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Cinefé 8 Theater Reopens

by Pamela Cole

Lithonia, GA, Dec. 6, 2006 -- As promised by owners Lee and Robin May, Cinefé 8 theater on Panola Rd. has reopened after a three-month shutdown. This is good news for independent theater fans who also witnessed the demise of El Cine Mireles in Marietta and the sale of the historic Plaza Theatre around the same time that Cinefé 8 shut its doors. (See Independent Theaters Struggling in Atlanta.)

According to Cinefé 8's new marketing director, Chris Cornell, "The theatre reopened in October with a new format and discounts for patrons. The new screening format will allow moviegoers to view "sub-run" movies, which are films previously released 4-6 weeks earlier, for a reduced ticket price of $3. Cinefé 8 also offers a special $1.50 discount showing every Tuesday."

Husband and wife team Lee and Robin May (both graduates of Atlanta's Clark University) opened the 8-screen theater as "Cinefé 8 Cinema & Café" last year, claiming to be one of the few African-American owned theaters in America.

"Like any new business, we thought really big about coming out with new releases and at the same time renovating to make it a cinema and a café," said Cornell. "But we really didn't have the sustained capital to keep up with the big boys, the AMCs and the Regals, so we had to close our doors to revamp and rescale with the second run movies." Cornell added that they would "continue with the renovation, moving forward with our business plan, while at the same time, making sure our doors stay open."

"Our goal is to renovate one theater in '07 and hopefully the rest within two years. With at least one theater renovated, our plan is to do special events, parties, community activities."

Cornell says that Cinefé 8 wants to be more than a theater -- it wants to be a community gathering spot where people can come and see diverse entertainment including movies, plays, and other special events.

"We have a couple of independent films coming, and we really want to create that niche where you get a community, diverse feel," said Cornell, who used to host "Reel Talk" at Cinefé 8 -- an act that included a poet, a comic, and a singer with a live band. "We might have a film festival, or even a play, so that people can feel like, when they come to our theater, they find all kinds of diverse entertainment."

In December, the theater is showing two independent films, both with a Christian theme: Color of the Cross (that portrays Jesus as a black Nazarene, persecuted because of his radical interpretation of the Torah) and One Night with the King (the Old Testament story of Esther).

"We are trying to maintain a family image. The previous theater, before Lee and Robin took over, had a very negative rapport, being the local dollar theater. People would just come into that theater and do whatever, and the community still has a stigma about it. So we want to let the community know that, now this is a great environment, and you can bring your kids and watch movies. If you're a church-going person, you can come see Christian movies, or you can also come and see the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Anyone can come to Cinefé 8 and it's the same clean environment, and they can have a good time."

In addition to indie films, Cinefé 8 is currently showing Ant Bully, Barnyard, Crossover, Gridiron Gang, The Grudge 2, and The Marine -- looking for that diverse audience.

Currently, the theater offers regular concessions instead of the café items available before (pizza, chicken wings, and desserts). But that café is still in the business plan.

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