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Local theater defies international pressure

The Southerner

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By Conrad Newton and Anders Russell

Since movies rose to popularity in the, 20s, they have ingrained themselves in our society. Even with the Internet and streaming services there is still something special about watching a movie on the big screen. With roughly 20 movie theatres in metro Atlanta, there is no shortage of options. None stands out, however, quite like the Plaza. Opening its doors in 1939, the Plaza is the oldest continuously run theater in Atlanta and is ranked in Men’s Journal as the fifth best theater in the entire world.

The Plaza has gone through several ownerships and phases throughout its history. The theater is currently owned and run by theater enthusiast Michael Furlinger, who purchased it in 2013. Under his ownership, the theater has gone through several changes including the addition of a full-service bar, now a signature part of going to the Plaza.

Starting out as an art deco theater the Plaza has undergone several transformations including stints as an X-rated film theatre and an independent and foreign film theatre. The Plaza now shows a wide range of movies not found at your average-Joe theatre.

“Other theater, you know Taken 3 for example, that’s a movie that if you throw a rock you will hit a theater playing that whereas we want to play something you can’t see anywhere else,” said Brandon Delaney the general manager for the Plaza.

The Plaza recently gained national recognition when it decided to show the controversial film The Interview. Believed to be the biggest news in the theater’s 75-year history, the Plaza experienced a surge of moviegoers who usually go to big chain theatres such as AMC or Regal. Sony originally pulled the comedy after North Korean cyber attacks leaked millions of Sony employee emails, but eventually Sony reversed the decision. Only 300 theaters across the nation showed the comedy in which the protagonists (Seth Rogan and James Franco) attempt to assassinate Kim Jong-un  The Plaza was one of five theatres to show the film in Georgia and the only one in Atlanta. Not only did the Plaza show the film,it celebrated the showing as an act of patriotism. Before The Interview began, a video playing “God Bless America” was shown and “Freedom Prevails” was spelled out on the Plaza’s marquee.

“To me, there’s nothing worse than censorship,” Michael Furlinger, the Plaza theater owner told WSB-TV.  “And really, what this has turned into is blackmail.”

The Plaza is also famed for its showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Since 2000, the Plaza has had weekly screenings on Friday of the cult classic. This particular showing is very popular for teens.

“About 50 percent [of viewers] would be high school aged,“ Delaney said.

For decades the Plaza has given the citizens of metro Atlanta a refreshing form of entertainment. Currently the Plaza is showcasing Little Accidents, The Search for General Tso, Appropriate Behavior and The Interview. For those who want to watch a movie that can’t be seen anywhere else, or just want a blast from the past, the Plaza Doors are open.

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Local theater defies international pressure