OK, let’s get back in the car and turn around. We want to head south on Vine. Pull into this parking lot and we can make a left; you can’t make a u-turn at Yucca. There you go. Now keep going south and then hang a right on Sunset. Oh nice, there’s a spot open in front of the Bibibop. Let’s park and take a look at the subject of today’s installment of our study of the important architecture of Los Angeles, the Cinerama Dome.
Designed by Welton Beckett Associates, the same firm that built the Capitol Records Building that we visited last time, the Cinerama Dome was supposed to be the first of hundreds of movie theaters created to showcase the then-innovative Cinerama process. It opened for business on November 7, 1963, hosting the world premiere of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. While the Cinerama process never really took off, the Dome has been a beloved feature of Sunset Boulevard ever since.
The dome itself comprises 316 precast concrete panels (we’ll see a lot of precast concrete in Mid-Century architecture), and covers more than 800 seats and a 32′ by 86′ screen with a deep, 126 degree curve. It’s a spectacular place to see a movie, (Mrs. Maitland and I have made it a habit to catch new Star Wars films here), and being part of the Arclight chain, you can reserve a seat and don’t have to sit through any advertising or more than 4 or 5 trailers.
In the late 1990s, developers proposed a radical remodeling of the Dome as part of a new shopping, dining, and entertainment center. Fortunately, preservationists and cinema enthusiasts successfully lobbied Pacific Theaters to preserve and improve the Dme rather than destroy it, and, after a 2 year closure at the beginning of the century, the Cinerama Dome reopened with improved projection and acoustics, while keeping its distinct shape and character. Today, the Cinerama Dome is a literally unique destination movie-going experience.
Next time we meet, we’re going to take a look at an organization fighting to preserve the unique architectural treasures of Los Angeles. Until then, be safe and have fun posting!