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Who recalls the final film shown at the Royal?
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Many remember the movie “The Last Picture Show,” which came out in 1971 and starred Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd. It was about a dying Texas town whose businesses, including the movie show, were failing.

Who remembers “the last picture show” at the Royal Theater in downtown Gainesville? The Royal was the main moviehouse in Northeast Georgia for many years. While it might have been slow to get the most popular, first-run movies showing nationwide, it usually was the first to show them in this area.

The Royal was on Main Street where that gap in downtown buildings occurs between Hunt Towers and the Collegiate Grill. The space now serves as parking primarily for Hunt Towers and Luna’s Restaurant.

That last picture show shown at the Royal? The famous “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” starring John Belushi, on Feb. 6, 1979. You could see it for $1.25. That funny film classic still makes the rounds of movie channels on television. Kevin Bacon and Donald Sutherland also were in the movie.

The Royal’s ticket price was the lowest in town at the time. John Thompson, who owned the Royal, also owned six other movie screens in Gainesville.

Frank Plaginos had built the Royal in 1930, and his son Paul succeeded him in its operation. Thompson Theaters took over the Royal and Ritz theaters in 1967. The Ritz on North Bradford Street had closed earlier, as well as the State on East Washington Street. Those were the downtown theaters. The Roxy, on what was then Athens Street, now E.E. Butler Parkway, burned in 1961.

The first picture show at the Royal? “Cimarron” in March 1931.

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Too often, students who make it in the world don’t get as much attention as those who get into trouble or otherwise failed to make the most of opportunities when they had them.

In years past, East Hall High School didn’t always get the proper credit for producing graduates who found success in their lives and careers.

Its Class of 2004 was supposed to have its 10th year reunion this summer, but it fell through. However, a few classmates did get together for a mini-reunion and talked about some of their friends who had turned their high school education into successful livelihoods. Here are a few examples of their stories:

Diane Acuna, a mother of two, was decorating cakes at Wal-Mart and getting so many compliments, she started making cakes for friends’ special occasions. That led to her own business, Acuna’s Custom Cakes.

Haley Clay, a mother of two children and another on the way, started her Clay and Co. Salon on Gainesville’s Limestone Parkway three years ago and enjoys a hefty following of clients and traffic on social media.

JJ Evans is a singer, songwriter and producer who performs throughout the country. His career got its start in elementary school when he sang in front of the entire student body. He has an annual concert at Brenau University, releases an album every year, sang the national anthem for the Atlanta Falcons, and a song he wrote was chosen as a theme for “The View” program.

Brittany Earls Bailey is founder and CEO of PressWho in New York City. Within five years, she turned a failed business into a success. She also launched Genesis Magazine, which led to her public relations business. Her company has been featured in Black Enterprise, Under 30 CEO and chosen by 100 Urban Entrepreneurs, a P.Diddy-sponsored nonprofit that invests in small business owners.

Then there’s Bryn Cooper, who joined the U.S. Navy within a year after graduation. He is an aviation electrician’s mate maintaining the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. He’s seen the world as the Navy advertises: Australia, Italy, Spain, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. Currently in Key West, Fla., he has been stationed at Virginia Beach, Va., and Atsugi, Japan. Cooper, a petty officer second class, has served on the USS Kitty Hawk, George Washington and George H.W. Bush.

There are many more success stories out there, not just from the Class of 2004, and not just from East Hall. This is just a sampling of some who have used the tools they acquired in high school.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.

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