ArcLight Cinemas’ Cinerama Dome6360 W Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
The Cinerama Dome is one of the most unique and recognizable theatres in the world. In fact, when it opened in 1963, it was advertised as “the only theatre of its kind in the world.” The Dome was the first completely new theatre constructed in Hollywood since the Pantages opened on Hollywood Boulevard in 1931. The Cinerama Dome, as its name implies, was designed to showcase films in the wide screen Cinerama process.
The Cinerama Dome was the first of what was announced to be 300 domed theatres to be built around the world using Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome design. The theatre was designed by famed Los Angeles architect, Welton Becket. Other famous Becket designed buildings include the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the circular Capitol Records building in Hollywood, and the space age Theme Restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport.
Pacific Theatres founder, William R. Forman, announced the construction of the Cinerama Dome in July 1963 at a star studded ground breaking ceremony where Spencer Tracy, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Edie Adams, and Dorothy Provine donned hard hats, and with picks and shovels, began construction. Forman had committed to United Artists that the theatre would be ready for the November 7, 1963 world premiere of the first movie filmed in the new 70mm, single strip Cinerama process, Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World. Working around the clock, the entire construction spanned only 16 weeks. The Cinerama Dome is the only concrete geodesic dome in the world. The theatre is made up of 316 individual hexagonal and pentagonal shapes in 16 different sizes. Each of these pieces is approximately 12 feet across and weigh around 7,500 pounds. The theatre also has design elements such as a loge section with stadium seating, architecturally significant floating stairways, and at the time of its opening, the largest contoured motion picture screen in the world, measuring 32 feet high and 86 feet wide.
For the first 19 years of operation, the Cinerama Dome played films on a Los Angeles County exclusive basis, meaning that if a film was playing in The Dome, no other Los Angeles theatre could play it. The Cinerama Dome also played films on a “roadshow” or reserved seat basis, a program we continue today. The opening attraction, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World played at the Dome for a record 66 weeks. This was followed by other long-run engagements like The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), 43 weeks, Grand Prix (1966), 44 weeks, Camelot (1967), 51 weeks, Battle of the Bulge (1965), Ice Station Zebra (1968) and Paint Your Wagon (1969), all shown in 70mm and six-track stereophonic sound.
The Cinerama Dome continued to be a favorite venue for world premieres. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), The China Syndrome (1979), Back to the Future (1985), Yentl (1983) and many other films premiered at the Dome. The Dome also kept up with the changing technology of film presentation with one of the first Dolby noise reduction processors, 70mm Dolby stereo with the opening of Apocalypse Now (1979), and Cinema Digital Sound with the 70mm release of Terminator 2 (1992).
In 1999, Pacific Theatres announced a major construction project to surround the Cinerama Dome. ArcLight Cinema would be a new era state of the art multiplex theatre with 14 auditoriums designed to give their guests the opportunity to experience the transformative power of the movies. Not just another multiplex, but theatres designed to new standards, to play films the way they were meant to be seen, wall to wall screens, correct projection angles, formats from Academy Standard 1:33×1 to Scope 2:37×1, sound from mono to Dolby Digital 6 channel and SDDS 8 channel, reserved seating, a full service restaurant, gourmet choices at the snack bar including ArcLight signature caramel corn, a gift shop, and programming including classic retrospectives, film festivals, in addition to major first run films and Cinerama.
Until the opening of ArcLight Cinemas, the Cinerama Dome had never shown a film in the original three strip Cinerama process. By the time the Dome opened in 1963, the last two movies made in 3 strip Cinerama, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), and How the West Was Won had already opened and Hollywood had decided that a new “Ultra-Panavision” anamorphic 70mm process could replicate Cinerama’s 2:76×1 aspect ratio at a much smaller cost of both projection and exhibition.
Three vintage Cinerama projectors and sound dubbers were found backstage at the Cinerama Theatre in Honolulu. They were shipped to Hollywood, repaired and serviced and installed in the Cinerama Dome in time for the 50th Anniversary of the release of This Is Cinerama (1952). New prints were made for the original negatives of This Is Cinerama, and How the West Was Won and now play semi-annually. At its height of popularity, there were almost 300 theatres world-wide equipped to play Cinerama. Today, there are only three, The Seattle Cinerama, The National Museum of Television and Film in Bradford England, and Pacific’s Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.
HOW TO GET TO THE CINERAMA DOME, 6360 SUNSET BLVD.:
ON FOOT: Walk east on Hollywood Blvd. from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel one block. Then go south (right) on N. Highland Avenue for three blocks. Then turn east (left) on Sunset Blvd. and walk approxi- mately .6 of mile. The Cinerama Dome will be on your right. From the hotel, plan on approx. 25-30 min travel time by foot.
VIA METRO: Use the subway ($1.50 each way). Take the Red subway line at the Hollywood/Highland station, and head east one stop to the Hollywood/Vine station. Exit subway and go south on Vine Street for two blocks. Turn west (right) on Sunset Blvd. and walk 1.5 blocks. The Cinerama Dome will be on your left.