John F. Schaffner
The Roxy Theater in Buckhead was opened June 2, 1930, as the Buckhead Theater. That was three years after R. Charles Loudermilk Sr. was born but seven years before he, at age 10, would make his way on Saturdays by two trolley rides from his blue-collar neighborhood off Howell Mill Road in northwest Atlanta to Buckhead to see a 5-cent movie.
A Coca-Cola was 5 cents, as was a box of Milk Duds. Charlie Loudermilk and a friend sold Cokes across the street from the Roxy. They paid 80 cents for a case of 24 Cokes and sold them for 5 cents apiece, for a profit of 40 cents. That paid for their Saturdays at the movies.
Times have changed since the 1930s for both the theater where Loudermilk went on Saturdays and for Loudermilk himself.
Originally seating 1,056 patrons with a stage 25 feet wide, the Buckhead Theater cost $250,000 to build. It also was used for civic functions, including early concerts of the Buckhead Symphony Orchestra.
About 1961, the Buckhead Theater became the Capri, a premiere first-run movie house, which around 1980 became one of the first cinema/drafthouses in Atlanta.
Walking through the Roxy recently with Charlie Loudermilk, you could see a twinkle in his eye as he reminisced about his childhood and coming to movies at the theater he now owns and is restoring for a new life as a major Buckhead entertainment venue.
The inside of the Roxy is a demolition scene today. But when it is finished as a new multipurpose venue and reopens in 2010, Loudermilk will have invested about $6 million in the new Roxy and in this corner of his beloved Buckhead.
It is a gift all of us who live and work in Buckhead can be thankful for this holiday season and in the years to come.