6360 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028 | map |
The News: It's still closed and boarded up. There's no word about a reopening date by Decurion Corporation / Pacific Theatres. But it did get a tiny step closer. They now have the liquor license that they applied for in December 2021. They're planning a second bar location in the complex and anticipate going more upscale with the restaurant. Gene Maddaus had the news in "Cinerama Dome Returning With New Name. Plans For Two Bars and Restaurant." That new name thing, not significant at the moment, was what they called the operation on their license application: Cinerama Hollywood. See the new website: www.cinerama.com
Phone: 323-464-1478 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Owners: The Dome was a project of Pacific Theatres, Inc, a company that was
started by William R. 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. He had previously owned the land and would run the project for Pacific.
Forman's other adventure at the time was taking over Cinerama, Inc., a publicly traded company that once had been controlled by Stanley-Warner Theatres. In "L.A. Man Buys Cinerama Loan of $15 Million," a February 18, 1963 L.A. Times story, they noted that he had bought the indebtedness that had been held by Prudential Insurance. By December 1963 he had control of the company. Later it became a subsidiary of Pacific Theatres.
In 1968 Pacific acquired the southern California and Texas assets of Stanley-Warner Theatres, 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 and was built in just 16 weeks. It's composed of 316 pre-cast concrete panels, most of which are hexagonal, each weighing approximately 3,200 lbs.
The April 11, 1963 press conference held just before the groundbreaking. It was on the lot of the Muller Bros. service station that would become the site of the Dome. The demolition work was by the firm that had taken down many theatres, Cleveland Wrecking Co. Note that the drawings they displayed didn't reflect the latest design changes.
Thanks to long time Pacific Theatres projection supervisor John Sittig for sharing the photo from his collection. The signs on the table: Dick Shawn, Buddy Hackett, Arnold Picker (UA executive), Stanley Kramer, Hon. James Harvey Brown (city councilman).
drawing of the Dome and one version of the hotel that was supposed to
be part of the project. Here it's envisioned as being south of the
theatre. Image: Kevin Charbeneau collection
A November 7, 1963 ad for the theatre's opening film. Thanks to Michael Coate for sharing it 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.
Photos of the opening that appeared in the November 18, 1963 issue of Boxoffice. Thanks to Roland Lataille for reproducing the item on his Cinerama Dome page.
Other early runs at the Dome:
A September 14, 1990 ad for a 70mm reissue of "Ben-Hur." Thanks to Michael Coate for sharing the ad. The original 1959 roadshow run for the film had been at the Egyptian.
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 felt like an event.
A 2002 ad for "This is Cinerama" in the "Original Three Projector Presentation." Thanks to the site From Script To DVD for the ad. It's on their Cinerama Dome/ArcLight page.
While digital projection has been used
for regular runs at the Dome for years, the theatre still retains 35 and 70mm capability for special showings.
On April 12, 2021 the Decurion Corporation announced that they were not going to reopen any of its theatres using the Pacific Theatres and ArcLight brands. Their Vineland Drive-In was operating at the time but none of the indoor locations had tried reopening even as pandemic restrictions were easing. 300 screens were involved.
While Pacific/Decurion owns the land under the Dome, they evidently lease the property under the adjoining ArcLight complex. 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 discussed 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 asked "After ArcLight Cinemas' closure, what happens next?" Patt Morrison offered 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 called it the "Cinemara Dome." And it appears that Marcus Theatres was the only one to say publicly "bring it on, we're ready to talk." Thanks to Stephen Russo for spotting the story.
The Pacific Theatres Exhibition Corporation, part of the Forman empire, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on June 18 so that they could have protection while they liquidated their assets and paid creditors. This company, PTEC, does NOT have a stake in the Cinerama Dome or that ArcLight location -- that's separate and not affected. The plan was to sell off whatever is theirs: seats, projectors, popcorn machines, etc. at both company owned and leased locations.
Included was whatever equipment the landlords didn't claim at the leased ArcLight locations in Culver City, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, El Segundo, Pasadena, La Jolla, Chicago, Boston and the D.C. area. Also affected were the Pacific locations (some owned, some leased) in Lakewood, Northridge, Chatsworth (the Winnetka), Sherman Oaks (the 5 plex), City of Industry (Vineland D-I), the Grove, and Glendale (Americana at Brand). Deadline had the story: "Pacific Theatres Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy."
In Variety's June 18 story, also titled "Pacific Theatres Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy," they noted that creditors, including landlords and film studios, might get little or nothing:
"According to the bankruptcy filings, the six entities that filed for bankruptcy on Friday had $69 million in liabilities, and just $4.8 million in total assets. The only secured debt is a $6.4 million obligation to Bank of America, which means that all the unsecured creditors — including landlords, taxing authorities, former employees, vendors, various litigants, and gift card holders — will likely wind up with little or nothing. The unsecured creditors also include all the major film studios, along with many smaller distributors, who were still owed box office revenue when Pacific’s theaters closed last year. Disney is owed $1.26 million, followed by Warner Bros. ($779,000), Universal ($619,000), Paramount ($501,000), Sony ($389,000) and indie distributor Neon ($231,000). In sum, 25 distributors are owed $4.26 million."
Variety also discussed a transaction between two components of the Decurion Corporation:
"The Decurion Corporation — the parent company of Pacific Theatres — arranged a deal last November in which it kept the right to use the ArcLight and Pacific brand names at the ArcLight Hollywood and the Cinerama Dome — a strong indication that Decurion intends to reopen the location... According to the filing, Decurion paid Pacific Theatres $10.5 million to terminate its lease on the property. Pacific turned around and gave most of the money to Bank of America to pay down debt.
The Dome is seen in this shot that
appears during the opening credits of "The China Syndrome" (Columbia
Pictures, 1979). We're looking south along Vine St. Thanks to Jonathan
Raines for spotting the theatre in the film. Nope, we don't see it
again. The back of the Pantages can also be seen to the left of the
Capitol Records building. And, if you look closely, the Hollywood
Playhouse/Avalon is across the street at 1735 Vine. James
Bridges directed the story about safety cover-ups at a nuclear power
plant. Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas star. The
cinematography was by James Crabe.
We're in the parking lot behind the Dome in Wim Wenders film
"The State of Things" (Gray City, 1983). The director of a film that ran out of money while shooting in Portugal comes to
L.A. in search of his missing producer. Patrick Bauchau, Allen Garfield,
Samuel Fuller, Roger Corman and Isabelle Weingarten are among those featured. Henri Alekan was the cinematographer with Fred Murphy doing the L.A. portion. Thanks to Eric Schaefer for the screenshot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for views of the Nuart and Warner Hollywood from the film.
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.
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.
Don't miss the 15 minute 2019 epic "Cinerama Dome Projection Booth Visit Screening 'How the West Was Won.'" It's on You Tube. Also on the site are several shorts by Michael Cahill about film
historian Dave Strohmaier shooting new 3-strip Cinerama footage: "Cinerama 2012" Part 1 | Part 2
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