Pacific’s Cinerama Dome…Where Movie-going is an Event
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The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: John Sittig, Hollywood, USA.
anniversary of the Cinerama Dome, November 2018. Picture by Harrison Engle
The first generation of Cinerama Theatres were converted movie palaces like
the Warner Theatre in New York, The Music Hall in Detroit, The Palace in
Chicago, The Empire in
Paris and the Casino
in London. Massive renovation costs were necessary to fit the giant
curved Cinerama screen into the auditorium, removing the proscenium and side
wall boxes, installing three booths on the ground floor, and reducing the
seating capacity. In the 1950’s, there were less than 50 Cinerama theatres
Cinerama Theatre List
• Go to Pacific’s Cinerama Dome Gallery
By the end of the 1950’s the five Cinerama travel adventures had run their
course and theatres reverted back to standard 35mm presentations. In 1959,
Cinerama joined forces with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to produce 4 narrative, big
budget roadshow films in the Cinerama process. Soon, other studios like
United Artists, Warner Bros. and Paramount made similar production
For this new generation of Cinerama films, plans for new theatres were
announced. Cinerama made a 10 year exclusive arrangement with Buckminister
Fuller’s Geometrics Inc. to build 300 concrete domed theatres world-wide, as
well as conventional 4 walled theatres to play Cinerama. These theatres
would eliminate all the elaborate wall treatments of plaster and terra cota
that distracted the audiences in the movie palaces. Instead, the four walls
of the auditorium would be covered floor in ceiling with curtains and the
screen would also be floor to ceiling and wall to wall.
With the production costs and technical limitations, the 3 strip
photographic process was abandoned after the productions,
"WONDERFUL WORLD OR THE
BROTHERS GRIMM" and "HOW
THE WEST WAS WON". From then on,
Cinerama films would
be photographed in 65mm, single lens
Panavision and shown first on Cinerama screens in 70mm and 6 track
magnetic stereophonic sound and then move on to flat screen 70mm theatres
and eventually 35mm CinemaScope versions, neither of which would have a
Cinerama title card nor any notice of Cinerama in the advertising.
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Gallery: Pacific’s Cinerama Dome
Interview with Mr John Sittig of Arclight
- The Dome, Hollywood, Los Angeles
Cinerama Dome's Fall Cinerama
Cinerama Dome (Los Angeles,
USA) Celebrates Cinerama's 60th Anniversary
55th Anniversary of Hollywood's Historic CINERAMA Dome
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is Cinerama!
in70mm.com's Cinerama page
'63 announcement: Pacific’s Cinerama Theatre will open in 16 weeks, with the
world premiere of Stanley Kramer’s "IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD".
Picture: John Sittig's collection
In July of 1963, the first of the 300 domed theatres was announced in
Hollywood. It was announced that Pacific’s Cinerama Theatre, the first new
theatre in 30 years would open in 16 weeks, with the world premiere of
Stanley Kramer’s "IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD". Kramer, cast
members, theatre executives and United Artists representatives were all in
The construction process was supposed to be very simple and cost effective.
A regular 1000 seat four wall theatre would cost about $1,000,000 but a
domed theatre would only cost about $750,000. The dome is made up of 316
steel reinforced concrete hexagons and pentagons in 17 different sizes and
dimensions. After construction was complete, the 17 moulds would be moved to
the next location. The final cost, working 7 days and overtime to finish on
time for the premiere was $2.2 million dollars and the Cinerama Dome became
“the only theatre of it’s kind in the world!”.
The Cinerama Dome had a louvered screen measuring 30’ x 86’. The seating
capacity was 959 on two sections, a slopped floor in front of the cross
aisle and a stadium style loge section above the cross aisle. Seats were
American Seating style #21-210, gold in color to match the floor to ceiling
curtains. In the projection booth were three
Norelco 35/70 AA projectors in the center section of the semi-circular
booth and Ampex 6 channel magnetic sound system.
The World Premiere of "IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD" was November
7, 1963. It was covered live on the ABC Television network. All the biggest
stars in Hollywood attended the premiere. "MAD WORLD" became the
longest running engagement in the 55 year history of the Cinerama Dome
playing 66 weeks.
For the first 19 years, the Dome only played Los Angeles County exclusive
engagements, meaning that if a film was playing at the Dome, no other
theatre in Los Angeles County could play it. Only once the Dome engagement
ended were other theatres able to show that particular film.
Other long run films included THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, 42 weeks,
GRAND PRIX, 43 weeks, BATTLE OF THE BULGE, 27 weeks,
CAMELOT, 51 weeks, ICE STATION ZEBRA, 27 weeks, PAINT YOUR
WAGON, 35 weeks and SONG OF NORWAY, 35 weeks. In the non-roadshow
era, DELIVERANCE played 18 weeks, ROLLERBALL, 19 weeks, THE
WIZ, 20 weeks, WHO FRAMED RIOGER RABBIT, 19 weeks, and
TERMINATOR 2, 14 weeks.
advert for the World Premiere of "IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD", November
7, 1963. Advert from John Sittig's collection.
Click to see enlargement
A film often associated with the Dome,
"2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY"
opened at the Warner Hollywood Cinerama and played 84 weeks before moving
over to the Warner Beverly Hills for another 19 weeks. The Dome did not get
"2001" until 1974 on a re-issue but has played it at least 20 times
since including a 4 week 70mm
engagement in 2018.
In November of 1988, the Dome celebrated is 25th Anniversary with a two week
celebration featuring over 40 films that played at the Dome. Opening film
was "IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD". We played Stanley Kramer’s
personal 35mm 157 minute scope version of the film as the only print that
United Artists had was a flat pan and scan version. Kramer, Jonathan
Winters, and Stan Freberg among others were in attendance.
Over the last 50+ years the Cinerama Dome has continually upgraded
projection and sound to keep abreast of the latest innovations. In 1974,
Dolby Type A CP 100 installed. 1975, Quintaphonic stereo of Ken Russell’s
TOMMY, 1979, Dolby 6
track magnetic CP200 for
NOW. 1986, Dolby Spectral Recording Dolby SR. 1991
CDS 70mm Digital Sound for
TERMINATOR 2, 1992, Dolby Digital, SDDS Digital & DTS Digital. 2006,
Christie Digital projection for THE DA VINCI CODE. X-PAND active 3D
glasses for AVATAR, and now dual Christie dual 4K laser projectors.
When the Cinerama Dome closed in 2000 for a major renovation and the
construction of the adjacent ArcLight Cinemas three 1960’s vintage Century
Cinerama projectors and sound reproducer were installed so that for the
first time, we could play a real Cinerama film. The projectors came from the
Consolidated Cinerama Theatre on Oahu. New 3 strip prints were made of
"THIS IS CINERAMA"
and "HOW THE WEST WAS WON". These 3 strip films play occasionally at
projection equipment. Philips/Kinoton FP75E and Cinerama. Pictures by John
In 1996, a flat screen was placed in front of the curved Cinerama Screen and
a black fabric ceiling was stretched over the audience to simulate a flat
ceiling. This was done because director Alan Parker did not want his film
EVITA played on the curved screen for the exclusive Los Angeles
engagement. The flat screen was removed right after that engagement.
In 2012, The Cinerama Dome held the
60th Anniversary of
Cinerama Film Festival, “THE BIGGEST EVENT TO SOAR ACROSS THE CINERAMA
SCREEN IN 60 YEARS". All of The 3 strip Cinerama titles were shown,
either in 3 strip Cinerama or versions recently restored in 4K digital, plus
"2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY" and "IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD"
in 70mm Ultra-Panavision 70. A
new 28 minute 3 strip Cinerama short was shot in and around Los Angeles
and had it’s World Premiere during the festival. People came from all over
the world to see this once in a lifetime event.
The Cinerama Dome has been home to many World Premieres, Sneak Previews,
Research Screenings, Retrospectives, Film Festivals, and Promotional Events.
Below are just a few examples. One very unusual event was the McDonald’s
worldwide introduction of the ill-fated Arch DeLuxe sandwich, where the Dome
was turned into a giant hamburger.
For 55 years, The Pacific CINERAMA Theatre has been one of the most sought
out venues from the Hollywood studios that want their film to premiere and
play in the Dome. There have been complaints that the image is distorted
because of the curved screen, but the people that count, the ones who have
put down their money to see a film here have never complained. Outside of
IMAX, it is one of the largest conventional theatre screens in the United
States. The Cinerama Dome is also one of the most recognizable theatres in
the world, and thanks to the 14 screen ArcLight Cinema complex behind it, is
one of a handful of single screen theatres to survive in the 21st century.
As our newspaper ads used to read… “Pacific’s Cinerama Dome…Where
Movie-going is an Event”, and 55 years later, it still is.
Cinerama Dome Construction Facts
aerial view of the Cinerama Dome under construction
in the summer of 1963. The Dome is the circle in the top right corner of the
brown rectangle of property, at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Ivar Ave. in
Hollywood. Picture: John Sittig's Collection
Diameter of the Dome: 137 feet
Height of the Dome: 69 feet
Surface Area: 26,000 square feet
Weight of the Dome: 525 tons
Number of pre-cast panels: 316
Size of panels: 12’8” (maximum distance across panel)
Minimum distance across panel: 9’6”
Inner sphere radius of Dome: 70 feet
Cinerama Dome Seating Facts
number of seats:
Lower Level: 490
Upper Level: 439
Total 929 *)
Left Section: 147
Center Section: 196
Right Section: 147
Left Section: 122,
Center Section: 195
Right Section: 123
*) Shortly after opening Upper Left and Right Sections added a Row Z of 11
seats each, and a Lower Left and Right Row A of 4 seats each bringing the
total to 959.
Cinerama Dome 25th Anniversary, 1988
25th Anniversary, 1988. This is how the original was, i.e. with this blue
ink. Wow, just look at that array of titles they did, and a good amount of
70mm! A souvenir of a bygone day.
Paul Rayton's scan, February 2020
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