I miss going to the movies.
I miss the Tara Cinemas on Cheshire Bridge Road and Midtown Art Cinema on Monroe Drive, classic movie houses with tons of seats and plenty of room that don’t require a reservation. I like places that show meaningful and well-written films, with characters that have depth, that are visually interesting and thoughtfully done.
That’s not a knock against the summer blockbuster. I enjoy a big, obnoxious movie and reclining seats every once in a while. The problem is I completely forget the plot and the characters by the time I hit the door.
I am a fan of more obscure films, those movies you read about in magazines and newspapers, but that rarely come this far South. They pop up occasionally at those old-school theaters, which also show the classics on occasion.
There is one man to thank for my love of these movies, and that is George Lefont. I have never met the man whose name adorned more than half a dozen Atlanta movie theaters. The Buckhead resident retired in 2017 when he sold his last property, the Lefont Sandy Springs Cinema. Given the current climate, his timing is impeccable.
He, at one point, owned the Tara and the Garden Hills Cinema, another favorite of mine from years past which is long gone. He opened his first theater in the Hole — better known as Peachtree Battle Shopping Center — in 1976, the Silver Screen. He most famously, or infamously, owned the Plaza Theatre, where I caught my first midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as a teenager, with a slice of toast in my pocket and a squirt gun in my hand.
Lefont showed important current films, as well as classics. My mother and father took us to see “Chariots of Fire” at the Lefont Tara in 1981. It was the only theater in Atlanta that had the eventual Oscar Best Picture winner. Even at a young age, I was enthralled by it — the landscapes, the characters, the music.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I introduced our son to a film that his mother and I caught at Garden Hills when we were first married. The director Christopher Nolan today helms summer blockbusters, but this was one of his first films. Needless to say, it wasn’t showing in the bigger theaters.
When it ended, we could barely process what we had seen. We sat in silence, watching the credits for several minutes, unable to speak. The film, “Memento,” remains one of my favorite movies.
I’ve spent more than a few Saturday afternoons plumbing the depths of streaming services looking for similar movies. I keep a journal with titles I want to see, but they remain hard to find.
Coincidentally, George Lefont’s ex-wife, Donna Lefont, and her business partner, Peyton Robinson, may have just ridden to the rescue on a horse of a different color. They launched foodfilmmusic.com, a website dedicated to film festivals, music festivals and food festivals.
It has evolved into an arthouse streaming service.
Because Donna Lefont has connections through the film festival circuit going back decades, she has access to a growing, carefully curated selection of films. Like at the movies, you can watch the trailer, buy the ticket and watch the film all on the site.
On Aug. 29 and 30, they will present a global virtual screening of “One Note at a Time,” an award-winning documentary about New Orleans music and musicians. It already has “Flannery,” the inaugural Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film-winning documentary about one of the South’s most iconic writers, Flannery O’Conner.
All of the films on the site have gravitas. There are classics, foreign films, relevant movies that for one reason or another — mostly because they came to Atlanta rarely, and only for a few weeks — we haven’t seen.
When all of this is over, I look forward to rounding up my group and getting back to the Tara or Midtown Art, which are both temporarily closed, to watch a good film and discuss it over dinner nearby.
But I love that we have access to a library of movies through foodfilmmusic.com, the brainchild of two Buckhead residents, which will grow as a repository of important films over the coming months and years.
It seems made for this moment, and beyond.