This is an annoying, disturbing recent development. The Dome movie theater, a landmark in Pleasant Hill and in the history of East Bay cinemas, is going to be torn down to make way for a sporting goods store.
A CBS producer was at the CineArts theater Saturday afternoon, where I went to see the beautiful Helen Hunt-John Hawkes film The Sessions. “Oh shit,” I said. “It’s terrible news.” However, I didn’t say “shit” for the soundbite he asked me to give him for a possible broadcast on tonight’s nightly news.
It’s not as though the Dome hasn’t been living under threat of destruction for years. SyWest Development wants to modernize the southern half of the Crossroads Shopping Center by tearing down the geodesic domed-roof theater and putting in a 73,176-square-foot Dick’s Sporting Goods, the Contra Costa Times reports.
Do we really need another sporting goods store? And, will central Contra Costa residents lose their local art-house cinema, which always looks to me like it’s doing good business, packing in audiences. Over the past 10 years, plans by SkyWest — previously known as Syufy — to replace the Dome with a sleek new art-house cinema never went anywhere, especially after the recession hit.
Well, Pleasant Hill Councilman David Durant told the Times that the loss of the movie theater and the chance to revitalize that part of the shopping center will be good for the community. Really, David? I understanding wanting to fix up that part of the shopping center. It has a certain smell of decay and sadness about it — though not in the theater itself.
“It’s always sad to lose something iconic like the dome, but the real challenge for a lot of people to understand is that there’s no way to effectively to keep that theater operating,” Durant said. “I think it’s unfortunate, but to be candid about it, I think it’s a sacrifice we need to make for the overall benefit of the community.”
Back in 2009, I wrote that it would be great if the developer realized the retro ’60s cool value of the Dome and sought to preserve that, while, of course, fixing and cleaning up the lobby and interiors–and adding whatever modern movie technological innovations are needed.
The Dome is listed on the Cinema Treasures website and represents a certain era of grand technological experimentation in the art of filmmaking. The Dome auditorium opened in 1966 with a giant curved screen used to show films—generally big, sweeping epics—shot in a process known as Cinerama. This widescreen process worked by simultaneously projecting images from three synchronized 35 mm projectors onto a huge, deeply-curved screen. It was the first of a number of technological innovations introduced in the 1950s and 1960s to help Hollywood offer something to audiences that TV, the movie industry’s big competition, could not.
I’m pretty sure I saw my first movie at the Dome. It was The Sound of Music. Going to see this movie was a reward for getting through a week of preschool without crying and clinging to my mother. My older siblings took me to see it. Over the years, I remember going to see Jaws, The Godfather II, Apocalypse Now, and The Shining at the Dome. It was the theater in central Contra Costa to see the big screen epics.
But either it’s not economically feasible to preserve this community landmark or we have yet another developer in Contra Costa County — and city leadership — who lack imagination. Hence, we get another sporting goods franchise.