Fox: In the Box

Continued From: "100 Things About Me #170: Fabulous Fun"

After the movie era, The Fox Theatre was on the fast track for demolition. A dazzling office skyscraper plotted to have itself erected on the prime plot of Peachtree St. Concerned citizens united in a "Save the Fox" movement, which, surprisingly, worked!

Since the mid-1970s, Atlanta Landmarks, the resulting non-profit organization, has shepherded the venue through restoration and rebirth, creating the most successful auditorium of its size (4,000+ capacity) in the U.S. Though the main focus has been on live performances -- Broadway plays, concerts, operas, and ballets -- movies have been a part of the formula, averaging 10-20 events each year, some with staggering success.

In 1978, while pursuing the radio career ("8:27, 56 degrees" -- one of my oft-copied quotes), I received a phone call. The Fox needed a second projectionist for, as I remember, the world premiere of "Born Again." Would I be interested?

"Would I?" I responded, from inside the Fox booth, four seconds later.

Little did we know, my pal Scott and I, that either of us would be affiliated with the theatre decades later. He has clocked more than 30 years, showing movies at the Fox. I placed myself in the coveted "call me if you're desperate" position about seven years ago, having moved hours away from the city.

Other motion picture machine operators, as we're known in the biz, participated at the Fox during my tenure, largely due to scheduling necessities. I mention this only to let you lucky viewers know, occasionally, Scott and I were far, far afar. We were not there. Nuh uh. No, sir and/or madam. Don't look at us. We didn't do it. We have witnesses! Back off. I've got a gun.

I've marked numerous moments of projection pride in the Fox box, as I call it, because I needed a title.

I actually do refer to the place as "The Fab," but that's for Part 3.

On-the-job highlights would certainly encompass these 70mm specials: the southeastern premiere of "The Right Stuff" (1983), a door-busting week of the supposedly over-exposed "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), and the glorious revival of Abel Gance's epic "Napoléon" (1927) with composer Carmine Coppola conducting his full orchestral score in the pit. We did several nights on that one and I was so disappointed I couldn't sit out in the audience to experience the electrifying production.

In the summer of 1981, Burt Reynolds directed "Sharky's Machine," a much anticipated Warner Bros. release, in Atlanta. The Fox arranged to host a cast and crew party for Burt and his team during their shoot. I ran (with projectionist Paul) the 70mm print of "Deliverance" (1972) reel-to-reel that afternoon.

Come December, Scott and I rolled up our sleeves to screen the world premiere of the completed "Sharky's Machine," the biggest movie event to hit town since the "Gone With the Wind" uproar at the Loew's Grand in 1939. That's said acknowledging the possible exception of the 1946 Fox debut when Walt Disney personally unveiled "Song of the South" to the globe.

We knew Burt Reynolds would attend the festivities and watch from a prime balcony location, so all of the audio in the acoustically-challenged room was pre-balanced directly at his chair. To this day, movie sound checks are tweaked from "The Burt Reynolds Seat" and, if I told you where it is located, I'd have to show you "Stroker Ace."

Continued: "Back to the Fab: Bygones With 'The Wind'"

Fox Theatre: Closed (1975) photo ©Stan Malone, used by permission
Fox Theatre photo by hoyasmeg via Flickr, Creative Commons license
Little Girl and Fox Projector Beam photo by hoyasmeg via Flickr, Creative Commons license
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