|Address||215 N. Lumpkin Street
|Current use||Live event venue|
The Georgia Theatre is a prominent music venue in Athens, Georgia, located in an old cinema. Many prominent acts from the early music of Athens, Georgia performed at the Theatre, including a range of folk, popular and country acts. The Theatre is on the Athens Music History Walking Tour sponsored by the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Theatre opened as a music venue in 1978, with the band Sea Level playing. The Police played a show at the Theatre in 1979, on their first American tour. The Theatre then shut down again in the early 1980s and spent a few years as a movie house with occasional shows. It was reopened as a venue in 1989 and the Theatre has since hosted many of the major touring acts that come through Athens.
In 1889, the YMCA of Athens brought property the Georgia Theatre now stands on and erected a building on the site. The whole building was under the control of the YMCA until 1913 when a music store occupied the bottom floor while the YMCA continued to use the second and third floor. In 1918, Elite Theater movie house opened on ground floor and Majestic Hotel was in operation on second and third floors. The building was then used by both the Elite Theater and the Masonic Temple until 1926 when Masonic Temple Association of Athens bought the building. The next year, the Masonic Temple shared the space with Dorsey Furniture Co. In 1935, Elite Theater built on foundation of YMCA building, making it even larger than before. Until 1967 when United Theatre Enterprises Inc. buys the building, the Georgia Theatre had served as a worship hall for the United Methodist Church in the 1960s. In 1977, Sam Smartt, Hap Harris, George Fontaine and Sheffy McArthur teamed up to open Georgia Theatre as concert hall. On May 20, 1978, the popular band the B-52s paid to perform at Georgia Theatre, and the following year, The Police played there as part of the band's first U.S. tour. The Georgia Theatre briefly closed in 1981 and was reopened a year later by Carafe & Draft Theater as a movie house. Kyle Pilgrim and Bill "Duck" Anderson bought the building in 1989, planning to open Georgia Theatre as concert venue. The first show performed at the Georgia Theatre after it reopened was played by the band, Pylon. In subsequent years, it has been the host to many shows including shows featuring members of R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Beck, Warren Zevon, Umphreys McGee, and Dave Matthews Band. The Derek Trucks Band recorded their 2004 concert album Live at Georgia Theatre at the venue.
In November 2004, the Georgia Theatre was sold to Wilmot Greene and Randy Smith who renovated and restored the venue to its former condition. On the morning of June 19, 2009, a major fire erupted in the Georgia Theatre, inflicting severe damage to the building, including a roof collapse. The Georgia Theatre underwent renovations in 2010 and 2011 and reopened August 1, 2011. The fire and history of The Georgia Theatre are recorded in a documentary film called Athens Burning (2012). The newly renovated Georgia Theater is designed to be a concert venue with a state-of-the-art sound system and numerous acoustic improvements; together with improved seating, two balconies, and an open air roof area with a full bar and comfortable patio seating.
- "Music History Walking Tour". Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "History". Georgia Theatre. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Fire heavily damages historic Georgia Theatre". Athens Banner-Herald. June 19, 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
- Chip Towers (June 19, 2009). "Fire guts Georgia Theatre in Athens". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
- Georgia Theatre (official site)