The Cinerama Dome Marks 50 Years
November 07, 2013 | by BY ERIKA THOMAS | Pursuits
Le tout Hollywood came out on November 7, 1963, for the premiere of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World on the Cinerama Dome’s big opening night.
Vintage posters, antique Cinerama projectors, and other motion picture memorabilia adorn the lobby as homage to the ArcLight Cinerama Dome’s last half-century. Permanently on display is the first prototype ever produced of the iconic building by the master of mid-century himself, architect Welton Becket, while a bevy of classic movies from the Dome’s heyday currently play in their original Cinerama splendor as part of the “ArcLight Presents” series.
Back in 1963, Tinseltown’s finest, such as Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, and Edie Adams, donned construction hats to help break ground. Built in just four months—and eight times more expensive to construct than the proposed price—the swanky new theater on Sunset Boulevard became instantly recognizable on November 7, 1963, when it debuted Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which ran for a record-breaking 66 weeks.
The only geodesic dome movie theater in the world, Becket’s design was inspired by Buckminster Fuller—and the nation’s midcentury obsession with landing on the moon. Built to resemble a giant spacecraft, the Dome boasted futuristic floating stairways—a first for any movie theater at the time. Simultaneously projected images using three 35mm cameras were so cutting-edge, the Dome’s own original projector—the Norelco Universal—would win a Technical Academy Award in 1963, and is the only Cinerama projector ever to have won the honor.
“The kind of movie magic experienced here has never been duplicated since,” says John Sittig, retired director of projection & sound for ArcLight Cinemas, who now acts as a consultant. “This place brought an excitement to moviegoing you just don’t get anymore—except for when you come to see a Cinerama picture!”
photography courtesy of los angeles public library photo collection
Cover shoot: September 2014 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.