Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Hilan Theater Is In There, Did You Know?

This great Atlanta neighborhood just can't support this space - but I hope I'm wrong. Maybe you have an idea?

It had been wide open day and night so I finally walked in on February 27, asked if I could take some pictures. I love theaters and then there's the roof. This may be the only way you'll ever see inside.

Folks are renovating the storefronts between Atkins Park Restaurant and Surin of Thailand where Ben and Jerry's, Starbucks, and Key Lime Pie were. Curbed wrote about it: Empty Va-Hi Spaces May Fill Soon. But About That Theater…

"A December 4, 1937, Boxoffice magazine obituary of Atlanta showman Louis Bach says that he built the Hilan Theatre in 1933

"A few years after the theatre closed in 1969, it became the home of the Metropolitan Community Church." Currently ... ice cream parlor (Ben and Jerry's) and coffee shop (Starbucks) reside(d) in the space once occupied by the Hilan’s entrance and lobby." - First Metropolitan Community Church

Did you know it was theater?

From the Dark Horse in the back of Surin you can see the big boxy thing where the auditorium is.

From North Highland there's a long corridor back to the theater.

I think they renovated the auditorium hoping to attract the Cotton Club. What with parking, noise, and late night rock and rollers the neighborhood didn't go for it. The Cotton Club moved to the basement of the Tabernacle.

All dressed up and no place to go: Terrific renovation. They removed the sloped floor, there's a dance floor, a mezzanine, and a balcony, two bars.

From the behind the balcony bar.

They kept the good parts.

The proscenium style stage has it own behind-the-band balcony.

I took this from the southern Juliet balcony.

Maybe these will help give you a sense of the space.
Panoramic video from the center stage 30 seconds.
Panoramic video from the southern Juliet balcony 24 seconds.

Then there's the roof!

There are two levels of rooftops up there.

The first level.

Looking down on North Highland. I want to party here.

There's another level.


I want to party here too.

To the north "Wolfmother" Mural by Matt Haffner commissioned by whitespace.

IMG_1069-2014-02-27-Atlanta-Hilan-Theater-Atkins-Park  Druid Hills United Methodist Church Steeple through the trees detail
To the east the steeple of Druid Hills Methodist designed by Ivey and Crook

IMG_1068-2014-02-27-Atlanta-Hilan-Theater-Atkins-Park Druid Hills Baptist Church detail
To the south the lantern at Druild Hills Baptist designed by Edward Bennett Dougherty

IMG_1067-2014-02-27-Atlanta-Hilan-Theater-Atkins-Park Druid Hills Presbyterian Church from North-detail
To the southwest Druid Hills Presbyterian designed by Francis Palmer Smith.

Now you know.


  1. Wow, thank you for that! I knew there *had* been a theater in there, but just assumed it was in disrepair or had morphed into storage or something for the adjoining businesses. It's nice to see that it's been renovated and is a perfectly useable space, but for what?

  2. This could totally be an "Agatha's" type dinner theater or an improv comedy room.

    I miss that roof! I used to love sitting there when the Starbucks was open.

  3. I snooped back there about 10 years ago. Between ben 7 jerry's and the auditorium there was a lobby area that had been turned into a labyrinthine zig-zag hallway with glass panels that went back and forth about 8 to 10 times, kind of like the airport security line. The story I was told is that someone was trying to operate the space as a night clup but the NPU & Neighborhood were opposing the license on the grounds that it was within x hundred feet of a park/church or something like that. I was told that the Club was trying a novel argument that the zig-zag increased the distance to the entry of the club to over x hundred feet. I don't think it worked.

  4. jfgelber, your memory is correct. If I recall correctly, the club needed to be a certain distance from residences. The applicant was Inman Park Properties. The zig-zag argument failed pretty flatly, but it is a shame that there has been no practical use conceived for the place since. I have seen the inside, and it's a beautiful space.

  5. We would like to thank all of you that like the Theatre space. Inman Park Properties (IPP) did in fact hire us, Jones Pierce Architects back in 1998 to look at this property. Early on the Cotton Club was considering to relocate here. They moved on due to neighborhood opposition, but IPP continued with the renovation project in hopes another group would take it over as an event space. We completed this project around 2003, 5 years after starting it. Yes, the hallway was an attempt to solve the archaic distance requirements of the liquor license, but it was defeated because IPP waited so long to apply and the entire liquor license requirements had been revised to their current state. Anyone who has dealt with the liquor license issue understands what an archaic mess they were, and now have been revised for better understanding. The lobby of the building has the original terrazzo floor of the theater. What we did was level the sloped floor and create green rooms for the stage. This would be an ideal home for one of our local theatre or improv groups if the parking could be resolved. Certainly anyone going for a show would consider dinner beforehand so some sort of shared parking should be considered.

  6. It looks like a perfect place for a brewery to me, with a great tasting venue on the roof!
    Im sure the neighborhood would be okay with a couple of tastings a week.

  7. It's a terrific space. If it had some windows / skylights it would be an amazing and unique office for "creatives."

  8. I had no idea! Too bad a theatre company can't make use of this space. Great pics, esp those on the roof.

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