Pacific Theatre’s Cinerama Dome is a historic theater and just like ArcLight Cinemas, Hollywood must find a way to save this theater.
Hollywood is currently reeling from the latest loss due to the Covid-19 pandemic: the closure of ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres. Even though I don’t live in LA, I still feel the hurt from this closure. Outside of LA, a number of ArcLight locations are closing. In Chicago, this means two locations are closing. This makes four theaters in recent weeks. AMC recently closed the Navy Pier IMAX location. Cinemark said adieu to its Evanston multiplex, which also played indie films. There are a number of historic theaters in Hollywood and the surrounding area. The Cinerama Dome is certainly a landmark in and of itself.
It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World held its premiere as the very first film to ever play at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles on November 7, 1963. The film was the first to be filmed in the new 70mm, single strip Cinerama process. It’s one of my favorite comedies of all time. Because of this, I made sure to get a photo outside of the theater when I was in LA in January 2020 for the Critics Choice Awards. Because of timing, I didn’t get to attend a screening but I did walk into the ArcLight lobby and take in the costumes and props on display.
I value the theatrical experience but all of these closures mean that the fight for screens is just going to get harder as more chains decide they can’t survive the pandemic. Indie films are already fighting so much for our attention. Imagine how much harder this fight will be when you lose more screens. The blockbusters will always take up the majority of screens. This goes without saying. Nothing against streaming but there’s nothing like the shared communal experience of watching a movie on the big screen. Take away the assholes and it’s one of the best experiences out there.
I’m hopeful that the locations will soon get new operators. They’re valuable to the box office, especially the Sunset location for the ArcLight. Here in Chicago, I frequent AMC more than ArcLight but that’s not to take anything away from the latter. Every now and then, there are press or festival screenings at the ArcLight. The ArcLight is where I first met Henry Winkler is interview him about Barry. I cannot forget the first time I saw Game Night in 2018. That was an experience in and of itself! It’s where I attended a Q&A screening of Instant Family featuring Sean Anders in attendance. It’s played host to the JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival, which featured Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel. MLB.com draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo was in attendance for a Q&A.
I’m reminded of the Leonard Maltin quote in Going Attractions: The Story of the Movie Palace:
“I salute anybody and everybody that has a hand in saving these great theaters and finding a way to keep them alive. It’s not enough to save them–we have to keep them going somehow. You have to find a way to breathe life into them but it’s worth the effort. It’s really worth the effort because once you tear it down and you can’t rebuild it–once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Blockbusters cannot survive on streaming alone. This much is true. Some filmmakers might be making their films for streaming but not all of them. I really will not like it if my first viewing of Black Widow comes via streaming. It needs to be a theatrical experience! Before we know it, theatrical going will be back in full force. It may not be until 2022 but it will happen. Nobody truly knows what will happen but we can all hope.
Movies bond us. I would not be doing what I do if I didn’t love cinema. It’s not an understatement to say that we must find a way to save these theaters. We must save them! I don’t know what lies ahead in the future but it’ll be a sad day if the Cinerama Dome stays permanently closed.