Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Cinerama Dome

My photo from across the street for the 2012 TCM Film Festival

Another grand movie theater is shuttering as a result of the pandemic.  The Arclight Cinerama Dome will be closed, as a part of the closing of all Arclight and Pacific Theaters. While the loss of the other theaters in their chains sting, the loss of the Cinerama Dome is particularly hurtful.

The Cinerama Dome opened November 7, 1963, as a venue specifically designed for widescreen Cinerama films.  Cinerama used three projectors to create an 86 foot wide image on the arced screen.  The screen begins to wrap around you and the resulting image cannot be recreated on our modern equivalents.  When they have tried, like in the Blu-Ray for How the West Was Won, the resulting image is shaped to resemble a smile.  That's the only way to preserve the whole picture.

When I wrote about the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, I talked about the special theaters I've been to.  The Cinerama Dome is up there.  I've had the great pleasure of seeing How the West Was Won and It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World there as part of TCM Film Festivals.  How the West Was Won had an interview with Debbie Reynolds before the film, and It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World had a panel with Marvin Kaplan, Karen Sharpe Kramer, Barrie Chase, and Mickey Rooney.  While those interviews definitely color the experience, there is no question that I have yet to experience a theater screen that immerses you in the film like the Cinerama experience.

We're fortunate that the building was declared a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument in 1998, but there is definitely something lost by not having films on display.  That's my fear in this pandemic recovery and how it has affected Hollywood - not that the megaplexes will not reopen, but that we will instead lose the small, the classic, the unique theaters that truly make the movie going experience magical.  I know the Royal here in nearby Danville has changed management due to the pandemic and has not yet announced a reopening date.

Hopefully we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm ready to light the lights and to share the theater experience again, both for live theater and for great film.  I'm ready for that communal experience that happens with a full theater and a great film.

I just hope we have unique and beautiful places to see them in once this is all done.

To the Cinerama Dome, may you soon return.

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