Cinedome Theatres

3001 W. Chapman Avenue,
Orange, CA 92868

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TLSLOEWS on July 16, 2010 at 11:21 am

Sad photos of the demo.Nice theatre.

Richie_T on April 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm

More photos of the domes can be found here:
View link

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on July 15, 2009 at 9:52 am

Sadly these have been the only pictures I could scare up of this place. I don’t have any of the negatives of any of the photos online jut the original prints we scanned for Cinematour.

Having worked at Century’s corporate office I’ve always been fascinated with the evolution of all the dome theatres, especially those that started as singles and were added onto with additional domes throughout the years (Century Oakland, Century Reno, Cinedome Orange, Century Complex Sacramento, Century Salt Lake). Sadly there really isn’t much documentation or photos available on these locations.

Zubi on June 11, 2009 at 1:09 am

Scott Neff, I’d love to get an actual blow-up print of that 1993 exterior shot. Do you still have negatives or know who does? Also, do you have any pictures by chance that show the entire front—with both of the original 1969 domes, the ‘77 domes, and the three newest domes that were added in '92 (which is when I worked there). All of the pictures that I’ve seen online omit those additions or only show this once great 11-plex in varying stages of decline and demolition.

Dublinboyo on December 16, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Fond memories of this place. I saw “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” there in the summer of 1970. While traveling to visit relatives in Laguna Beach in the early 70’s I’d take the Santa Ana freeway and the Cinedome was one of the landmarks I’d pass that told me I was getting closer to the Laguna freeway/Laguna Canyon Road turn off.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 25, 2007 at 10:23 pm

The Orange Cinedome was another of the many Syufy theatres designed by the San Francisco architect Vincent G. Raney.

I notice that the link in the introductory section of this page no longer works, nor does the link added by papibear in his comment of October 13, 2003. Here’s a link to the “From Script to DVD” website page about the Cinedome, where a few photos are displayed.

kencmcintyre on June 25, 2007 at 9:08 pm

Here is a story about the demise of the Cinedome from the LA Times, dated 2/14/99:

Once upon a time, when Orange County was more about orange groves and less about urban sprawl, there was an oasis of culture and futuristic architecture out near “the Big A” (that reference alone to the former Anaheim Stadium should date me). Housed in twin, light-festooned domes were the coolest movie theaters anywhere outside Hollywood.

The Century Cinedome, adjacent to another forgotten landmark—the Orange Drive-In—was a creature from the ‘60s. When first built and opened, people traveled from all corners of the county to sit in big, comfortable seats, stare at huge projection screens and listen to the most advanced stereophonic sound system of the time.

Now it’s going the way of the wrecking ball.

Back in the ‘80s, before I became a county expatriate, I used to drive up the Santa Ana Freeway and wonder how long it would be before they’d tear the old place down. Now that they’ve boarded it up, I find myself mourning a bit for a place that was more than just a movie theater. It was a place where images—on the screens and on the theater grounds—were forever seared into my brain, leaving memories that will stay long after the buildings are demolished.

I think, in many ways, the life of the theater complex mirrored the growth and changes that have taken place in Orange County during the last three decades—more so than Anaheim Stadium/Edison International Field, Disneyland or any other man-made landmark in the area.

When the complex first opened in the ‘60s, Orange County was booming. While the region has never stopped, that decade was a heady time to be living in a semirural county. The aerospace industry was king. John F. Kennedy’s promise of man landing on the moon before the end of the decade was still fresh in our minds, and we all knew it was only a matter of time before space travel was going to be commonplace.

The domes, unlike the prefabricated boxes popping up across the plains and hills of Orange County, had a wild, “way-out,” spacey look to them. When you drove by, northbound on the freeway, the outrageous designs of “The Jetsons” didn’t seem so outrageous. For me, there could have been no other theater in which to first experience “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

During the ‘70s, the theater took on a new look. The county, with its ever-expanding population, was more than just a series of bedroom communities serving masters in Los Angeles. Orange County was becoming a place to be reckoned with in every sense, in particular economically. With all that came the malls, the entertainment centers and the many ways denizens could spend their leisure-time dollars. In an effort to capture some portion of the windfall, the folks who owned the Cinedome expanded their theaters. It was like the burgeoning city of Irvine: There was a limited amount of land, but by God they’d pack as many people into it as humanly possible.

As the ‘70s ended and the '80s rolled in, the Cinedome remained a cultural and societal landmark in Orange County. Everyone knew where the then-California Angels played baseball. Everyone knew where South Coast Plaza and the Orange Mall were located. And everyone, even if they hadn’t seen a movie there, at least knew where the domes were. Places like the Santa Ana Clubhouse and Skate Ranch, longtime havens for teenagers looking to meet others of the opposite sex or enjoy a cheap date, were already dead or dying.

The Cinedome, which seemed to offer an endless number of theaters under one roof, was also a great place to head to with friends. On any given (dateless) Friday or Saturday night, groups of friends would look for every which way to sneak in. For as many theaters as there were in the complex, there were twice as many backdoors. And if all else failed and you actually paid for a ticket, you were sure to catch at least two more movies (for free) showing elsewhere at what many came to call “Sneak-a-Dome.”

Now, 30 years after it opened its doors, the Cinedome is the victim of change. Its owners, the Century Theatre chain, built another complex nearby that has all the bells and whistles movie audiences expect these days. The Cinedome, which really began showing its age 20 years ago, is now in its death spiral. It’s going the way the orange groves have, the way the Orange County International Raceway did and the way the Tustin and El Toro Marine bases will.

I suspect when the company charged with demolishing the Cinedome finally trucks away the rubble, there won’t be a lot of wailing from most people—even those who have a special place in their heart for the once ultramodern-looking marvel. Like the Cinedome, the flame of Orange County’s existence has been fueled by change.

Dystopia1980 on June 13, 2007 at 12:02 pm

My first ever job was at the Cinedomes. I was a Junior at Garden Grove High School back in 1997 when I started there. Seriously, it was one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.

There were so many awesome memories in the 1.5 years I worked there. I got my hands on so much movie memorabilia, such as rare posters for American History X, soundtracks, buttons, movie trailers, you name it.

Most would be surprised to know that there was a hole drilled in the usher’s closet going into the women’s bathroom! LOL, when I worked there, the closet was so packed that you could not even get close to it, I’m thinking it was made WAY back in the early years of the theater.

The ushers would play hot dog baseball while cleaning theaters. We’d wad up the foil hotdog wrappers and pitch them to each other and we’d try to smack them with our brooms into the projection window. I recall I made it once! Then there were the “haunting” stories. In big dome #2, a girl had died by falling over the balcony and breaking her neck. Whenever I’d clean the theater alone, I could hear strange noises. I’d get freaked sometimes. Also, an employee died while changing the front marquee when his harness broke. That’s why they removed the marquee in the later years while I was there.

When the 25 opened, half the employees transferred there. I chose to stay at the domes, since I liked the atmosphere and it was just cooler overall. When we became second run, lots of weirdos started showing up, but the job was even more fun. One of the head managers had actual old film prints that he had collected, and Halloween of 98 we did old horror film screenings for films like Alien, The Omen, and a few others. I got promoted to assistant manager, then a week later the theater was kaput and we were all transferred to the Stadium 25. I worked the Stadium for about 6 months, but it was just horrible compared to the Dome experience. I ended up quitting. I still have my vest, name badge, and usher cleaning schedules as mementos of my time at the Cinedomes. John who was the assistant manager there took 2 rows of seats and parts of the screen for his garage theater, and with the stuff Captain Blood has, parts of the Dome will at least live on in a way.

Century truly was stupid to demolish the theater. What I heard was that the 25 doesn’t even do close to the business the Domes used to pull in. When we were second run and on the verge of closing, countless customers would tell us how much the theater meant to them and how they wished it would stay open. The theater was a landmark in a way, and I’m sure if it were still around it would be giving the AMC 30 at the Block a run for the money, especially with the new widened underpass they built which would have allowed even easier access to the Cinedomes from the freeways.

RIP Cinedome 11, there will always be a place in my heart for you!

Senorsock on November 28, 2005 at 1:25 pm

76 of the red Cinedome seats live on at the Lincoln Stegman Theatre in North Hollywood. They were recently rescued out of storage and will be installed in this live venue for 2006. The cupholders are clearly marked Cinedome.

moviebluedog on August 9, 2005 at 9:49 pm

Paul Carroll wrote: I saw Return of the Jedi on opening day when I was 15 in Dome #1. the far left speaker distorted like mad, three years later when I started to work there the problem was still there.

Thanks for the memories of Cinedome! :) I saw Jedi in July of 1983 when the 2nd 70mm print had moved to theatre #2 (the long rectangular auditorium). This was disappointing to me and my family, because we wanted to see the film in the dome. I asked an usher when the next show was, and he said not for another hour. So we ended up seeing “Jedi” in the smaller theatre with the flat screen. But the presentation was still spectacular, though my mom complained about the pre-popped Cinedome popcorn tasting bad. I remember complaining why anyone would want to see “Staying Alive” in 70mm in the other large dome!

I’ve seen a number of films in dome #1 (a.k.a. “20”) and don’t recall any speaker problems on stereo films. Most of the films I saw in #1 were 35mm stereo prints. It seemed most of the 70mm prints I saw at Cinedome played in the other large dome.

Paul Carroll wrote: I was told that the wood beams that held up the domes were termite ridden.

Could’ve been. The domes were fairly cheaply built, but Century could’ve probably had them fixed for a LOT less than the cost of building the Stadium 25 on Katella. (Maintenance seems to an issue with most theatre chains, both past and present.)

Century did invest in upgrades and expansion to this theatre from the mid-‘70s through the early 1990s. I recall they changed the curtains in the main domes, and built a larger box office and facade on the front of the complex. They even freshened up the lobby and concession counters. So to me, it didn’t seem like a theatre that was neglected. Perhaps I went to screenings sans rats, termites and sticky floors. But I do recall some of the staff acting, quite frankly, like they didn’t want to be there. Theatres aren’t known for the best customer service, and Cinedome wasn’t immune.

Yes, I’ve heard of thrashed prints at Cinedome. But most of the time, especially with 70mm prints, they were presented in pristine condition—though there were two that I recall being “bad.” “Star Trek V: The Really Bad One” and “True Lies” both had a soft focus in the center of the picture.

Other fond memories of Cinedome for me:

-Paying to see “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” in 70mm, sneaking into see “Cannonball Run,” then getting seriously busted by my parents for doing so.

-Trying to watch “Legend” while my girlfriend had other things in mind.

-Waiting for “Fatal Attraction” to start when someone brought out a beachball and it was tossed around the dome. As for the film? Once Glenn Close came roaring out of the bathtub, the whole audience of 860+ people jumped out of their seats. Scared the Hot Tamales out of everyone.

-Seeing both “The Black Hole” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and being introduced to the idea of an overture.

-Even a movie like “Days Of Thunder” was entertaining on the big, curved screen of the dome.

Many, many other memories persist in my mind. Too bad most of these new megaplexes don’t seem to create the memories I had at the Cinedome. Just not the same.

beatlequigon on August 4, 2005 at 11:00 pm

Way Back When – (1987) I was a film student out of work and in debt. I got a job at the cinedome because I needed a job fast and thought hey! Free movies! I quickly made friends with the assistant managers running the movies and got promoted to “assistiant manager” ( glorified non-union projectionist ). I ran the movies because almost nobody else wanted to, and the union projectionists had been locked out years ago. I learned movie projection there THE HARD WAY, the equipment was poorly maintained and films were often breaking, burning, center wrapping, scratching, you name it. Myself and maybe three or four other people who worked there at the time actually gave a damn about the film presentation, the rest just ran the snack bar and counted the box & video game money.
Stiky floors? yes.
Rats? Yes.
(though to this day I have yet to work in a movie theatre that did not have SOME level of rodent problem at one time or another)

Iffy film presentation? Yes.

Best Moments – ReRelease of Lawrence of Arabia – Myself and others Really took care of that print. – U2 rattle & Hum in the big dome = Rockin Party!
Girfriends in the projection booth.
Getting Drunk on top of the domes watching fireworks on the 4th of july.
Roger Rabbit.
Tango & Cash ( Stallone Movie ) in the big dome and the curtain motor broke, I had to step out into the audience with the chain around my arm, with every few feet I pulled, the curtain opened a little more – the mostly male audience was chanting – PULL! PULL!
Any of the many 3am “friend” screenings.

Worst moment – Riot after the movie “The Doors” broke ( though I had transfered to the Stadium drive in by that time).

Any movie sliding off the platters, it happened often.

Switching theatres was generally tolerated. Sneaking in was not. We had buzzers in the lobby that went off when exit doors were opened, it was a macho thing to catch sneakers.

I saw Return of the Jedi on opening day when I was 15 in Dome #1. the far left speaker distorted like mad, three years later when I started to work there the problem was still there.

I was told that the wood beams that held up the domes were termite ridden.

Eventually I transferred to the Stadium drive in ( Politics! ) and then I became a union projectionist and worked at Various Edwards Cinemas.

I have some fond memories of the place, & some bad.

It WAS a nice theatre, in its later years it really got neglected. Too Bad captain Blood couldnt buy it, he probably would have fixed it.

Paul Carroll

moviebluedog on July 29, 2005 at 7:12 am

The Cinedome was actually busy until its last few days of operation. If memory serves, “Titanic” played on two screens for a considerable amount of time in second-run when the Cinedome was turned into a discount house. That’s pretty impressive for a theatre with the high seating capacity the Cinedome was known for.

The last show I saw there was “Men In Black” (1997). In the lobby, there was an artist conceptional drawing of the new Century 25 going up on Katella Avenue. I knew, at that point, that the Cinedome’s days were numbered. The theatre closed down in early 1999 after nearly 30-years of operation.

Michael Coate is correct that the Century 25 opened earlier than November 1998. :) I recall seeing “Anastasia” there in Christmas of 1997. One of my experiences with this new theater was my family wanted to see “Flubber,” but all four or five screens were sold-out! That didn’t seem to happen at the Cinedome, where seating capacity was high.

Indeed, there were numerous Friday and Saturday nights in which the theatre parking lot was full. I’ve fought to find parking many times there, but usually the experience of seeing films here outweighed the parking problems. I always wondered why Syufy/Century (which are one in the same) didn’t buy extra property around them to expand not only parking—-but the number of screens. I’m sure they certainly made enough money on this complex to justify expansion on that lot. The Cinedome was very popular. I can recall numerous times waiting in long lines in the parking lot for a showing of the popular movies of the day. “Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom.” “True Lies.” “Fatal Attraction.” And for a number of years, the Cinedome usually got 70mm prints of the big films, much like its competitor, Edwards Newport Cinema (a.k.a. “Big Newport.”)

I don’t recall the Cinedome having sticky floors. The theatre was usually kept up better than many other houses I’d been to in the area, including the dreadful AMC Orange Mall 6. I think where I began seeing a decline in showmanship was when the theatre showed vacation slides of Europe and local advertisements. One of the nice things about this theatre for years is that it didn’t show slideshow ads. I often felt like I was going to the movies, not watching television or a relative’s travel slides.

But when the theatre showed big event films, it excelled in presentation. I recall seeing the final “Star Trek” (original series) film in 1991, and they played the “Star Trek” theme as an overture. I also remember those curtains opening up to their very wide screens in the large domes. Talk about an experience. Almost everyone I’ve heard talk about the Cinedome has kind things to say about it. No, it wasn’t perfect. But overall, it was a great place to see movies.

Indeed, a major apartment development is going up, but next door where a hotel and restaurant used to stand. The Cinedome’s lot, at least for now, is vacant. It’s really quite sad to think that Century tore down this theatre. All we have now are The Block of Orange, which is seemingly always crowded, and the Century 25.

Coate on July 17, 2005 at 4:51 am

The nearby Century 25 opened earlier than November 1998, as claimed in the post above. I saw several movies at the Century 25 — “As Good As It Gets,” “The Replacement Killers,” “The Man In The Iron Mask,” “Lost In Space,” “Lethal Weapon 4,” “Small Soldiers” — all of which were released prior to the fall of ‘98.

It’s a shame Century saw fit to close up the Cinedome. I had great moviegoing experiences there, too numerous to count. And I’ll take the stadium seating of the two big domes over each of the tiny 25 screens at the new complex any day. (And don’t you love how “stadium seating” is thought by many to be some recent innovation. The Cinedome had ‘em, dating all the way back to its 1969 opening.)

bigdrummer on June 1, 2005 at 2:34 pm

I too grew up in Orange and the only place to watch a movie was the Cinedome! True I have great memories of the old Villa Theater, now Captian Bloods and the Orange Mall 6 (remember the day), but Cinedome will reign Supreme for all time. Yes, Empire Strikes Back and all the rest, I am truely sad of it’s demise. I checked out the demolition pics on another site and literally held back tears thinking of all the good old Orange High school days and going on dates to the Cinedome. For all you true Cinedome fans you’ll always have a place in my heart for your heartfelt love for the Domes.

Wayne Shores
Orange Ca.

DenizMichael on July 14, 2004 at 5:02 am

I saw hundreds of movies here, by way of buying a ticket for one movie and watching every damn movie that was showing.

Thank you Cinedome for turning a blind eye.

I owe my career in film to you.

Deniz Michael

toddwrtr on April 16, 2004 at 4:44 pm

This may have been a great theater back in the 70s, but by the late 80s and 90s this place was a dive. Unless you saw a movie on opening day, and it was the first screening, then the print would quickly deteriorate. Yes, the two main Domes were nice, but the majority of the other screens at this theater cropped the projected image to 2:1, regardless if it was 2.35:1 or 1.85:1.

jiminomaha on April 8, 2004 at 7:27 pm

I lived in Southern California for 25 years beginning in1970. I loved the Orange Cinedome. I was actually surprised to learn that the theatre had been torn down. What a loss. I knew that if I really wanted to experience a movie not just watch it, I needed to go to the Cinedome. The large capacity of the theatres, the sound system and the large screens all contributed to an awesome viewing experience. One of my finest memories was watching the premiere showing of Return of the Jedi. The small, tight multiplex theatres of today just don’t compare to the Cinedome. I am visiting California this summer and I hoped to see a movie at the Cinedome. To my dismay I found out that the theatre no longer exists. Obviously some people considered the Cinedome to be a relic of the past.

jigsta212 on April 8, 2004 at 8:09 am

oh yeah-p.effin-s. who cares abouth the sticky floors-i remember them too-trust me young one-that can be corrected-lol-as well as the screen projections-besides-in the future all those anomalies will also be unflawed-the cinedome will resurrect! into perfection! and no other theatre will be its master-learn now megaplexes-your successes will be short lived!-and the movie going experience will once again be the domain of the movie goer and thier dollar!!!!!!!

jigsta212 on April 8, 2004 at 8:04 am

The HELL? I was born in 1982, thus i’m 22-Since i was a kid-I have loved not a single multiplex-not a single theatre as much as i dearly beloved the Century Cinedome theatres! I was so impressed with the Big Domes-No other screen (excluding imax of course) has ever made me feel more involved nor has any other sound system been more enthralling as the cinedome provided-The BigDomes are simply untouched and sacred until one day I myself will buy the rights (or do it all on my own) and make that theatre come back to life!!! It was the Century Cinedome that inspired me since i was a damn child to become one of the world’s greatest film directors in that,-it is the sensation-the experience-the awesome power that movies have as far as they are played correctly-on a giant screen-with superior enveloping sound-and by far, the world’s greatest audiences i have ever had the pleasure of being a part of-I cried the day that theatre went down and vowed my avengeance to the cinedome!!!! Soon enough—-my fellow cinedome admirers-where we saw id4-jurassic park-all the greats in our youth and of wise age-IF NOT-then what the hell is the point of the film industry?!!!! By God-(like christ) I shall live to see the day when the cinedome and the true movie going experience is RESURRECTED!!! not these teenie bopper b.s. megaplexes with weak sound and bass-BOOOOO-the true directors are being jipped!!!!! Are You with ME? – P.S. I Am A Good Natured Self-Proclaimed Genius- :=) a true director-a true lover of the true movie going experience-AND, i never knew that about you Capt. Blood-i should have shaken your hand everytime i saw you-and i do applaud the remminants you’ve obtained and tresured at your very cool theatre-by and by-i have not visited your place in a few years-do you still play movies in ultra stereo-or have you upgraded?-oh—:) i also have a few trinkets my self from the cinedome-it is actually displayed in my livingroom-in honor-in remembrance-the future shall see the light-the light that befell the smiling awe stricken face of a young child——

toddwrtr on February 19, 2004 at 5:51 pm

I used to hate this theater, and was more than happy to evaluate it on many occassions for Lucasfilm’s Theater Alignment Program (TAP). The floors were always sticky, the prints trashed within a matter of days (they even incinerated a 70mm print of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on opening day). Although the domes were nice, most of the other auditoriums that were added over the years severely cropped the projected image to 2:1.

CaptainBlood on December 30, 2003 at 7:02 am

I grew up in this theatre. Boy was it great on a opening night.
Empire Stikes back just after midnight, Raiders of the lost arc, Walter Hills Streets of fire, The helicopters and Jim Morrison in F.F.C. Appocolips Now. Remember the credits were handed out in the lobby. There was none on the film. I still have mine.
I have film of the giant crowds, Exit polls for my favorite films. I also have film of the domes coming down, very sad day. Especially since I offered to keep it open as one of my theatres. I built a theatre just 4.6 miles away that basically is a tribute to the domes. Captain Bloods Village Theatre in Orange Ca. 714-808-0400 Go find the suviners I grab and placed all over my theatre. You’ll have to search for them but they are there. So are treasures from 7 other theatres that closed in Orange County over the last ten years.
See ya and enjoy the show, Captain Blood.

RandyHenderson on October 14, 2003 at 7:43 am

I remember seeing many films at this theater in the early to mid-70’s, including “Chinatown” and “Funny Lady.” The management tried to pull a fast one by breaking “Chinatown” in the middle for an intermission it otherwise would not have had, presumably to see more popcorn and JuJuBees. I think Pacific Theaters stopped them from doing this.

Manwithnoname on October 14, 2003 at 5:54 am

“This is Cinerama” played here in a 70mm single lens format.

papibear on October 13, 2003 at 2:46 pm

Address for the Cinedome site is 3001 W. Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92868