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Cinerama Dome

6360 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028 | map |

The News: Decurion Corporation, owner of the Arclight and Pacific Theatres brands, has decided to permanently close all their locations. None had tried reopening as pandemic restrictions were easing. 300 screens are involved. Pamela McClintock had the sad news in "Arclight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres to Close," an April 12, 2021 story for The Hollywood Reporter. Also see stories from Deadline, the L.A. Times and Variety.

A Decurion statement noted: "This was not the outcome anyone wanted, but despite a huge effort that exhausted all potential options, the company does not have a viable way forward... To our guests and members of the film industry who have made going to the movies such a magical experience over the years: our deepest thanks. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve you."

Tom Nunan had a nice April 13 story for Forbes: "Iconic Movie Chain Closes In Los Angeles; 5 Predictions For Future Of Cinemas Nationwide." Variety asked "...Who Will Rescue the Cinerama Dome?" in an April 13 followup story. They mention the "outpouring of grief" on social media and note one fan left a floral bouquet at the theatre as a tribute. The article discusses the Pacific Theatres owners, the Forman family, and outlines several possibilities. 

Jessica Gelt had an April 14 story for the Times titled "Could a developer demolish the Cinerama Dome? Yes, but here's what would have to happen first..."  The print edition ran the story with a happier headline: "Reasons to expect a happy ending." Mark Olsen and Jen Yamato compiled the Another April 14 story for the Times titled "'I can't imagine Hollywood without the ArcLight.' Filmmakers explain why the loss matters." Variety continued the tributes with Pat Saperstein's April 14 story "The Cinerama Dome: A Landmark of Hollywood History in Photos." 

Ryan Faughnder's April 16 story for the times asks "After ArcLight Cinemas' closure, what happens next?" Patt Morrison offers a nice album of vintage theatre postcards and muses about the fate of various L.A. theatres over the last 100+ years in "Financial ruin. Possible destruction. What will be the Cinerama's Hollywood ending?," an April 20, 2021 L.A. Times article. Thanks to Donavan S. Moye and Jonathan Raines for spotting the story. 

"ArcLight and Cinerama Dome: Potential Suitors Line Up" was a May 5 story by Pamela McClintock in The Hollywood Reporter. In the text she calls it the "Cinemara Dome." And it appears that Marcus Theatres is the only one to say publicly "bring it on, we're ready to talk." Again the news, if it is correct, that while Pacific owns the land under the Dome, they do not own it under the adjoining ArcLight complex. Thanks to Stephen Russo for spotting the story.

Opened: The Dome opened November 7, 1963 with a 70mm run of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." There was a press preview on November 2. The film ran 67 weeks. At 50+ the theatre is still an arresting sight at Sunset and Vine. Note the newer 14 screen ArcLight complex showing at the rear. Thanks to Don Solosan for this 2009 dusk view taken for the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation.
 
The theatre was designed with a big wrap-around booth for three-projector Cinerama presentations. However, by the time "Mad World" went into production, Cinerama had converted to an anamorphic version of the 70mm TODD-AO format.  

Website: www.arclightcinemas.com - now with just their farewell statement. 

Phone: 323-464-1478    Email: inquiries@pacifictheatres.com
 

Searchlights are in the sky over Hollywood for the opening of the Dome. It's a Hollywood Citizen - News photo by Peter Banks. Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality spotted it on eBay and has all the data on his Noirish post #7127. It's also been seen on the Facebook pages Vintage Los Angeles and Photos of Los Angeles.

Seating: 937 originally, 856 at present. 

Owners: The Dome was a project of Pacific Theatres, Inc, a company that was started by William Forman in 1946 and, in its early years, was largely a drive-in operator. Saul Pick was the developer working with Pacific on the Dome project. By December 1963 Pacific had also become the owner of Cinerama, Inc., a firm that once had been controlled by Stanley-Warner Theatres. In 1968 Pacific acquired the southern California and Texas assets of that chain, including the other Cinerama venue in Hollywood, the Warner. In 1970 Pacific picked up the remaining 133 theatres of the combined RKO and Stanley Warner chains. After the founder's death, Pacific was operated by his son Michael. Later, the Pacific Theatres and ArcLight brands, as well as the real estate arm Robertson Properties, were rolled into a holding company called Decurion Corporation, headed by Christopher Forman, William Forman's grandson. 

Architect: Welton Becket and Associates. Pierre Cabrol was the firm's lead architect on the project. The Cinerama Dome was the first concrete geodesic dome constructed. It was built in 16 weeks! It's composed of 316 pre-cast concrete panels, most of which are hexagonal, each weighing approximately 3,200 lbs.


A 1960 Herald Examiner photo of Becket with images and drawings of another of his many projects, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. He was also responsible for the Capitol Records Building and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.


 
A model of the Dome and a hotel to the west (which didn't get built). Thanks to Alison Martino for the photo on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page. The model was stashed away in Becket's office for decades and went on display at the theatre for the 50th anniversary celebration.
 

Even before the Hollywood project, Cinerama, Inc. had been promoting the idea of a dome theatre as a radical new look for their venues. The earliest Cinerama installations had been conversions of existing theatres and the other purpose-built Cinerama projects of the early 60s (including those in Seattle, St. Louis and New Orleans) had all been fairly conventional, boxy-looking structures. Thanks to the Adsausage Archives for sharing this early 1963 trade magazine ad on a Facebook post. 



A Los Angeles Public Library photo by Howard D. Kelly looking east on August 5, 1963. It's one of many aerial construction views in their collection. The 18 story highrise beyond the theatre is the 1963 Sunset Vine Tower, the first such building to be constructed after the city repealed the 13 story height limit. It was designed by Douglas Honnold of the firm Honnold & Rex.



Another construction view looking north across the site of the Dome. That's Sunset Blvd. running left to right in front of the theatre. The RCA Building is rising across Sunset just to the left of the theatre. It's a Howard D. Kelly photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. More 1963 aerial views: a similar shot in b&w | looking northeast - b&w | looking northwest - b&w | looking east - color | looking northeast - color |


 
An article from the Boxoffice magazine issue of September 9, 1963. The sign says "'It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' opens in 12 weeks." Total construction schedule was 16 weeks. Thanks to Roland Lataille for the find -- it's on his Cinerama Dome page.
 

A snapshot of the construction 11 weeks before the opening. Thanks to Sean Ault for locating it.



Thanks to Michael Coate's site From Script To DVD for this construction shot from the Pacific Theatres collection. It's on the Cinerama Dome page where you'll find many more great photos. Also see the site's This Is Cinerama in L.A. page for a history of Cinerama engagements.



Another 1963 progress shot. The photo from the John Sittig collection appears in the Cinerama Photo Gallery on the site In70mm.com. Also on the site see John's fine 2018 article "Pacific's Cinerama Dome...Where Movie-going is an Event."  The photo also appears on the From Script To DVD Cinerama Dome page.



A construction photo of the work nearing the top. Thanks to Esther Fitzpatrick for the post on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.



Photos of the opening that appeared in the November 18, 1963 issue of Boxoffice. Thanks to Roland Lataille for reproducing the item on the Cinerama Dome page of his fine site InCinerama.com.


If you didn't want to buy a souvenir program for the show you saw at the Dome, you could always take home a book of matches. Thanks to Mark Ortiz for posting this matchbook shot on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

The Dome was declared a City of Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument in 1998 after Pacific Theatres threatened demolition as part of their planning for a new theatre new complex. Doug Haines commented in a letter that appeared in the L.A. Times on April 20, 2021: 

"In the late 1990s, I nominated the Cinerama Dome as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in response to owner Pacific Theatres' proposal to gut the Hollywood landmark. The charade that followed had little to do with historic preservation and much to do with politics. Pacific Theatres was allowed to pick and choose what it wanted to destroy and what should be landmarked. So, the geodesic dome is a landmark, while the supporting ring is not (because Pacific wanted to put an escalator through it). The lobby isn't landmarked, because Pacific wanted to convert it into a Koo Koo Roo restaurant (remember them?). 

"What saved the dome was the threat of litigation by preservation group Hollywood Heritage, and Pacific Theatres' desire for a free $45 million parking garage courtesy of the Community Redevelopment Agency. As a result, the theatre was saved through a settlement agreement and covenant. I wish I could say that the fight for historic preservation in Los Angeles has improved since then, but it sadly has gotten only far worse." 

After a two year closure and a refurbishment, the Dome reopened in 2002 along with the new ArcLight Cinemas complex that wraps around it. Attending the dome still feels like an event. Digital projection is used for regular runs but film equipment is in place for special showings. 

Status: The theatre closed in March 2020 due to Covid restrictions. On April 12, 2021 the company decided not to reopen any of its theatres using the Pacific Theatres and ArcLight brands. See the details of the news, and links to many stories, at the top of the page. 


Interior views:

 
A 1963 lobby photo from the collection of longtime Pacific Theatres projection supervisor John Sittig. It appears on the From Script To DVD Cinerama Dome page.
 

A 1963 photo from house right. Thanks to John Nevik for sharing this one on a post about the Dome on the Friends of 70mm Facebook page.


A 1963 look down from the center. It's a photo from the Pacific Theatres collection that's on display at the theatre.



An early view of the Cinerama Dome interior from an R.L. Grosh ad in the Boxoffice issue of January 6, 1964.



A look back toward the booth in 1963. It's a photo that's on display at the theatre. Thanks to Mike Hume for snapping a shot of the two from the display that appear here.



The snackbar and the view toward the house right side of the lobby. Photo: Google Maps - 2012
 


Looking toward the center of the lobby from the house left ramp to the auditorium. The stairs go to the upper crossaisle. Photo: Google Maps - 2012




 The lobby from the house right ramp.  Photo: Google Maps - 2012



The house right ramp from the lobby up into the auditorium. Photo: Don Solosan - LAHTF - 2009. The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation is active in preserving the historic theatres of the Los Angeles area and regularly sponsors events and tours. www.lahtf.org | LAHTF on Facebook



A 1988 Chris Gulker shot taken during a screening of the 70mm revival of "This is Cinerama." It's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



Hiroshi Sugimoto's Theater Series resulted from a question he asked: "Suppose you shoot a whole movie in a single frame? And the answer: You get a shining screen. Immediately I sprang into action, experimenting toward realizing this vision." We don't know what film he saw at the Dome in 2003 but this was the result. A number of Mr. Sugimoto's photos of theatre auditoria appear on a Portfolio: Movie Theatres page from C4 Contemporary Art. Also see the Hiroshi Sugimoto page on Artsy.



A 2005 shot of the theatre still with its original color draperies -- before the change to dark blue. It's one taken by Lori/Stutefish on Flickr.
 


A look toward the front curtain. Photo: Don Solosan - LAHTF - 2009 



The view from the rear of the house. Photo: Google Maps - 2012



A back of the house photo once on the website of Vista Entertainment Solutions, the company that one time provided the software for ArcLight. Looks like they changed vendors.  



"How The West Was Won" on the Dome's screen in a three-strip Cinerama presentation. The photo comes from a post about the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival on the Daws Bros. Studios blog



A panoramic shot taken from the house right side of the wrap-around projection booth by Edward M. Pio Roda graces Stuart Elliot's 2013 N.Y. Times article "TCM Moves to Lure Film Buffs Out of Their Living Rooms." The article discusses TCM's efforts to extend the brand with film festivals, memorabilia and guided tours. On the Dome's screen is the 70mm presentation of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," as part of the 2013 TCM Festival in Hollywood. In this image the screen doesn't look very big but it's actually 32' x 86'. 



Looking back at the booth setup. Photo: Google Maps - 2012



The center and house left booth ports. Photo: Google Maps - 2012
 

The Cinerama Dome in the Movies:


We get an aerial view of the Dome in "Earthquake" (Universal, 1974). The screenshot comes from Clifford Scott Carson on Vintage Los Angeles. The film ran at the Chinese, where Ted Mann put a net under the ceiling, allegedly to catch debris falling during the earthquake scenes.



We look down on the Cinerama Dome in a flyover of Hollywood in Julien Temple's "Earth Girls Are Easy" (Vestron Pictures, 1989). We don't stop as we're headed over the hills to the Valley. In "Earth Girls" we later get a shot of the Studio City Theatre. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for that one.



David Frost (Michael Sheen) and his girlfriend Caroline (Rebecca Hall) go to the Dome in "Frost/Nixon" (Universal, 2009) for the premiere of "The Slipper and the Rose," a 1976 film on which he served as a producer. Thanks to Jonathan Raines for spotting this one. Several more shots from the scene at the Dome are on the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post.



We get to see the Dome in the David Strohmaier Cinerama film "In The Picture" (2012). Leonard Maltin did a blog post about the film and the rest of the "Cinerama at 60" festival. The photo here from his post is of the Dome, as it appeared in three-strip at the Dome itself.



The Dome appears prominently in David Chase's "Not Fade Away" (Paramount Vantage, 2012) as we look west on Sunset in the 60s for a lengthy shot that concludes the film.  See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for several more shots from the scene.



In "Keanu" (Warner/Fine Line, 2016) We get a look at the Dome after our two stars, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, come out of a Liam Neeson movie. On the end panel: "Substitute Teacher." In this film about a lost cat we also see the Palace, Los Angeles and Vine theatres. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for more shots from the film.



Heather Graham plays an aspiring screenwriter in "Half Magic," her debut film as a director (Momentum Pictures, 2018). She and her friends Angela Kinsey and Stephanie Beatriz share their tales of woe about work, sex and other issues in Hollywood. Over the end credits we see that Graham has got a film into the Dome. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a couple more shots.



The Dome, dressed as if it were running "Krakatoa, East of Java," is seen in Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" (Sony, 2019). It stars Leo DiCaprio and his friend Brad Pitt as an actor and stuntman trying to find work in the business in 1969. The Manson murder case also figures into the plot as the guys live next door to Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies pages for ten shots of the shooting at the Dome as well as lots of action at the Earl Carroll, the Vogue, Pussycat/Ritz, Fox Westwood, Bruin, Pantages and Vine theatres. 

 
The Dome on Video: 


A five minute documentary about the building of the Dome is on the ArcLight Cinemas channel on YouTube. It features terrific views of the planning, construction and opening along with a discussion about the Cinerama process. 

Also on YouTube are several shorts by Michael Cahill about film historian Dave Strohmaier shooting new 3 strip Cinerama footage in Los Angeles: "Cinerama 2012" Part 1 | Part 2


A few more exterior views:   


 
The premiere of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." It's a photo in the Herald Examiner collection of the Los Angeles Public Library. The theatre was built with 3 strip projection in mind but opened with 70mm.
 

An Associated Press photo of the opening appearing with the April 2021 Hollywood Reporter story "Hollywood Flashback: Cinerama's Dome Debuted Before It Was Finished."
 


A look at the Dome during its grand opening in 1963 from Marc Wanamaker's Hollywood Historic Photos collection. Also check out more theatre photos on the site.



Thanks to Richard Wojcik on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles for this great postcard of the opening of the Dome with "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Roloff de Jeu on Flickr has a version with "Glamourous Hollywood Premiere" across the top in his great "Cinema Postcards from the Americas" collection. The version Roloff has is also on Card Cow.



The Dome in 1963 with its opening attraction on the marquee. Thanks to Alison Martino for the photo on her Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles where it generated lots of comments.



A postcard from the site Card Cow with "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," the theatre's initial attraction, on the marquee.



A "Mad World" card from Alison Martino's collection that put in an appearance on the Mid Century Modern Los Angeles Facebook page.  A version of the same card appears on the Card Cow site.



A sparkling 1963 view looking east with "Mad World" on the marquee taken by George Mann. Thanks to Alison Martino for posting the photo on Vintage Los Angeles



A postcard view west on Sunset -- another using a photo taken during the "Mad World" run.  It's from the Richard Wojcik collection on Vintage Los Angeles.  



"Rent a new Car $2.50." This nice "Mad World" windshield shot from JMB Productions Archives appears on the blog The Gravenstein. Thanks to Eitan Alexander for spotting it.

 

The theatre running "Greatest Story Ever Told." It opened February 18, 1965 for a 43 week run.  It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo. Richard Wojcik has a closer shot of the theatre taken during this engagement on Vintage Los Angeles.



A 1966 view with the Dome running "Battle of the Bulge" in "Super Cinerama." The film opened December 17, 1965 for a 27 week run. Thanks to Richard Wojcik for the post of the photo from his collection on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.



A 1966 postcard look east on Sunset Blvd. with a photo taken during the run of "Grand Prix." It's from the Richard Wojcik collection that appeared on the page for the non-public Facebook group Mid Century Modern Los Angeles.


 
The Cinerama Dome in 1968 during the run of "Camelot." The film opened November 2, 1967 for a 51 week run. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
 

The Dome running "Ice Station Zebra." It opened October 24, 1968 and got a 29 week run. Thanks to Stephen Fleay for the November photo. Alison Martino had grabbed it for a post on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page.


Getting decorated for the run of "Mame" in 1974. It's a photo from Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles.



More prep for the "Mame" premiere. Thanks to Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles for the shot.  It's also been on Vintage Los Angeles.



A shot of the "Mame" getup taken at the premiere for the film on March 26, 1974. Thanks to Kevin Miller on the non-public Facebook group Mid Century Modern Los Angeles for the photo. He notes: "Since it was Easter the film's costume designer, Theodora Van Runkle, designed a gigantic Easter bonnet measuring 550 ft. in circumference to sit a top the dome! Hundreds of guests arrived in vintage cars, wearing 1920s period costumes and Daily Variety columnist Army Archard announced the arrival of each star! Merv Griffin taped his nightly tv talk show from the premiere that night. It was one of Hollywood's biggest & grandest premieres in recent memory."  



"Rollerball" at the Dome in 1975. Thanks to John Stewart for his photo, one of fourteen appearing in his Los Angeles Theaters set on Flickr. John is the long-time projectionist at the Austin Paramount. Thanks also to Mike Hume for advising of John's collection. 



The opening of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in 1977. Thanks to Bill Gabel for the photo, a post on Photos of Los Angeles.



 
Thanks to John Ford for this summer 1978 "Revenge of the Pink Panther" shot he posted on Vintage Los Angeles. Also see a very pinkish "Panther" view from the west on the same Facebook page from Jake Schmo.
 

"Apocalypse Now" in 1979. Thanks to Richard DuVal for sharing this September photo on a Facebook post. Pancho Ds shared this and two other views Richard took the same day on the Friends of 70mm page. The film opened August 15 in a version with no credits -- you got a program. The Dolby mix included split surrounds. See Michael Coate's article "Still Loving the Smell of Napalm in the Morning..." on the site The Digital Bits. 


"The Blue Lagoon" in 1980. It's a Roy Hankey photo in Los Angeles Public Library collection.
 
 
 
"Apocalypse Now" for a reissue engagement in June 1981. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 



A look across Sunset Blvd. during the 1981 run of "Zoot Suit." It was an October release. Thanks to Alison Martino for the photo, once on the Mid Century Modern Los Angeles Facebook page. Much of "Zoot Suit" was filmed nearby in the Earl Carroll Theatre. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a few shots in the theatre from the film.



A luscious view of Hollywood and, of course, the Dome. Early 80s? It's one of many classic Los Angeles photos from the estate of Barbara Harlen in the Kingsley Collection. The photo has also appeared on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



Looking toward downtown in 1987. It's a Paul Chinn photo in the Herald Examiner collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


A 1988 view in the Los Angeles Public Library collection taken by Chris Gulker during the run of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

More exterior views in the Los Angeles Public Library collection: "Mad, Mad World" - another premier night view | "Grand Prix" - 1966 - looking down at the entrance | "1941" signage view - Anne Knudsen - 1979 | dome texture - 1988 - Chris Gulker | parking lot and Dome - undated - Gary Leonard | aerial Vine St. redevelopment view - 2002 - Gary Leonard |
 

"His face is 90 feet wide at the Cinerama Dome." The Associated Press photo taken during the 1998 run of "Godzilla" appeared Pat Saperstein's April 14 Variety story "The Cinerama Dome: A Landmark of Hollywood History in Photos."


A 2002 shot from Film-Tech.com with "This Is Cinerama" on the marquee. It was the first three-strip presentation at the theatre.  It's on the site's Cinerama Dome page which you can find by going to pictures and scrolling down to the Cinerama Dome listing under "singles, twins, trios, quads."



A 2004 view of the Dome added by Ken McIntyre to the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page that was taken during during the run of "Shrek 2."



"Spiderman 2" in  July 2004. Thanks to Richard Wojcik for the photo on Vintage Los Angeles.



A 2007 look at the theatre. Photo: Bill Counter



The view west on Sunset. Photo: Don Solosan - LAHTF - 2009



The boxoffice windows east of the entrance doors. One now buys tickets inside at the ArcLight boxoffice.  Photo: Don Solosan - LAHTF - 2009



 The signage at night. Photo: Don Solosan - LAHTF - 2009 



The Dome from across the street. Photo: Don Solosan - LAHTF - 2009. Thanks for all your great photos, Don! 



A 2013 look up at the signage by Alison Martino on her Facebook page Vintage los Angeles. Thanks, Alison! 



The rear of the Cinerama Dome. We're looking north toward Sunset Blvd. At the right is the entrance to the ArcLight lobby. At the left is the portion of the new development containing restaurants and retail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013


 
The Dome got all dressed in yellow for "The Minions" in June 2015. Thanks to Lydia Zerne for her photo, which she once added as a comment to a Facebook post.  There are more "Minions" views to be seen on Photos of Los Angeles.
 

A shot Steven Taylor took in July 2015. He shared it in a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 
 


The Dome from above, one of many treats on Ian Wood's 6 minute 2015 video "Los Angeles." It includes flyovers of Capitol Records, the Griffith Observatory, City Hall, the canals of Venice, Lake Hollywood and more. Don't miss it!



Thanks to David Silver for this great January 2017 view west across the Dome from 18 floors up. He posted it on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



Moonrise on Sunset Blvd. Photo: Bill Counter - October 2018 


 
 "Avengers: Endgame" was the current attraction but they were getting ready for "Godzilla" to come out the top. Thanks to Zzub McEntire for his May 2019 photo.  



The beast at night. Thanks to Jorge Garcia for his May 2019 photo on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.  



Looking east toward the theatre on June 1, 2020, at this point with the complex boarded up in expectation of protests about police brutality and racial inequality. Thanks to Brad Stubbs for his photo, one of 71 in his "BLM Protest 6-1-20 Hollywood" album on Facebook. 



The theatre's entrance. On the right note the signage still up for "The Hunt," the last film running before the March virus shutdown. Photo: Brad Stubbs - June 1, 2020. Thanks, Brad! 
 
 

An Associated Press drone shot that appeared with "Arclight Cinemas And Pacific Theatres Won’t Be Reopening; Parent Company Decurion Hands Keys Back To Landlords," an April 12, 2021 story by Anthony D'Allessandro on Deadline. 

 
70mm "Cinerama" at the Dome: The first film at the Dome was also the first film branded as Cinerama but not in their original 3 projector process. "Mad World" was photographed in Ultra Panavision, a 70mm process which took the 2.21 aspect ratio of TODD-AO and added a squeeze during filming and a 1.25 expansion anamorphic lens during projection to end up with a 2.76 to 1 aspect ratio image.
 
 

An ad for the theatre's initial film thanks to Michael Coate on In70mm.com, the website devoted to all things 70mm. It's from "It's a Long Long Long Long List," his 2010 article about roadshow engagements for the film.

For projection on Cinerama screens a "rectified" print was produced with no squeeze in the middle and more and more compression closer to the sides of the image to yield a normal looking image on the deeply curved screen. The resultant aspect ratio was evidently less than the full 2.76 to 1. Perhaps 2.55 measured around the curve while, from the back of the house, looking more like 2 to 1.

See the excellent discussion of 70mm Cinerama on Martin Hart's site Widescreen Museum. He notes that the Ultra Panavision films, when shown in Cinerama houses, didn't use an anamorphic but rather lenses ground specifically for the curvature of the screen.

Other 70mm "Cinerama" films were shot in "Super Panavision," a non-anamorphic process like TODD-AO only with lenses by Panavision. Like TODD-AO, the aspect ratio was 2.21 to 1. Many of these films didn't get special prints, even for Cinerama Theatres.



Three Norelco 35/70mm AAII projectors and Ventarc lamps getting readied for the Cinerama's opening. Thanks to Roland Lataille for the photo from a Boxoffice magazine article. It appears on the Cinerama Dome page of his website InCinerama.com.



Inspecting the theatre's original Ampex 6/4/1 sound system. The photos are from the Boxoffice magazine issue of February 10, 1964. See the full article for more details. It's about the role that "sound experts" should play in new theatre construction.

Other early runs at the Dome in a list from Ronald Lataille's InCinerama site. Except for "Camelot," these were advertised as being "in Cinerama":

"The Greatest Story Ever Told" (February 18, 1965) 43 weeks
"Battle of the Bulge" (December 17, 1965) 27 weeks
"Khartoum" (June 26, 1966) 24 weeks 
"Camelot" (November 2, 1967) 51 weeks -- 70mm, but not advertised as a Cinerama production
"Grand-Prix" (December 23, 1966) 44 weeks
"Ice Station Zebra" (October 24, 1968) 29 weeks
"Krakatoa East of Java" (May 15, 1969) 23 weeks


Another film at the theatre that was promoted as being in Cinerama was "This Is Cinerama." But for this 1973 run it was a 70mm composite print made from the 3 original 35mm negatives. Not until 2002 would the equipment necessary for three-strip presentations be installed. The ad is from Roland Lataille's In Cinerama collection.

The Screen: The current screen size is 86' x 32' encompassing 126 degrees of arc. It's not the original Cinerama louver style but with the size and curvature of the 1963 original. The first (c.1953) Cinerama screens typically had 146 degrees of arc and (unlike the Dome's) did not have a consistent curvature -- they had a sharper radius in the center and got flatter out to the sides.

The original louvered screen at the Dome was removed and replaced with a flat sheet sometime around 1973. It's a white screen, not silver. For the December 2015 "Star Wars" run, their scope format picture was 65' wide.

The L.A. Times ran a 2002 article "Big Screen Furor-Rama..." when the screen was scheduled to be replaced (again) in 2002 after a remodel. The Times also has a few comments about the article. Purists wanted a louvered screen again. Pacific wanted (and ended up putting in) a big screen but as a single sheet -- claiming their massive new sound system would cause the strips to vibrate excessively.



A view of an original style louvered Cinerama screen -- designed to prevent light on the sides of the screen from washing out the picture on the other side. It's from Greg Kimble's great article "This is Cinerama" on the widescreen site In70mm.com.



A typical early Cinerama sound installation using 5 Altec A-2 Voice of the Theatre speaker systems with double 90 degree HF horns for the stage channels. The photo is in Lee Sound Design's Altec photo gallery. It also appears in a 1953 SMPTE paper on speakers and amps for stereo theatre sound that can be viewed on the American Widescreen Museum site. The Cinerama Dome originally had Voice of the Theatre speakers. That's all been replaced with newer JBL equipment with the screen speakers mounted in a THX-style infinite baffle. There are 44 surround speakers, also by JBL. Sound absorbent material was added in each of the ceiling's hexagons.

Digital booth equipment: Except for special presentations, it's been digital projection at the Dome for years. Around 2014 it was two Christie CP 4230 4K projectors and two GDC digital cinema servers. They were using the XPAND process with active glasses for 3D films.They got an upgrade for the December 2015 "Star Wars" release with an installation of the dual head Christie 6P laser projector and the Dolby 3D process. This both upped the light level as well as providing more comfortable 3D glasses than the heavier battery powered active glasses used earlier.

Hollywood Reporter had a story about the new equipment. They quote Joe Miraglia, the ArcLight director of design and construction, as saying the gear cost several hundred thousand dollars. He noted screen brightness was about 8 footlamberts for 3D with a 65' wide scope format picture and 14 footlamberts for 2D.  It's unknown if this equipment stayed in the theatre or not. One 2017 presentation viewed was not exceptional in terms of brightness.

Film equipment: The original Norelco projectors were replaced with Century JJ 35/70 machines and a platter system around 1988. There's now a single Kinoton FP75E 35/70mm machine. A 4Kw lamp is typically used for 35mm, a 7.5 Kw lamp for 70mm presentations. For 70mm, both DTS sound timecode synched with the film and 6 channel mag are options. There's Dolby Digital and Dolby analog sound processing for 35mm. "The Master" in 2013 and "Interstellar" in 2014 got 70mm runs. "Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood" ran in 70mm in 2019.

3-Strip at the Dome: In addition to the conventional 35/70 equipment, there's the gear for 3-strip Cinerama presentations using 3 Century/Cinerama projectors fed by platters and the separate full coat 35mm mag dubber for the 7 channel stereophonic sound. Selsyn motors keep the 4 units in synch.

The 3-strip installation only dates from 2002. The original wide, wraparound booth layout was designed for that equipment but by the time of the theatre's opening Cinerama had gone to a 70mm format. The Dome has hosted revival screenings of "How The West Was Won," "This is Cinerama" and other titles. On In70mm.com see the article about the initial three strip presentations at the Dome: "Cinerama Dome 2002."



"This is Cinerama" finally made it to the Dome in the original three-projector process in 2002. Thanks to the site From Script To DVD for the ad -- it's on their Cinerama Dome/ArcLight page.



A left frame (projected from the "Able" booth) from a "This Is Cinerama" scene shot in Venice. It's  from Greg Kimble's "This is Cinerama" article on the site In70mm. Note the 6 perforations per frame pull-down.  You can click on these for enlarged views.



The center frame from the shot, projected from the "Baker" booth.



The right frame from the "This Is Cinerama" shot, projected from the "Charlie" booth.



The "Charlie" Cinerama projector at the house left end of the Dome's large curved booth booth threaded up for a December 2002 screening of "How The West Was Won." The photo comes from an In70mm article about the event by Rick Mitchell.



Another look at the house left end of the booth. Photo: Bill Counter - 2017



A closer look at one of the Century projectors used for three-strip Cinerama presentations. The photo is from an article on the December 2002 screening of "How the West Was Won" on the site In70mm.com.
 


A 2002 view of the center of the booth at the with a Kinoton 35/70mm projector beyond the platter and the center Cinerama projector behind that. The theatre was running at the time with a 4000 watt xenon lamp for 35mm and a 7500 watt lamp for 70mm. Regular film runs at the Dome are now digital. The photo is on the Film-Tech.com page on the theatre which you can find by going to pictures and scrolling down to the Cinerama Dome listing under "singles, twins, trios, quads."



Looking in along the Kinoton machine. Photo: Bill Counter - 2017



The Kinoton FP 75-E. Photo: Bill Counter - 2017



Looking alongside the Christie laser projector. Photo: Bill Counter - 2017



The center Cinerama projector. It's a photo from Film-Tech.



A closer look at the Century head. Straight gate, water cooled. Photo: Bill Counter - 2017



The 35mm full coat mag sound reproducer for three strip Cinerama presentations. It's a 7500' reel. For this installation platters are used for the 3 projectors. Originally the 3 film sections were on huge reels as well -- about  34" in diameter and holding almost 12,000 ft. of film. The picture is 6 perforations per frame, running at 135 feet per minute. The sound runs at the same speed. Visit the Film-Tech site for many more pictures by Mark Ogden and John Sittig. Head to pictures and scroll down to the Cinerama Dome listing. There are also photos of many other theatres to browse as well as equipment manuals and more.



The "Able" projector at the house right end of the booth. Photo: Bill Counter - 2017

 

The Dome's crowd in for a Cinerama screening. It's from an In70mm.com article on a 2002 3-strip screening of "This is Cinerama."

   
 
On the site Ominous-Valve.com pay a visit to Hugh's article "Cinerama II: The Revival" for his informative review of a 2012 three-strip screening of "How the West Was Won" at the Dome as well as a discussion of the technical aspects of the Cinerama process itself. Bonus feature: aspect ratio chart. Also see the site's Altec page for a discussion of the original sound system at the Dome.
 
The Cinerama Process at 60: The Dome had a a 3 strip festival in September 2012 to celebrate Cinerama's 60th Anniversary. It featured both new and vintage three strip Cinerama footage as well as 70mm presentations. See the In70mm.com article for many photos. Also see the photos of the event on the same site from Anders Olsson.



A three-strip Cinerama camera back in action in 2012 -- for the first time in over 50 years. On YouTube there are several shorts by Michael Cahill about film historian Dave Strohmaier shooting new 3 strip Cinerama footage in Los Angeles: "Cinerama 2012" Part 1 | Part 2



A three strip Cinerama camera displayed at the Dome during the September 2012 "Cinerama at 60" festival. The photo on Photos of Los Angeles is by Mark Tipton. 


 
The lens end of the Cinerama camera. It's a 2012 photo by Mark Tipton. 



A closeup view by Mark Tipton of the three very tiny Cinerama lenses. Thanks, Mark! See the trailer on YouTube for "The Last Days of Cinerama," a documentary about the 2012 shooting of three-strip Cinerama footage in Los Angeles. And from What Happens Next Productions, the full 24 minute short: "The Last Days of Cinerama."

More theatre information: See the ArcLight Cinemas page here on this site.

See the page on Cinema Treasures for many discussions about the Dome by enthusiastic fans. Michael Coate has lists of films playing the theatre from the 70s until 2000 in several 2008 comments on the Cinema Treasures page. The Cinema Tour page on the Cinerama Dome has lots of photos (including booth views) and a brief history.  
 
From Script To DVD has a nicely done Cinerama Dome page. "Pacific's Cinerama Dome...Where Movie-going is an Event" is a fine 2018 article by John Sittig on the site In70mm.com. Also see the Cinerama Photo Gallery on the site, featuring photos from John's collection. The L.A. Times had an October 2013 story about the theatre turning 50. Wikipedia has an article about the Dome.

More 70mm Information: See the Egyptian Theatre page here on the Los Angeles Theatres site for lots of data about TODD-AO, the 70mm process that kicked off the big screen roadshow era in 1955. The Egyptian was the first theatre in the area equipped for the process. For a rundown on 70mm engagements at Los Angeles theatres, go to Michael Coate's terrific site FromScriptToDVD.com. Head for the main 70mm page.

More Cinerama Process Information:
For more information on the history of the Cinerama projection process see the Cinerama section on the film and theatre technology resources page. Check out the main Warner Hollywood page where there's lots of Cinerama information. Prior to the opening of the Dome, the Warner was the Cinerama theatre for southern California. 

Michael Coate's From Script To DVD site has a great This Is Cinerama in L.A. page with a history of three-strip and 70mm Cinerama engagements in Los Angeles. See Roland Lataille's InCinerama.com web site for lots more data and Cinerama memorabilia. And for lots of fun check out the site about the documentary "Cinerama Adventure" -- the site also has information about the 2012 Cinerama production "In The Picture."

The site In70mm.com has lots of Cinerama information. See their Cinerama index page and the article on Cinerama pictures on digital. For the latest Cinerama filming in Los Angeles there's the article "Cinerama 2012." 

And don't miss the six page Cinerama section on Martin Hart's amazing site Widescreen Museum.  The name "Cinerama" and the distinctive zig-zag logo are trademarks of Cinerama Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Pacific Theatres.

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