The beat goes on at Atlanta’s Buckhead Theatre.
The Buckhead Theatre, located in what truly is the heart of Buckhead, has lead many lives over its almost 85-year existence. The Spanish Baroque beauty started kickin’ it at the height of the Jazz Age in 1930 and no doubt played host to some of the coolest cats around like Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughn and maybe even Billie Holiday.
The Buckhead Theatre would then go through several Sybil-like incarnations. In the late 70s she was renamed the Capri Ballroom with Atlanta’s legendary music promoter Alex Cooley at the helm. Her motif was “updated” to reflect more of a nightclub feel with fancy disco graphics, pink neon and palm trees. Waylon Jennings played the opening gala – some in tuxedos, others in cowboy hats – who turned out in spite of weatherman Guy Sharpe’s warnings that a major ice storm was blowing in. The Capri Ballroom hosted acts such as the Talking Heads and Peter Tosh.
In the mid 80s, the Buckhead Theatre became the Buckhead Cinema and Drafthouse. Locals were delighted that they could sit in the dark, smoke cigarettes and slug down pitchers of beer and watch second-run flicks. As novel as it was, the venture didn’t prove very lucrative and soon Cooley was back, this time with partner Peter Conlon. They renamed the venue the Roxy, reportedly after a sign, meaning the Roxy Theater downtown was closing and they took the signage and installed it on the theater’s marquee.
Georgia’s own Gladys Knight played the opening gala before a capacity crowd. Pretty soon the once plush carpet was ripped out and the walls and the floors were painted black. Atlanta patrons fondly remember slam dancing at the Pixies and the Jesus and Mary Chain, rocking out to Nine Inch Nails and spilling their drinks while hopping around to Phish. Why, yes, of course you can stomp your butts out on the floor!
As fun as it all sounds, all this partying took its toll on the old gal and she started showing her age. Roxy closed her doors in 2008 for a much-needed facelift and overhaul. For a gal her age, this would take a lot of time and money and that’s when Buckhead businessman Charlie Loudermilk and checkbook walked into the party. Partnering with Cooley, Loudermilk invested $6 million in the rehab, which took about a year and a half, and the results show.
Re-renamed the Buckhead Theatre, it too opened with a gala. This time Atlanta rockers stood shoulder to shoulder at the open bar with the Buckhead elite, many of them scratching their heads. The plush carpeting returned; much of the original architecture was preserved and a lot of cash was doled out for fancy dressing rooms, a green room, a lobby lounge and a giant ten-foot LED marquee. Loudermilk said that the sound system alone cost $500,000.
Though the Buckhead Theatre still hosts rocking acts such as Blondie and punk legends like X, you can also host your wedding or corporate event there. It can get pretty rowdy at times, but rest assured, that carpet will cushion even the most dramatic stage dive – just don’t spill your beer.
The Buckhead Theatre, 3110 Roswell Road Atlanta, GA 30305