Chris Escobar in the lobby of the Tara on April 7. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

An Atlanta treasure, the Tara Theatre, will reopen Memorial Day weekend featuring three new films as well as four old favorites.

The Tara was able to secure its operating permits – enabling the theater to reopen after being closed since November, when Regal Cinema abruptly closed the popular movie destination.

Chris Escobar, the major owner of the Tara, is branding the theater as a “sister cinema” to the Plaza Theatre, which he has owned since 2017.

The Tara will present art house and independent films daily starting this Thursday. According to a release, the grand reopening evening will include a brief afternoon ceremony followed by ticketed screenings of four films with nods to the venue’s history including:

  • Stanley Kramer’s “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963), featuring Milton Berle and Spencer Tracy
  • George Lucas’ “Star Wars” (1977), featuring Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill, first introduced to Atlanta by the Tara … long, long ago in a galaxy far, far and away
  • Robert Zemeckis’ “Back To The Future Part II” (1989), featuring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd
  • Todd Field’s “Tár” (2022), featuring Cate Blanchett, which was the last film presented at Tara Theatre when it closed in November. 
Tara Theatre “grand opening” marquis (Special)

Exact ceremony, film showtimes and ticketing details will be announced via the theater website later this week. Anyone who supported the venue with advance ticket or gift card purchases may use their credits to secure tickets to the opening weekend films or hold for future use. 

“We selected these historic films for our grand reopening night to celebrate multiple decades of cinema fans who enjoyed Tara Theatre since its opening in the summer of 1968,” said Escobar, who is also executive director of the Atlanta Film Society.

In addition to the special films selected for May 25, the Memorial Day weekend roster of films includes three recently released independent films:

  • Paul Schrader’s “Master Gardener” (2022), featuring Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver
  • Laurel Parmet’s “The Starling Girl” (2023), featuring Eliza Scanlan and Lewis Pullman
  • Nicole Holofcener’s “You Hurt My Feelings” (2023), featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies

Earlier this year, Escobar negotiated an agreement with Halpern Enterprises, owners of the Cheshire Square shopping center where the Tara Theatre is located. He first announced the plans to reopen the Tara, located at 2345 Cheshire Bridge Road NE, at the closing night of the 2023 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival on Feb. 21. He also announced a nonprofit fundraising campaign to pay for renovating and reopening the Tara.

Since its inception on Feb. 22, the fundraising campaign achieved its original goal of $50,000, earning $50,637.25 by April 11. At that time, the theater sold $29,972.25 in advance gift cards and tickets, and it raised $20,665 in donations. 

Since mid-April, the team has continued toward a stretch goal of $75,000 intended to help restore the original Mid-Century look for the ‘now playing’ and ‘coming attractions’ sign facing the intersection of LaVista Road at Cheshire Bridge. Donations are still accepted on the Tara website.

“For almost 55 years Atlanta’s Tara Theatre created cherished memories and entertainment for countless moviegoers,” Escobar said. “It is an honor and privilege for our team to create a sustainable future for this valuable landmark that will enable new generations of Atlantans to celebrate films of the past, present and future.”

The theater reopens with nine team members – including three part-time executive team members, one full-time staff member and three part-time team members. Several of the team members are returning from their previous position at Tara Theatre during its prior operations. 

Photo shows the newly furnished lobby of the Tara Theatre (Special)

The Tara Theatre LLC team for the reopening and management of the venue also includes cinema booker/operator Michael Spaeth and his wife, Kris Spaeth, as well as Steve and Midge Krams of Magna-Tech Electronic as Escobar’s equity partners. Other members of the Tara ownership group include Matthew Rowles, Zina Sponiarova, Jonny and Gayle Rej and Michael Furlinger. 

Magna-Tech Electronic provided the equipment and installation of Tara’s new projection technology, which will include new digital formats as well as upcoming installation of historic 35mm and 70mm film projectors, making The Plaza and Tara the city’s only theaters with both types of older film projection units. 

“For the first time in more than a decade, the Tara will be a cinema regularly presenting films in their original formats,” Escobar said, adding the first reel-to-reel films will debut at Tara during the summer. 

Escobar also said the Tara will create a robust schedule of events featuring classic film, art house releases and independent films. This format brings back some of the traditions established during the first few decades of operation after Loews opened Tara Theatre in 1968 and during the George Lefont years starting in 1980 through its transition to United Artists. 

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Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news...

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