Vision wanted – Towne Cinema waits for suitor

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt February 6, 2014
Fisher Paty, with Oakhurst Realty Partners, looks out the window of the projector room of the Towne Cinema in Avondale Estates. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Fisher Paty, with Oakhurst Realty Partners, looks out the window of the projector room of the Towne Cinema in Avondale Estates. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

The Tudor Village in Avondale Estates wasn’t for sale when Fisher Paty began making offers.

One of its anchor spaces, the Towne Cinema, had been vacant for years. Paty, with Oakhurst Realty Partners, looked at the vacant cinema and imagined the city’s future.

“It’s just a property I’ve always loved and I felt was underutilized,” he said.

This is the theater inside the Towne Cinema. When it was in use, it seated 500 people. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

This is the theater inside the Towne Cinema. When it was in use, it seated 500 people. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Paty gave Decaturish.com a tour on Feb. 6, offering a rare inside view of the cinema, property that’s been an object of curiosity and subject of speculation. That speculation has only increased with the recent developments in the city’s historic downtown. Pallookaville opened last year and its profile is raising the profile of the buildings around it. The Bishop, another restaurant, will open sometime this spring.

Oakhurst Realty closed on the Tudor Village in 2012 and bought the whole thing – cinema included – for $1.1 million. It was about 50 percent leased when the company bought it. It’s about 65 percent leased now, spaces that include the storefront area and the offices looking down on North Avondale Road.

The cinema is still vacant. Paty hasn’t been in a rush to lease it.

These stairs used to connect the Towne Cinema balcony to the theater. The balcony has closed off at some point.  Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

These stairs used to connect the Towne Cinema balcony to the theater. The balcony was closed off at some point and the lower portion of the stars was removed. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

The cinema was constructed in 1925 and served as Avondale Estates post office and city hall. It became the Avondale Theater in 1938. Local legend has it that Elvis played there before he was famous. According to some research Paty provided, the 500 seat theater entertained audiences with wrestling, boxing and, of course movies.

Over the years it’s been used as a private residence. The balcony at some point was closed off from the theater and the projector room was modified to include a kitchen and bathroom.

It was most recently used as the Nickel & Dime Recording Studio. Paty had inquiries from a few recording studios, but has held out for tenant who can turn it into something special.

“There are people that have vision and people that don’t,” Paty said as he showed off the old projector room. When Paty bought it, the windows had been painted brown. He scraped the paint off. He opened one of the bottom windows in front of the marquee and the sound of the traffic below rolled in with the cold air. It was a neon sign once. Paty hopes it will be again.

“This could be a speakeasy,” he said. “You could call it, ‘The Projector Room.’”

Fisher Paty, with Oakhurst Realty Partners, opens one of the windows of the projector room that's behind the Towne Cinema marquee. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Fisher Paty, with Oakhurst Realty Partners, opens one of the windows of the projector room that’s behind the Towne Cinema marquee. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Whatever it becomes, Paty said his “strong preference” is that it be something open to the public. The ceilings are high enough for a brew pub, he said, and the owners could use the stage for bands that would play there. He could also see it as a performing arts theater, or even an independent cinema.

The building needs about six figures worth of cosmetic improvements, but it’s structurally sound, Paty said.

“We’re willing to give somebody a good deal,” he said. “We recognize that this is a cultural gem.”

Across the street, Pallookaville Owner Jim Stacy was opening the doors for the lunch rush. Decaturish.com got a few minutes of his time and asked him what he’d like to see at the Towne Cinema.

Stacy said he’s open to anything, but would prefer something local and independently owned “and in keeping with the spirit of the neighborhood.”

“It doesn’t matter to me as long as it’s smart and not a chain drug store or something,” Stacy said.

If Paty can find a tenant with vision, it won’t be.

Fisher Paty, with Oakhurst Realty Partners, stands beneath the marquee at Towne Cinema. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Fisher Paty, with Oakhurst Realty Partners, stands beneath the marquee at Towne Cinema. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Todd Payne

    It’s good to know Oakrep has the right intentions in mind for this property. The Georgia Theatre in Athens could be a good model albeit on a smaller scale.

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