Tara Theatre

Cinephiles and preservationists have ponied up $50,637.25 as part of an initial fundraising goal to reopen the historic Tara Theatre this spring.

In the seven weeks since Plaza Theatre operator Christopher Escobar announced the reopening of the Tara, movie fans have purchased $29,972.25 in advance gift cards and tickets, plus donations of $20,665, according to a press release.

“We are overwhelmed by, and greatly appreciative of, the enthusiastic response to the Tara Theatre’s return,” said Escobar, who also founded the nonprofit Friends of Tara. “We can hardly wait to open the doors and welcome moviegoers later this spring.”

The initial funds will enable the cinema, located at 2345 Cheshire Bridge Road, to install new equipment, fixtures and furnishings and make other improvements.

The grand reopening date remains to-be-announced pending resolution of operating permits in the weeks ahead, Escobar said.

“Energized by Atlanta’s generosity, and to further enable the re-opening, with this initial goal of $50,000  achieved, we established a stretch goal of $75,000 to make additional specific improvements to our historic marquee sign,” said Escobar. “The changes we envision will restore or celebrate the original Mid-Century look for the ‘now playing’ and ‘coming attractions’ sign facing the intersection of LaVista Road at Cheshire Bridge.”

Escobar announced the return of Tara Theatre, as well as a new nonprofit fundraising campaign in support of the theatre’s long-term viability, during the closing event for the 2023 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival on Feb. 21.

With the support of AJFF Executive Director Kenny Blank, Escobar’s team negotiated an agreement with Halpern Enterprises, owners of the Cheshire Square shopping center where the Tara Theatre is located.

The Tara’s previous owner, Regal Cinemas, shocked moviegoers when it shuttered the venue last November with only a few days’ notice.

Escobar’s team also announced the creation of Tara Theatre LLC to be structured like Plaza Theatre LLC, the for-profit business created to preserve and operate the Poncey-Highland venue since 2017. Friends of Tara is a nonprofit organization modeled after the nonprofit Plaza Theatre Foundation.

“The Plaza Theatre Foundation and Friends of Tara function solely to preserve and share these historic venues with future generations,” added Escobar.

For the stretch goal, donations continue to be accepted through the theatre’s website TheTaraAtlanta.com. The public may also support the theatre via advance ticket or gift card purchases available through the website.

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 Krams of Magna-Tech Electronic as equity partners with Escobar.

Magna-Tech is providing the equipment and installation of Tara’s new projection technology which includes new digital formats as well as historic 35mm and 70mm film projectors, making The Plaza and Tara the city’s only theatres with both types of older film projection units. Installation at Tara began during March.

“The Tara will be a cinema regularly presenting films in their original formats for the first time in more than a decade,” said Escobar.

He added 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 or “the Lefont years” starting in 1980 through their transition to United Artists.

With the creation of Tara Theatre LLC, three employees of Plaza Theatre LLC were promoted to work with both venues, with Richard Martin as programming director and Kristin Anderson as marketing and events manager now part of the ownership team as well. Other job openings for Tara will be posted to TheTaraAtlanta.com.

Escobar said a grand-reopening will be announced soon.

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.