Variety Playhouse

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Variety Playhouse
VarietyPlayhouseAtlantaFrontFacade.JPG
Front entrance to the theater
Address 1099 Euclid Ave. NE
City Atlanta, Georgia
Country United States
Coordinates 33°45′50″N 84°21′04″W / 33.76375°N 84.35111°W / 33.76375; -84.35111Coordinates: 33°45′50″N 84°21′04″W / 33.76375°N 84.35111°W / 33.76375; -84.35111
Type Music Hall
Capacity Seated 750, General Admission 400-1050
Opened 1940
Years active 1940-1962, 1984-present
Other names Euclid Theatre
Ellis Cinema
Parking Paid on-site lot
Website
www.variety-playhouse.com

Variety Playhouse is a music venue in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, United States. It is located on Euclid Avenue and features a variety of music acts including rock, country, folk, bluegrass, jazz, blues and world music as well as other live shows.

Details[edit]

The building is a World War II era movie theater with some art deco or art moderne elements that has been converted for use as a music venue. It is of brick construction and sits on 0.86 acres (3,500 m2) with a parking area behind it. It is owned by the Little Five Points Partnership.

Like most cinemas of the era, it has a sloping floor in the main seating area with a balcony above. The area in front of the stage is open for dancing and standing-room for general admission shows. (Chairs are sometimes set up here for certain shows). The main seating area has theater-style seats, with an aisle on either side. Outside the two aisles are a series of small mezzanines that allow for tables and chairs.

The concessions area in the lobby (and a second bar in the balcony) serve a variety of domestic and imported beers, wine and typical theater snacks.

History[edit]

The building dates from 1940 and has been dedicated to different uses over the years, under different names.

Euclid Theatre (1940–1962)[edit]

View from behind the building showing the "Euclid Theatre Entrance" sign

The theater was built as a cinema by Lucas and Jenkins Theatres,[1] a company which operated other Georgia theaters at the time[2] including the Fox in Atlanta.[3] The Euclid was among three theaters built by L&J in Atlanta in 1940, another was the Gordon Theatre in the West End (now used as a church).[4] The Euclid boasted a "staggered seating plan so no seat is directly behind another" and a neon marquee with "Euclid" in block letters. It opened at 2:15 P.M. Friday, October 4, 1940 and the first film exhibited was My Favorite Wife.[1]

It continued as a first-run neighborhood cinema for the surrounding Candler Park and Inman Park neighborhoods for the next two decades. By 1962, the theater was running a mix of first-run and revival films. The last scheduled show seen in Atlanta Constitution listings consisted of the films Zotz! and Friendly Persuasion on July 30 and 31.[5] Newspaper listings after this indicate the theater was "Closed for Repairs" for a few days, but it never reopened. The exact circumstances of the closing are not known.

A painted sign on the southeast corner of the building (above the stage door) which says "Euclid Theatre Entrance" is still visible in 2009. See photo.

Dormant period (1962–1983)[edit]

The building was not used as a cinema or theater for some two decades after the Euclid closed. At one point it was a warehouse for plumbing supplies (including some barrels of ammonia that required cleanup[6]) and it was eventually slated for demolition. Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson intervened resulting in the sale of the building to the Little Five Points Partnership, which was redeveloping the neighborhood in the early 1980s.[7]

Ellis Cinema (1984–1988)[edit]

In 1982, Atlanta actor and art cinema operator George Ellis (known to many in the area as TV host Bestoink Dooley[8]) was looking for another, larger theater location to exhibit films. His Film Forum locations in Ansley and Buckhead had been popular among Atlanta film buffs for years.[9] After finding that the Little Five Points Partnership needed a tenant for the Euclid, Ellis recruited his friend Glenn Sirkis (a former Hayes Microcomputer Products executive) as an investor in the project. They started a renovation of the then 42 year old building which would eventually cost $250,000.[10] The goal was to reopen as "The Masterpiece Cinema", a duplex which would dedicate one screen to foreign-language films and the other to English-language films.[9]

In June 1983 (in the middle of the renovation) George Ellis died suddenly at age 64.[8] At the memorial service for Ellis, Glenn Sirkis announced that the renovation of the Euclid would continue, but at its planned opening in February 1984 it would be named the Ellis Cinema as a memorial.[9] That date came and went as Sirkis and his wife Jill Kirn spent almost two years completing the renovation. The duplex idea was dropped. The exterior elements of the theater were retained, but the interior was "totally redesigned" with 310 seats, and a series of small mezzanines to accommodate tables and chairs along the outside walls. A small bar provided additional seating in the rear. A 50-foot-wide (15 m) screen was built, one of the largest in Atlanta at that time.[10] The theater was designed to cater to an upscale audience with concessions such as amaretto chocolate truffles and a list of vintage wines.[11] The total capacity at this time was 463.[12]

A private opening ceremony was held on Thursday, October 4, 1984, exactly 44 years to the day from the original opening. The Ellis opened to the public on October 5, and the first film exhibited was The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez.[10] A notable success of this period was the film version of Mass Appeal, which had not seen widespread U.S. distribution. A thank you note from Jack Lemmon for this was on display in the lobby.[11] Other big successes of the Ellis era included Working Girls, Desert Hearts, Brazil and Personal Services.[12] In addition to the first-run art films, the Ellis experimented with repertory cinema in February 1986 (starting with 1960 film Breathless) after the Rhodes Theater closed in December 1985.[13]

The Ellis was highly regarded amongst the Atlanta cinemas of the time. It was named "the nicest theater in Atlanta" by Frank Thompson in Atlanta Magazine[14] and WAGA (TV) gave it a Best of Atlanta award for "Best Theater Concessions."[15]

Because the Ellis was a single screen, Sirkis and Kirn had trouble convincing movie distributors to rent films to them (as opposed to multi-screen operators in Atlanta such as George Lefont and the major chains). "It's the only business that as a buyer you have to convince your supplier to sell to you," said Jill Kirn in a news article when the Ellis closed in 1988.[12] "We just aren't big enough fish," she added.[14]

The Ellis closed on Monday, August 8, 1988 with no advance notice.[14] In the next year a group called The George Ellis Film Society was formed with the goal of reopening the theater, but that effort was ultimately unsuccessful.[16] (The Society proceeded to have film festivals and other events in Ellis' honor for a few years).

Variety Playhouse (1989–1990)[edit]

In 1989 Paul Blane, a 62 year old talent manager and producer from Valdosta, Georgia, moved to Atlanta to dedicate the theater to live performances, particularly featuring classic motion picture stars. He had produced and directed a revue called "Great Stars of the Silver Screen" (starring Dorothy Lamour, Yvonne De Carlo, Jane Russell and others) which toured the country from 1981 to 1987, and he intended to produce similar shows in a permanent venue. He renamed the theater The Variety Playhouse and reportedly spent $100,000 renovating the building. This included building a 40 feet (12 m) wide by 29 feet (8.8 m) deep stage and installing some 500 "very plush" new seats.[17]

The first show was "La Cage Follies" beginning on June 23, 1989 and which featured celebrity impersonators.[17] Other shows during this era included Decatur's Beacon Dance Company[18] and the National Black Arts Festival.[19] Musical performers were also featured during this era, such as The Blue Nile,[20] The Dirty Dozen Brass Band,[21] Muzsikás,[22] Odetta[23] and Leon Redbone.[24] This incarnation of the theater only lasted about one year.

Variety Playhouse (1990–present)[edit]

The Variety Playhouse continues its operations today—here, Atlanta-based Magnapop is shown playing a benefit concert for local record store Criminal Records in 2011

Blane's goal of live performances was not totally successful, and the theater had relied more and more on music acts to fill the schedule. Ultimately, on Monday, August 20, 1990 the management of the theater was assumed by Steven Harris of Windstorm Productions, a 30 year old Atlanta-area concert promoter. He told the Atlanta Constitution that he planned to make the Variety into "a place where you can see a top-rated concert but in a very intimate setting." The theater was briefly closed for some renovations, and reopened on September 7, 1990 with The Count Basie Orchestra as the first show, followed by Tom Rush the next day.[25]

In the two decades since, the venue has focused almost entirely on musical acts and has continued under the same management.[26]

Artists[edit]

Katie White of The Ting Tings performs at the Variety Playhouse on 23 October 2008

As suggested by the name of the venue, a wide variety of artists have performed here in the two decades it has been used mainly as a music venue. These have included Art Brut, Augustana,[27] Natasha Bedingfield,[28] Basia, The BoDeans, Built to Spill, The Bridges, Colbie Caillat, Jeff Mangum, Ray Davies, Dead Confederate, The Detroit Cobras, The Dresden Dolls, Donna the Buffalo, Lucky Dube, Jakob Dylan, Tinsley Ellis, Alejandro Escovedo, The Faint, Brooke Fraser,[27] Galactic,[29] Ghostface Killah, Gnarls Barkley, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Gogol Bordello, José González,[27] The Greyboy Allstars,[30] David Grisman, Hampton Grease Band, The Hold Steady, Tim & Eric, Hot Tuna, Israel Vibration, Daniel Johnston, The Kooks, Modest Mouse, Ben Kweller, Locksley, Gary Louris, Shelby Lynne, Magnapop, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Meat Puppets, Minus the Bear, Moonalice, Kate Nash, Gabby La La, Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains, The New Pornographers, 1990s, of Montreal, Old 97's, Amy Ray, Rilo Kiley, Carrie Rodriguez, Rooney, Ike Stubblefield, The Swell Season, Matthew Sweet, Particle, The Ting Tings, Toots & the Maytals, Pnuma Trio, The Undertow Orchestra, Vetiver, The Whigs, Wolf Parade, X, Dan Zanes and Friends[27] and Zap Mama[31]

Albums & Live Recordings[edit]

The building boasts good acoustics and a well-equipped sound system,[26] leading several artists to record live albums here. These have included Blueground Undergrass,[32] Lea DeLaria,[33] Jay Farrar,[34] Dominic Gaudious,[35] Shawn Mullins,[36] Phish,[37] Soulive,[38] They Might Be Giants[39] and Butch Walker.[40]

In addition, because the current management allows recording when the artists permit it[41] a number of other legal live recordings are available from this venue. These include such artists as Ryan Adams, Animal Collective, Aquarium Rescue Unit, Benevento/Russo Duo, Blues Traveler, Buckethead, The John Butler Trio, Camper Van Beethoven, Carbon Leaf, The Codetalkers, Cowboy Junkies, Cracker, Dark Star Orchestra, Dinosaur Jr, JJ Grey & MOFRO, Howie Day, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Disco Biscuits, Drive-By Truckers, Eddie from Ohio, Explosions in the Sky,[42] Robert Fripp,[43] The Grapes, Indecision, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Jump, Little Children, Steve Kimock, Leftover Salmon, Little Feat, Matisyahu, moe., Jason Mraz, Matt Nathanson, North Mississippi Allstars, OFF!, Perpetual Groove, Quasi, Railroad Earth, Scrapomatic, Martin Sexton, Elliott Smith, Sound Tribe Sector 9, The String Cheese Incident, Sun Ra, Tea Leaf Green, The Derek Trucks Band, Umphrey's McGee and Yonder Mountain String Band.[42]

Awards[edit]

In its current incarnation as a music venue, it has won numerous "Best of Atlanta" awards over the years.

Creative Loafing Best of Atlanta[edit]

  • 1997 Best Concert Venue & Best Place to Hear Acoustic Music (Critic's Choice)[citation needed]
  • 1998 Best Rock Club[citation needed]
  • 1999 Best Concert Venue[citation needed]
  • 2000 Best Concert Venue (Critics Choice)[44]
  • 2001 Best Concert Venue[45]
  • 2002 Best Concert Venue[46]
  • 2003 Best Concert Venue[47]
  • 2004 Best Concert Venue[48]
  • 2005 Best Concert Venue[49]
  • 2006 Best Concert Venue[50]
  • 2007 Best Concert Venue[51]
  • 2008 Best Concert Venue[52]
  • 2009 Best Concert Venue (Readers Pick)[53]

Other Awards[edit]

In culture[edit]

Turner Classic Movies uses footage of the marquee of Variety Playhouse in its TCM Classic Movie News segments.[62]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Euclid Film House Will Open Today", The Atlanta Constitution, October 4, 1940: 17, OCLC 8821030 
  2. ^ About the Cox Capitol Theatre, Cox Capitol Theatre - Macon, Georgia, retrieved 2009-01-20 
  3. ^ History of the Fox Theatre, Atlanta, retrieved 2009-01-20 
  4. ^ "L&J Circuit Building Three in Atlanta", BoxOffice 36 (18), March 23, 1940: 75, OCLC 8492376, retrieved 2009-01-21 
  5. ^ "Current Amusements - Neighborhood Theaters", The Atlanta Constitution, July 31, 1962: 18, OCLC 8821030 
  6. ^ Superfund Site Information: Euclid Theater, United States Environmental Protection Agency, retrieved 2009-01-22 
  7. ^ The History of Little Five Points a.k.a. L5P, Little Five Points Business Association, retrieved 2009-01-20 
  8. ^ a b Cain, Scott (June 3, 1983), "'The End' for a man ahead of crowd", The Atlanta Constitution: 1–B, ISSN 1539-7459 
  9. ^ a b c Ringel, Eleanor (June 8, 1983), "Ellis' name to live with cinema", The Atlanta Constitution: 2–B, ISSN 1539-7459 
  10. ^ a b c Sherbert, Linda (October 4, 1984), "Cinema honors late art film impresario", The Atlanta Constitution: 3–C, ISSN 1539-7459 
  11. ^ a b Yandel, Gerry (October 21, 1985), "Sirkis is having 'reel' fun running the Ellis Cinema", The Atlanta Constitution: 1–B, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-17 
  12. ^ a b c Graham, Keith (August 9, 1988), "It's the End Of the Show For the Ellis", The Atlanta Constitution: 1–E, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-18 
  13. ^ Cain, Scott (January 30, 1986), "Classic films to be shown at Ellis - Will they attract enough viewers to defray expenses?", The Atlanta Constitution: 1–B, ISSN 1539-7459 
  14. ^ a b c Ringel, Eleanor (August 14, 1988), "Movie House in Age of Multiplexes, Ellis Was the Real Thing", The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution: 1–M,4–M, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-17 
  15. ^ Glenn Sirkis's Professional Profile, Spoke.com, retrieved 2009-01-20 
  16. ^ Colp, David (February 10, 1989), "FILM NOTES: Ellis Film Society Forms To Revive Closed Theater", The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution: D/7, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  17. ^ a b Cordell, Actor (June 8, 1989), "Live Shows Planned at Ellis Cinema - Producer to Reopen Theater With Old Stars", The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Intown Extra: 1,4, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-17 
  18. ^ "DANCE: Beacon to Stage New Works At Little Five Points Location", Atlanta Journal & Constitution, October 15, 1989: 3–L, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-23 
  19. ^ "National Black Arts Festival venues", Atlanta Journal & Constitution, July 21, 1990: S–10, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-23 
  20. ^ "MUSIC PREVIEW: Blue Nile's first tour flows into Atlanta", The Atlanta Journal & Constitution, August 10, 1990: 1–E, retrieved 2009-01-20 
  21. ^ Emerson, Bo (December 1, 1989), "SOME LIKE IT DOWN 'N' DIRTY - New Orleans Brass Band Funks With Tradition", Atlanta Journal & Constitution: 1–B, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-23 
  22. ^ Emerson, Bo (April 6, 1990), "MUSIC PREVIEW: A revolutionary return to Hungarian tradition", The Atlanta Journal & Constitution: 8–D, retrieved 2009-01-20 
  23. ^ Emerson, Bo (February 16, 1990), "Critic's Choice - Oh, Odetta!", Atlanta Journal & Constitution: 1–D, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-23 
  24. ^ "Concert Preview - Redbone keeps singing in time zone of his own", Atlanta Journal & Constitution, May 25, 1990: 4–D, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-23 
  25. ^ Thomas, Keith L. (August 21, 1990), "Variety gets new manager", The Atlanta Constitution: 4–E, ISSN 1539-7459, retrieved 2009-01-17 
  26. ^ a b Variety Playhouse Technical Specifications (PDF), Variety Playhouse, 2007-07-30, retrieved 2009-01-18 
  27. ^ a b c d Variety Playhouse's photostream, Flickr.com, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  28. ^ Her 2008 Verizon VIP Tour appeared here in May 2008.
  29. ^ Galactic 1999 Set Lists, GalacticFunk.com, retrieved 2009-01-18 
  30. ^ CNN Video Now In Archive, greyboyallstars.com, July 18, 2007, retrieved 2009-01-18 
  31. ^ Johnson, Tomi and Kurk (April 20, 2005), Zap Mama's Marie Daulne spawns musical revolution in Atlanta's Variety Playhouse, Wingcom Ltd., retrieved 2009-01-19 
  32. ^ Live at the Variety Playhouse 7.10.99 at AllMusic
  33. ^ Bulldyke in a China Shop at AllMusic
  34. ^ Tracks 10,15 and 16 of his CD/DVD Stone, Steel & Bright Lights were recorded here.
  35. ^ Dominic Gaudious - Live at the Variety Playhouse (DVD), dominicgaudious.com, January 14, 2004, retrieved 2009-01-18 
  36. ^ Live at the Variety Playhouse at AllMusic
  37. ^ The "Bonus CD" of At the Roxy was recorded here.
  38. ^ Tracks 3 and 6 of Soulive's 2003 album Soulive were recorded here.
  39. ^ The "Atlanta" track on Venue Songs was recorded here.
  40. ^ The album This Is Me... Justified and Stripped was recorded here, and also appears on the Live at Budokan DVD.
  41. ^ General Info, Variety Playhouse, retrieved 2009-01-23 
  42. ^ a b Internet Archive Search for Venue 'Variety Playhouse', retrieved 2009-01-18 
  43. ^ A 2006 recording of Soundscapes by Robert Fripp made here is available in MP3/FLAC.
  44. ^ "Best of Atlanta 2000: Best Concert Venue", Creative Loafing (Eason Publications) 29 (23), October 22, 2000, ISSN 0889-8685, retrieved 2009-01-24 
  45. ^ "Best of Atlanta 2001: Best Concert Venue", Creative Loafing (Eason Publications) 30 (17), September 19, 2001, ISSN 0889-8685, retrieved 2009-01-24 
  46. ^ "Best of Atlanta 2002: Best Concert Venue", Creative Loafing (Eason Publications) 31 (23), October 16, 2002, ISSN 0889-8685, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  47. ^ "Best of Atlanta 2003: Best Concert Venue", Creative Loafing (Eason Publications) 32 (20), September 25, 2003, ISSN 0889-8685, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  48. ^ "Best of Atlanta 2004 : Best Concert Venue", Creative Loafing (Eason Publications) 33 (21), September 30, 2004, ISSN 0889-8685, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  49. ^ "After Dark Critics' Picks: Best of Atlanta 2005", Creative Loafing (Eason Publications) 34 (21?), September 28, 2005, ISSN 0889-8685, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  50. ^ "After Dark Critics' Picks: Best of Atlanta 2006", Creative Loafing (Eason Publications) 35 (21), September 27, 2006, ISSN 0889-8685, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  51. ^ "Urban Explorer: Little Five Points/Inman Park/Candler Park: Music Venues: Variety Playhouse", Creative Loafing 36, ISSN 0889-8685, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  52. ^ "Best of Atlanta 2008: Best Concert Venue: Variety Playhouse", Creative Loafing (Eason Publications) 37 (21), September 24, 2008, ISSN 0889-8685, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  53. ^ "Best of Atlanta 2009: readers pick : Best concert venue: Variety Playhouse", Creative Loafing (Creative Loafing Inc.) 38 (21), September 23–29, 2009, ISSN 0889-8685, retrieved 2009-10-13 
  54. ^ Fleming, Mike (October 15, 2004), "the Best of Gay Atlanta '04", Southern Voice (Window Media LLC), OCLC 30371411, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  55. ^ "Best of Tech", The Technique: The Best and Worst of Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology) 90 (31), April 22, 2005: 6, OCLC 7644360, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  56. ^ "INsite Best of Atlanta 2006", INsite Atlanta 15 (2), November 2006: 32, OCLC 66910135, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  57. ^ "BEST OF THE BIG A: AJC staffers select favorites", Access Atlanta (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), July 19, 2007, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  58. ^ "Best of Atlanta 2007: Night-Life", Atlanta Magazine (Emmis Communications), December 2007: 127, ISSN 0004-6701, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  59. ^ "Reader's Choice Awards: Arts and Entertainment", The Sunday Paper, May 13, 2007, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  60. ^ "Best of Big A: 2008 Winners", Access Atlanta (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), retrieved 2009-01-19 
  61. ^ "INsite's Best of Atlanta 2008 Winners", INsite Atlanta 17 (3), November 2008, OCLC 66910135, retrieved 2009-01-19 
  62. ^ Classic Movie News (TCM Original), Turner Classic Movies, September 2008, retrieved 2009-01-17 

External links[edit]