Once threatened with a plan that would have encased Hollywood's famous geodesic dome, instead a plan emerged in 1998 to showcase the dome and build new construction to the rear.
In 2021 the Cinerama Dome closed with plans currently underway to rehabilitate and reopen this legendary theatre.
Once threatened with a plan that would have encased Hollywood’s famous geodesic dome, instead a plan emerged in 1998 to showcase the dome and build new construction to the rear.
In 2021 the Cinerama Dome closed, prompting much concern about its future. A plan is currently underway to rehabilitate and reopen the theatre soon.
The Conservancy does not own or operate the Cinerama Dome. For any requests, please contact the Cinerama Dome directly at (323) 464-4226.
About This Place
About This Place
Few things symbolize Los Angeles better than a movie theatre, but there is not a single theatre in the city that can compare to the Cinerama Dome as an icon of modern architecture.
Designed by Welton Becket Associates in 1963, Cinerama Dome was inspired by Buckminster Fuller. The theater features as its centerpiece a geodesic dome of 316 interlocking concrete panels. The site of many Hollywood movie premieres, the Cinerama Dome has been described by the L.A. Times as “one of the finest theaters in America.” The Cinerama Dome was originally designed as a prototype to be used throughout the country to showcase the new Cinerama process, but only a few other Cinerama theatres were ever built. As a result, the Dome is a very rare example of a surviving, intact Cinerama theatre, retaining the curved screen that was required for the three-projector system.
It was also the first concrete geodesic dome in the world, built using Buckminster Fuller’s patented technique to bolt together over 300 pentagonal and hexagonal panels weighing as much as 3,200 pounds each.
The dome, reaching over seventy feet in height, is a highly visible Sunset Boulevard landmark on the outside and an incomparable cinematic environment on the inside. Its smooth curves and sweeping interior features highlight the organic side of modern design, evoking the arc of the night sky. Upon its completion, the Cinerama Dome joined other Becket buildings such as the Capitol Records Tower, the Beverly Hilton, and downtown’s Music Center of Los Angeles County as a forward-looking example of Los Angeles Modernism.
The theatre’s grand opening was the premiere of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which ran for sixty-six weeks. Strangely, no actual Cinerama films were projected in the theatre until 2002, when the Dome was restored to become the focal point of Arclight Cinemas. It continues to dazzle audiences on a daily basis, even showing Cinerama movies on special occasions.
On April 12, 2021, plans were announced to close the Arclight Cinemas and the Cinerama Dome. The Conservancy is monitoring the situation and will press for the re-opening of this Mid-Century landmark entertainment venue.
Saving the Cinerama Dome
A major victory of the Conservancy and its Modern Committee, the Cinerama Dome is the world’s first all-concrete geodesic dome and a unique Hollywood theatre. When saved, the Cinerama Dome was just thirty-five years old, far less than the average fifty-year threshold.
As word spread about the significant alterations the Friends of the Cinerama Dome formed as a grassroots force to save the historic theater. Together with the Conservancy, preservation groups advocated for the more sensitive infill seen today.
In 1998, the Cinerama Dome’s owners, Pacific Theaters, proposed a project that would have destroyed the theater’s existing plaza, box offices, and marquee, turned the lobby of the theater into a restaurant, excavated 15 feet from the front of the theater to build “stadium seating,” and removed the theater’s curved screen. The project’s proposed entertainment development also would have engulfed the existing dome on the exterior, making it virtually invisible from the street.
The Conservancy believed that this new proposal would not have met the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation. The Cinerama Dome debate highlighted some of the preservation challenges confronting Los Angeles’ more recent architectural past at the time. The Conservancy felt it was crucial not only to save this unique architectural resource and remarkable theater space, but also as an important test case for preservation in Hollywood.
With support from a number of organizations and individuals, by December of 1998, the Conservancy, joined by representatives of Hollywood Heritage and Friends of Cinerama, were shaking hands with Pacific Theaters through an agreement that preserved the historic elements of the theater — both exterior and interior. Pacific Theatres agreed to drop its earlier insistence on full stadium seating, a new flat screen, and major exterior and interior alterations.
Today, Pacific Theatres has redeveloped a special acoustic system just for the Cinerama, with 44 surround-sound speakers (previously 8). The theatre has also restored the deeply curved screen to its original shape and size.