33 Hurt Plaza,
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Previously operated by: Joy's Theaters Inc.
Architects: Haralson Bleckley
Styles: Art Nouveau
Previous Names: Derby Show, Joy's Theatre
This is the original Atlanta Theatre not to be confused with the other Atlanta Theatre listing on this site.
The Atlanta Theatre was built by Joel Hurt and was located at 23 Exchange Place (which no longer exists) across from the Hurt Office Building and east of Five Points.
The theatre opened on September 11th 1911, with the play “The Sign of the Rose”. Designed by Haralson Bleckley, the style was Art Nouveau and seated 1,700, and had two balconies. The theatre was operated by Klaw and Erlanger.
Although the Atlanta Theatre opened as a legitimate theatre and many of the brightest stage stars of the day appeared on its stage, it was not too long before Klaw and Erlanger started booking films in the theatre.
Many of the major silent films of the 1910’s & 1920’s made their first appearance in the city at the Atlanta Theatre usually with a touring orchestra and reserve seating, with tickets up to $2.00. The most famous (or infamous) film to appear at the Atlanta Theatre was D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation”, in 1913 which ran for almost six weeks with mostly sold out performances,(this was very rare in a time where films usualy ran for only a week)
The Atlanta Theatre did well through the early-1920’s when it began to face stiff compition from newer theatres such as the Howard, Keith’s Georgia, and the soon-to-be-opened Capitol.
One story goes that Klaw and Erlanger wanted the Hurt family to do some updating and remodeling of the theatre but the Hurt family refused. So Klaw and Erlanger went up Peachtree to North Avenue and built the Erlanger Theatre, later Tower, later Martins Cinerama, Columbia, and Atlanta (see other Atlanta Theatre listing on Cinema Treasuress).
After Klaw and Erlanger left the Atlanta Theatre, bookings were slow and soon became a place for trade shows and wrestling matches, then finally burlesque, known as the Derby Show. During its burlesque era its best known star was a pudgy blonde girl by the name of “Snookie Woods”. She was one of the early bump and grind strippers. The local authorities made her quit the bumping and grinding but she kept on stripping and was about the only thing to keep the theatre open in its later years.
It was taken over by Joy’s Theatres Inc. of New Orleans and became a movie theatre named Joy’s Theatre on June 19, 1940 with Jackie Cooper in “Boy of the Street” & Gene Autry in “Western Jamberee”. It was closed in August 1943.
The theatre was torn down in the summer of 1954 and was replaced by a parking garage.
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