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Free Bankhead movie night marks grassroots push to resurrect beloved drive-in

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Event founder says bringing back Bankhead Drive-In Theatre could spur positive change in the community

The backside of the Bankhead Drive-In Theatre.
The Bankhead Drive-In Theatre operated from 1950 to 1982.
Photo provided by Rolanda Powell

Grab some popcorn, a picnic blanket, and get ready for another free movie night in Atlanta—one that could serve a greater cause.

Come 7:30 p.m. on June 22, local residents and visitors are invited to a free showing of Step at Center Hill Park in Bankhead. But this is more than just another family friendly event for neighbors to come together.

For Rolanda Powell, the woman behind the event, this first showing in the inaugural “Movies in the Park” series will commemorate her move to Bankhead.

“When I bought my home in the summer of 2018,” Powell told Curbed Atlanta, “I wasted no time getting involved in the area’s booming revitalization efforts by regularly attending my Neighborhood Planning Unit-J meetings, and later becoming the president and a founding member of the Center Hill Neighborhood Association.”

On June 22, she’ll be celebrating the one-year anniversary of buying her first home in Bankhead.

“I consider the move to have been a life-changing experience,” said Powell. “I wanted to celebrate that with the community that I have grown to know and love by throwing a free ‘movie in the park’ event.”

Rolanda Powell is hoping for a big turnout at Center Hill Park for “Movies in the Park.”
Lorenzo Kemp

While Powell, who works as a Georgia Tech marketing manager, is funding the event primarily out of her own pocket, she did partner with Jerome Davis of Embryo Design Group. The custom home theater and smart home technology company donated headphones that can be used before or during the movie.

Powell says she hopes to inspire community engagement in Center Hill and other Westside neighborhoods with this event.

“I want to bring residents and visitors alike together to celebrate community that, even through transition, is vibrant and ready for the next chapter,” she said. “I also want to begin to inspire ways to boost the local economy that will eventually offer a host of economic and social benefits to the community.”

To that end, Powell is using “Movies in the Park” as a kickoff event for a wider project: bringing back the Bankhead Drive-In Theatre.

“For decades, the Bankhead Drive-In Theatre was a staple of the community, serving as an entertainment and cultural hub for the area,” Powell said. “My vision is to provide an economic-impacting drive-in theater that will bring positive change to the community.”

She hopes the grassroots efforts will serve as a catalyst that drives a lot of exciting updates and changes to not only Center Hill, but also other northwest Atlanta neighborhoods including Dixie Hills, Grove Park, Harvel Homes, Penelope Neighbors, Urban Villa/Pine Acres, and West Lake.

For the immediate future, Powell is committed to a successful launch to “Movies in the Park.” Ideally, she says, it will spark more partnerships, which would lead to more movie events throughout the summer and into fall.