By Maria Saporta
Walking into the new Buckhead Theatre with Charlie Loudermilk is like walking back in time.
Loudermilk, 82, has invested $6 million in renovating the former Roxy in the heart of Buckhead, and that doesn’t include the $2 million he paid to buy the historic theater and the land it sits on.
Back when he was growing up, Loudermilk said that as a kid, he used to go to see Westerns for a nickel. He also remembered when African-Americans could only sit in the balcony because of segregation.
Now that the Buckhead Theatre renovation is almost complete, it no longer has a balcony. Instead. It is being called the mezzanine.
“You can get a $1 more a ticket if you call it the mezzanine rather than the balcony,” Loudermilk said while giving a tour of the theater on Tuesday.
The venue is slick and upscale — a bit of a contrast to when the theater was being used mostly for rock and roll concerts.
Now Loudermilk, founder and chairman of Aaron Rents, said the Buckhead Theatre will be available for all sorts of events, including weddings, special parties, movies, sports on a big screen, concerts and Off-Broadway type shows.
The main auditorium can seat about 900 and have 2,100 standing. The building also has several other rooms that when opened up can have several hundred people going to other events.
“I’m really proud of it,” Loudermilk said. “We tore everything out, the plumbing, the electrical and went down to bare walls. We have a state of the art sound system. We can hold five events at the same time.”
In fact, Loudermilk went to the theatre Tuesday to meet with those who are booking the venue.
Alex Cooley, Atlanta’s legendary music and concert promoter, actually is serving as a consultant on the project.
“It’s given me a chance to come back in on a level of the business and not be part of the craziness of it,” Cooley said. “It’s a terrific facility.”
Cooley also said it has been a joy to work with Loudermilk on the project.
“I see him when he gets here, and his face lights up,” Cooley said. “It’s a labor of love for him.”
By the way, Cooley said that not a day goes by when he doesn’t think about recreating “Music Midtown,” one of the most popular musical extravaganzas in Atlanta. The three-day festival would feature headliner bands as well as new and upcoming artists on a half dozen or more stages.
The festival, most recently located around the Civic Center, was discontinued in 2006 after a couple of years of bad weather, expensive acts and more stringent city regulations — all of which meant that the event lost money several years in a row.