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The Californian

Local arts theater closes its doors

Mohammed Syed, Staff Writer

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The cinematic memories of hundreds of East Bay residents came to an end last month.

CinéArts, also known as “The Dome Theater,” has long been a landmark in Pleasant Hill just off Interstate 680. The theater was built in 1966, and it had it’s last showing on April 22, when filmgoers were able to watch Stanley Kubrick’s classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Silicon Valley commercial real estate firm SyWest Development intends to “modernize” the Crossroads Shopping Center, where the Dome is located. A 73,176-square-foot Dick’s Sporting Goods is set to replace the half-century old theater.

The Dome is famous for showing art-house films. Although blockbuster hits such as “Argo” and “Lincoln” have enjoyed a feature run, so have thousands of indie films from across the globe.

The development plan of the new closing was pushed through the Contra Costa County Architectural Review Commission and the Pleasant Hill City Council.

At the time of the planning, an online petition grew. The petition was posted on change.org, and had already garnered more than 1,900 supporters.

According to a poll featured in the Pleasant Hill Patch, more than eighty percent of readers felt that the Dome should stay. But the majority of these people also felt that it was time for the theater to be remodeled.

Two Facebook groups had risen, both expressing love for the Dome. The “Save Independent Film and the CinéArts Dome in Pleasant Hill” page advocated for the preservation of the dome. “I Saw It At The Dome” featured posts by veteran moviegoers, who shared memories of movies that they saw at the theater.

The Contra Costa County Cinephiles Meetup, a local movie meetup group, strongly stood behind a banner of support for the Dome theater.

Cinephile Wendy Oschmann believed that the Dome should’ve been restored.

“The Dome is a familiar and comforting sight for 680 freeway drivers and folks stuck in the morning and afternoon traffic crawls,” said Oschmann. “It’s also a standout structure for area visitors, residents and shoppers. It gets noticed and remembered. Can you say that about any of the other buildings on that corridor? No.”

In the early 1970s, the historic Paramount Theater in Oakland faced a crisis similar to the Dome. Citizens of Oakland quickly took action, and approached city officials with the prospect of operating the theater for the city in the form of a non-profit organization. The theater has remained a non-profit to this day.

When the Pleasant Hill dome opened in 1966, it represented the new frontier of moviegoing. The stadium style theater had an enormous curved screen, and it was designed to accommodate the standard projection process used at the time. Although this process would later be updated, the “dome” stayed.

Junior Tyler Randall noted the distinct look of the Dome the first time he went there.

“It’s not like a movie theater you’ve ever been to,” Randall said.  “It feels like a completely different style.”

The Dome represented the passion of moviegoers across the Bay Area. Although it held many old memories for some, it also created more recent memories for others. Senior Danielle Warren perceived the Dome as a place where she could indulge in the world of cinema.

“It’s very tragic that it’s closing down, because they had the best indie movies and the theater always felt like the right place to be at,” said Warren.

The Dome was home to both passionate moviegoers and Bay Area cosmopolitans.  But the most passionate supporters remained to be those who grew up with the theater.

Jacob Hirsohn, a 2012 Cal High graduate and former movie critic for The Californian, had recently been directed to the Save the Dome petition by a friend. Hirsohn was very passionate about the Dome and did all he could to spread word about the petition.

“I am a filmmaker and the dome is one of the biggest reasons I chose that path,” said Hirsohn. “The movies I saw there shaped me as a person and an artist as much or more than anything in my life.”

Hirsohn also shared the technical aspect of why it is vital that the Dome remain standing.

“The dome is one of the interesting and unique things in the East Bay,” he said.  “The East Bay has become a region of California that people drive straight through to get to Berkeley, San Francisco or Napa. People have no reason to stop there. The dome grabs people’s attention. It’s impossible to drive by without being interested. It is truly a landmark of that area, and it’s extremely important.”

Senior Matt Hern also had a special place in his heart for the Dome. He went to watch “Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith,” when it first released in 2005.

“I think that I’ll miss driving down 680, and looking out at the Dome and thinking back to the great time I had watching ‘Star Wars’ at the theater,” Hern said.  “Places such as the Dome hold a special place in people’s hearts, and tearing it down would be neglecting the history of the building and the memories of all who have sat in it.”

Cal High English teacher Arlene Addison was a frequent visitor to the Dome. The first time she went there was 12 years ago, when she first moved out to the area.

“I remember the first time I was there, it reminded me of a fashion theater,” Addison said.  “Going to such a place was an otherworldly experience, because of the big dome that was perched on top of the theater.”

It seems that plans to push Dick’s Sporting Goods into the Dome’s place are on schedule. Nevertheless, indie and foreign films will still be within an arms reach.

In a letter from Cinemark regional manager Robert Harrison, patrons were notified that Cinemark had no power over the plans of the owner of the property where the Dome is located.  He also said the owner of the property was moving toward the direction of closing the theater down. In light of his bad news, Harrison also left a hopeful message for passionate moviegoers.

“If the Cine Arts theater does close, most, if not all, the ‘art’ films that we currently play at the Cine Arts will also be offered at one or both of these theaters,” wrote Harrison. “Cinemark has come to realize that there a lot of ‘art film’ lovers in the Diablo Valley and we will not let them down.”

It seems that patrons won’t have to venture off to far regions of the Bay Area to view movies they love after all.

There has been one last public hearings appeal called for the Dome Theater by the Save The Dome group next monday on May 6, at 7:30 pm, according to Pleasant Hill Patch. All persons interested will be heard.

Although it seems that the death of CineArts at Pleasant Hill could be close, there are thousands of citizens who are willing to unite and stand up for it. It is unclear what direction the city will take at this point, but one thing is clear: the Dome will never be forgotten.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Local arts theater closes its doors”

  1. Michael Wood on May 5th, 2013 7:30 am

    Great write-up, Mohammed! As a former Entertainment Editor of The Californian (1997-1998), I’m proud the paper has writers like you there today. I first went to The Dome in 1989 to see “Ghostbusters 2” and I now live in Concord, so this while issue has been on my mind since it began.

    Again, great article – and keep up the good work!

    Go, Grizzlies!!

  2. Marie Bauer on May 5th, 2013 5:50 pm

    It breaks my heart and makes me EXTREMELY sad to hear that the destruction of such a beloved icon as “The Dome” is slated for replacement by a sporting goods store! Oh please, people! Is it really necessary that we have anoooother sporting goods store? WAKE UP!!!
    You mean to tell me that Big 5, FootLocker, Lady FootLocker, Play It Again Sports, Sports Chalet, Metro Boardshop, Pleasant Hill Cyclery, Fleet Feet Sports, Sports Authority & REI, just in this area alone, are not enough sporting goods stores for all you folks??? OH PLEEEEEEASE!!!
    WAKE UP!!!! We DO NOT need a Dick’s sporting goods store. The ICON the Dome represents is the fabric of this great town of Pleasant Hill!!! Trust me. The 680 corridor will thank you for allowing them to see a beautiful architectural landmark everyday once she’s got a new paint job & a little sprucing up. That’s all that’s needed there. A little sprucing up for the old gal!!! LET’S SAVE HER!!! SHE DESERVES TO BE SAVED AND CARED FOR!!!!

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Local arts theater closes its doors