011 By:

By Melanie Magnifique
Contributing Blogger

FEMALE TROUBLE (1974); Dir: John Waters; Writer: John Waters; Starring Divine, Mink Stole, Edith Massey; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. July 23; 10 PM; free makeup, meatball sandwiches (while supplies last), costume contest, Filthy Fashion makeovers with prizes from Libertine! Special guests include Patricia Lopez, Poly Sorbate, Babydoll & Baltimore’s own Elle Devene; age 18 & over only; trailer here.

This Saturday night, Blast-Off Burlesque will serve up a veritable cornucopia of camp while hosting John Waters dark comedy, FEMALE TROUBLE at the Plaza Theatre as part of their sin-sational new cinema series—Taboo La-La! Before viewing the film in its original 35mm format, moviegoers will be able to compete for fantastic prizes in costume and makeover contests, as well as enjoy performances by Blast-Off and their very special guests, Patricia Lopez, Poly Sorbate, Babydoll and Baltimore’s own Elle Devene.

Released in 1974, FEMALE TROUBLE tells the story of Dawn Davenport (played by infamous drag queen, Divine), a bratty bad-girl who lives a hard-knock life of juvenile delinquency, experiencing sexual assault, subsequent single motherhood, employment in the sex industry, obsession with fame and victimization by sensationalists masquerading as artists. Did I mention that it’s rated NC-17?

Blast-Off’s Co-founder (and ATLRetro Kool Kat), Barb Hays, says the film’s caustic content fits right in with the sprit of Taboo La-La. “You know, the Plaza Theatre used to show adult films, so we decided that we would host a series which paid homage to its roots,” she explains. “They can’t show X-rated stuff anymore, but there’s plenty of great films out there which push the boundaries of societal taboo as decreed by the MPAA.”

Melanie Magnifique. Photo credit: March Turnley

Hays adds that now is a crucial time to support the Plaza Theatre. This week Plaza Owners Jonathan and Gayle Rej announced that they are looking for a buyer forAtlanta’s oldest cinema, adding that they do not wish to close, and are seeking individuals or organizations which might preserve the landmark theater as a historical site. Since purchasing the theater in 2006, the Rejs have focused on event-centered films with live audience-interactive elements, including Splatter Cinema, the Silver Scream Spookshow, Flicks & Giggles, Summer Camp, Art Opening and a Movie and Taboo-La-La! In 2009, the Plaza Theatre received nonprofit status.

Supporting the Plaza Theatre is a rare chance to do something special for this community and gifts of all sizes will make a big difference. The Plaza Theatre Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization and all gifts are tax  deductible. All funds generated will be used toward restoration, furnishings, equipment, operations and community initiatives for The Plaza Theatre.

Saturday’s events kick-off at 10 p.m., and the first 50 people in the door will receive free makeup! They can also eat meatball sandwiches (while supplies last), and the most beautiful, glamorous audience member in the costume contest will win a basket of makeup! The winner of the Filthy Fashion makeovers will win prizes from Libertine!

Are you willing to die for Art? As Dawn Davenport says, “Being executed will make you famous, like winning an academy award.” Put on your biggest hair and your cha-cha heels! The bad girls are back in town!

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Kool Kat Of The Week: Ben Ruder Smuggles Some Contraband Cinema into The Plaza

Posted on: Oct 4th, 2011 By:

Plaza Manager/Projectionist Ben Ruder loves film so much it even tastes good.

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Writer

Ben Ruder is one of the unsung heroes of Atlanta.

As chief projectionist and manager of The Plaza Theatre, he’s a cinephile who keeps the art and pleasure of movie-going alive in an era of digital downloads, streaming and DVD boredom. You can train a monkey to run the 16 digital projectors at a chain-run multiplex; but knowing how to repair an actual film print, especially an old one, and project it properly is a skill that’s sadly coming to the end of the reel. Ruder is one of that dying breed – a real projectionist who cares about the experience patrons have when they see a movie at The Plaza. Now, along with other like-minded lovers of celluloid, he’s starting to program CONTRABAND CINEMA, an ongoing, eclectic selection of rare films in a variety of formats (Super-8, 16mm; everything from avant garde to rare, archival, educational films, and personal Underground artistic expressions). The first show is this Thursday, October 6 at 8 p.m. at The Plaza – and that’s why he’s our Kool Kat of the Week.

Ben took time out from his busy schedule to share the details on what promises to be a fascinating kick-off for a series of eye-treats for Atlantans who are tired of the same old Studio produced rubbish cluttering up area multiplexes. He also shared a little bit about his company RUDERMEDIA, his personal love affair with film on film and why helping owners Jonathan and Gayle Rej to preserve the Plaza is such a passion.

ATLRetro: How did CONTRABAND CINEMA evolve?

BEN: Contraband Cinema is an Atlanta-based micro-cinema safehouse based on, inspired by and executed under the guidance of Craig Baldwin‘s Other Cinema in San Francisco – an ongoing series of experimental film, video and performance. Contraband Cinema strives to select the best work locally and around the world, transplant it to the south, and nurture it through close collaboration with regional filmmakers, curators and established film institutions.

Contraband Cinema is operated by Marcus Rosentrater and Gideon Kennedy. Marcus and I have talked about doing something together for a while, as he is a regular volunteer for us at the Plaza. We are both big fans of the medium of film and wanted to share hard-to-obtain materials with other cinephiles. Through my company RUDERMEDIA, I am assisting Marcus with locations, equipment, and providing “Film Education” programming which takes a look at educational shorts shown in the classroom, as well as teaching the attendees lessons on how 16mm projection works as well as what goes into film preservation and restoration. I secured The Plaza for this first event, but we’ll be in several nontraditional screening spaces for future shows.

This month we’ll also have a “photobooth” set up in the lobby before and after the screening where you get 5 seconds of time in front of a Super 8mm camera which will be screened at a future event, as well as posted online after processing.

Read the rest of this entry »

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