One of the pandemic’s many casualties was moviegoing, and with it the pleasure of laughing and screaming alongside total strangers. Post-pandemic, movie theaters have famously struggled to get a streaming-obsessed audience out of their Cloud sofas and back into the multiplex—with the exception of Atlanta’s historic Plaza Theatre.
Working alongside another bastion of Atlanta film culture, Videodrome, the Plaza has become a buzzing nexus of cinema since owner Chris Escobar took over in 2017. With the launch of “Plazadrome” collaborations in 2018, the film synergy has been off the charts. These screenings are certified phenomena, packed with multigenerational crowds of cineastes chortling over ridiculous B-movie sci-fi fare, like Tammy and the T-Rex, or the 1995 Parker Posey downtown comedy Party Girl. The audience is often primed for fun with costume contests, appearances by beloved Videodrome staff, or an animated short featuring “Slotty,” the cartoon version of Videodrome’s front door return slot, from Adult Swim vets Zach White and Matt Hutchinson.
“We’re doing something bigger and better together than we would separately,” says Escobar of the fortuitous partnership, which has now extended to “Taradrome” events since he revived the Tara Theatre on Cheshire Bridge Road.
For longtime cinema nuts who have lamented the lack of a vibrant film culture in Atlanta, the Plaza–Videodrome Venn diagram overlap has offered something utterly unique: the kind of communal revival-house destination that makes you relish seeing a screening with other people, instead of dreading the chatterboxes and cellphone flares that have made contemporary moviegoing a royal drag.
Videodrome owner Matt Booth says that the video rental business is also booming post-pandemic, as a new generation of younger film lovers are coming into the store for the kind of curation and movie tips they can’t get with a Netflix algorithm.
Booth’s store is so beloved that a portion of its staff actually volunteers, just for the chance to hang out with fellow film obsessives. Many Videodrome alums have continued their film educations and careers at places like the University of Southern California, the University of Chicago, or Turner Classic Movies.
Leaning heavily on event-based filmgoing, the Plazadrome series has built up a loyal following. “When you go to the Plaza, it really is an experience,” says Jordan Kady. “It’s like a club. You don’t get that with regular theatergoing.” As an employee of both Videodrome and the Plaza, Kady is at the epicenter of this filmapalooza. Hailing from the cinema desert of Panama City, Florida, she was thrilled to discover Videodrome when she moved here in 2019. “I think we were still sleeping on an air mattress in our apartment. We had no furniture, but we went to Videodrome; it was like Mecca.” Videodrome regulars, says Kady, treat the store like a community center-slash-public library, charging their phones there or leaving items behind the counter for friends.
“We always have people that just want to come hang out here,” agrees Booth, who often shoots the breeze with customers like Peter Fonda and Woody Harrelson when they’re in town. And at the Plaza, you may run into Francis Ford Coppola or several generations of Turner Classic Movies staff.
Both the Plaza and Videodrome are ushering in 2024 with more collabs and community events, including a joint celebration of Videodrome’s 25th anniversary. Escobar is adding a rooftop bar to the Plaza and partnering with the Atlanta Opera, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, and horror film magazine Fangoria.
This article appears in our November 2023 issue.