Cinema Paradiso: Donna Lefont is on a mission to keep film history alive in Atlanta

When Donna Lefont was 8-years-old, her father worked at a local movie theater. As a single dad, he often took his children to work with him, where they would run freely around the theater. Lefont’s favorite place to explore were the projection rooms. She recalls peeking out from behind the machinery and seeing a dark room full of people, their faces lit up by the screen. “It was kind of like a Cinema Paradiso,” she says, name-checking the classic Italian film about a young boy who escapes life in his war-torn village at the local movie house. “The theater was my home away from home and I got used to it.”

The Lefont name is legendary in Atlanta because Donna’s ex-husband, George Lefont, owned a chain of independent cinemas in the city for 40 years that still loom large in movie-lovers’ minds, including The Silver Screen, The Screening Room, Garden Hills Cinema, Lefont Sandy Springs and Plaza Theatre. Lefont Theaters were the place to see foreign, independent and documentary films. George opened his first theater, The Silver Screen, in Buckhead circa 1976. Lefont Sandy Springs was the last theater he owned before retiring in 2017.

Donna has made it her mission to not only continue George’s legacy, but continue her passion for curating films, connecting the community, and teaching the relevance of cinema she first experienced as a child.

Read the full story in Atlanta INTown.

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