Sep 7, 2023 - News

George Lefont brought indie cinema to Atlanta

George LeFont stands smiling and with him arms cross outside the Plaza Theatre neon marquee

Photo: Joey Ivansco/Courtesy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution

If you watched "Reservoir Dogs" in an Atlanta theater or dressed up for "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," George Lefont played a role.

Driving the news: Lefont, whose indie cinema empire drew small-budget, foreign, classic and cult films more commonly screened in New York or Los Angeles than Atlanta, died this week from complications related to Parkinson's Disease, the AJC reports. The San Francisco native was 85.

Catch up quick: During a trip to Manhattan in the summer of 1976, Lefont saw crowds of people lined up to watch "The Treasure of Sierra Madre," a Humphrey Bogart classic released 30 years earlier.

  • That moment inspired the former businessman and software company owner to start an arthouse cinema in Atlanta, Lefont told Atlanta magazine in 2018, leading him to open the Silver Screen Theatre at the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center.

Details: Over the next 40 years, Lefont opened the Plaza Theatre, Garden Hills Cinema, the Tara and several other movie theaters that built audiences with diverse titles like the running-and-religion breakout hit "Chariots of Fire" and banned films like "Caligula."

  • He even hosted a late-night private screening of "Amadeus" for pop singer Prince when The Purple One performed at the Omni.
  • By the early 2000s, high rents and changing audience habits prompted Lefont to sell most of his theaters and focus on the Sandy Springs cinema, the magazine reports. He also sold that theater in 2017 before he retired.

What they're saying: "He was, quite literally, the Man Who Kept Cool Movies Alive in Atlanta," longtime Atlanta film critic Eleanor Ringel Cater wrote in a tribute to the businessman.

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