Over a year into a global pandemic, things were starting to look up for the entertainment industry. Studios were filming, theatres were opening, but then came some bad news. At least for cinephiles and filmmakers. It was announced that Decurion, the company that owns the ArcLight and Pacific theatre chains would not be reopening. The list of theatres that this affects includes the Cinerama Dome.
The Cinerama Dome, located on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood CA, opened in 1963 and was founded by the Pacific Theatre chain founder William R. Forman. It has been a beloved city landmark ever since. Often cited as a favorite venue for many filmmakers, such as Quentin Tarantino, who prominently featured the theatre in his latest film Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. The Dome housed one of the largest widescreen theatres and was one of the first screens capable of showing 70MM film, commonly known as IMAX film.
Now that studios are solidifying release dates and seeing success in the box office, such as with the most recent Godzilla vs. Kong, many theatre chains are finding ways to reopen safely for audiences’ around the country. Early this month, Decurion was aiming to have many of it’s Pacific and ArcLight theatres open in time for memorial day weekend, when COVID regulations are expected to allow theatres 100% capacity. Just a few short weeks later, Decurion has now announced their imminent closure: “The company does not have a viable way forward”. In a statement, they expressed their “deepest thanks” to the filmmakers and employees who were so dedicated to the theatre chain, and Cinerama Dome specifically. To put this in no uncertain terms, the city of LA is in mourning at the loss of this cultural landmark. As filmmaker, Rian Johnson put it in an email to the LA Times “There’s a reason every movie lover in L.A. is in mourning. If you lived in this town and loved movies, you’ve had life changing experiences in that complex.”
One thing the theatre chain was famous for was having a member of their staff address the audience before the start of the movie and explain proper theatre etiquette in a way that, was not only enjoyable, but showed their commitment to creating a pure movie going experience for the audience (something more chains should be adopting). For the last three films that Rian Johnson premiered, (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi & Knives Out) the filmmaker would dress up as an employee of the theatre and address the audience in the same manner.
The LA Times published an article where many filmmakers and actors wrote in to share their feelings about the closing of the iconic Hollywood theatre. Filmmakers such as Adam McKay wrote “If I’m being honest I think I’m in denial. I can’t imagine Hollywood without the ArcLight. I really can’t.” and actress Aubrey Plaza wrote “The closing of the ArcLight theater feels like a bad dream that I hope I wake up from.” Twitter has been flooded with memories from theatre goers as well, such as one woman who got engaged at the Cinerama Dome.
While this moment is sad, there could be hope on the horizon. The theatre industry is looking like it’ll bounce back from the pandemic, so the Cinerama Dome could play movies again. Since it’s such a landmark to the city, it’s likely a competitor chain will be interested in snatching up the theatre, or the city itself could step in and save at least just the Cinerama Dome.
Another possibility involves streaming companies. Amazon and Netflix have been looking to buy theatres for many years now. A few years back Amazon made a bid to buy The Landmark theatre based on Pico Blvd in LA. Just last year, Netflix closed a deal to purchase The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The upside to that is that it would save the Cinerama Dome, but the downside is that the theatre would only show movies produced by that streaming service. Which streaming service would even be interested is also a good question. Perhaps a studio could step in and run the theatre like the El Capitan for Disney.
The point is, it’s unlikely the Cinerama Dome is gone forever. The Pacific Theatre and ArcLight chains might be able to bounce back by scaling down the amount of theatres they have, which would mean they would probably keep the Cinerama Dome open. This is sad news to be sure, but is this the end of Hollywood’s most iconic theatre? Hopefully not.