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For what it’s worth, this was an amazing movie theater. The large auditorium was where I saw the original Star Wars, too. The Dolby Stereo sound was so crisp that I literally jumped out of my seat probably five times before the film ended to audience applause. Very sharp 70mm (from a 35mm blow up) projection, even to my young eyes.
The large auditorium was somewhat similar to the Century City Plaza theater, if my memory serves. Kind of a wide body layout with a large screen and comfortable seats.
I saw “Dune” in 70mm there. I came back a few months later in 1985 to see a re-release of “Gremlins” and was surprised to see that the main auditorium had been divided into three screens. There were two very small auditoriums that were carved from the back end of the original auditorium. The main auditorium was still mostly intact, but you had to sit in the front rows to get a good view of the original big widescreen.
The other theater was also good sized, but it was longer and had a smaller screen. I recall seeing a pristine 70mm move-over print of “Empire of the Sun” and a pretty good sounding Dolby Digital print of “Batman Returns” in that auditorium.
Sad that the theater was torn down.
Here is a link to some old pictures of the City Center. The site page is ancient, but at least there are some photos of the theater.
Such a bummer. This was one of the last Edwards theaters still standing from the ‘80s. Charter Centre was a nice theater for a long time, even up until its closing. I went there twice in the last year and a half and both times, the theater was very busy. The theater was well maintained.
There was one pretty big auditorium which had 70mm capability on the right side as you walked into the lobby. On the left were at least two decent sized theaters. In the back of the complex were smaller theaters.
I’m bummed I didn’t take more photos before it closed. It lasted just a little bit longer than Cinedome in Orange.
The only theater that is still operating as a cinema from the ‘80s Edwards era, I believe, is Irvine University.
70mm presentations at Charter Centre:
Rocky IVAliensStakeOutGood Morning, VietnamIndiana Jones and the Last CrusadeDick TracyFar and Away
Films I saw at Charter Centre:
Full Metal Jacket
101 Dalmatians (1996 remake)
Romy and Michele’s Reunion
Bridge of Spies
This was absolutely one of my favorite theaters. The stadium section offered nearly perfect sight lines for movies on that massive screen.
I saw a lot of 70mm presentations there, my first being Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The 70mm presentations I saw were:
Close Encounters of the Third KindCocoonAliensThe Color of MoneyThe Untouchables
This theater was immensely popular and seemed to sell out the auditorium on most showings that I attended (35mm or 70mm). The presentation wasn’t always the best, but overall really good.
Richie T, awesome memories! I would like to clarify the 70mm prints, if I may. The Empire Strikes Back, Superman: The Movie, Poltergeist, and Aliens did play in 70mm engagements here. However, The Doors and Die Hard only played in 35mm here. They did play in the Westwood and Hollywood areas in 70mm.
I pass by the area where the theater once stood and it’s sad to see it gone.
Once again, my photos, however poor they are, have been taken and posted on this site without any credit or permission.
This is fantastic news! A lot of mid-century buildings, especially movie theaters, have been torn down for “progress” and parking lots. Thank goodness this has happened. Modern mid-century theaters have character that most of today’s theaters don’t have.
We lost the Cinedome in Orange, CA (very similar to the Century 21) back in 2000 for apartments. Going to the movies hasn’t been the same ever since then. When I went to the Century 21 back in 2000, it brought me back to the feeling that movies were an event. I’m glad it received historical status.
There are quite a few engagements and roadshow listings here:
There was indeed a motel next to the Cinedome. If you were driving into the theater’s parking lot, the motel would have been on the left side. A fence divided the motel and Cinedome properties. There was also a gas station on the right side of the Cinedome parking lot.
When the Cinedome closed down, the motel was vacated. Both the motel and Cinedome were demolished around the same time. Two new huge apartment complexes now fill the old properties. Hard to believe that one of the coolest movie theaters ever built was replaced by apartments.
I don’t recall the name of the restaurant. It had gone through a number of names over the years.
Information on 70mm film presentations at this theater can be found at:
You can search 70mm engagements by year. Thanks.
Do you know if the Harbor Twin was actually equipped with 70mm projection?
I can’t understand why Edwards/Regal, now Regency, hasn’t chosen this theatre to keep it open as an art house. Theatre III is much bigger than the South Coast Village and has a superior screen and sound system (at least when it was open.) It has stadium seating in the upper level of the auditorium and very good sightlines. If someone did re-open this theatre, they could do very well with art house product and revivals.
The original South Coast Plaza theatre (the twinned version) was supposedly very nice when it was a single screen. Very similar to many of the NGC theatres built in the 1960s. I’ve only been to it as a twin. I loved the lobby, but seeing movies in the twin was like seeing a movie in a bowling alley.
There is a brief history of the theatres, as well as a photo gallery, on the link above.
May 25th! A “holiday” for “Star Wars” fans. A classic day.
I can’t believe it’s been 30 years since this wonder of a movie came out. I consider myself lucky to have grown up in an age where I experienced it for the first time in a theatre. I was about 9 years-old when it came out. I can’t recall if I saw it before my birthday, which is in June, or not.
I must’ve been in the last days of school when my fellow classmates started talking about this movie called “Star Wars.” It had some giant bear-like creature named Chewbacca, a girl with “snail-like” hair and these amazing “light sabers.” I had to see this film.
My parents took me to one of the few venues that showed a 70mm print at the time, the long gone Plitt City Center in Orange, CA. Beautiful twin modern theatre located behind the old City Mall.
I can remember sitting in the front seat of my dad’s company car, a Ford LTD, while he drove. There used to be a very tall bridge that went over Interstate 5, and you could take it to get to the City Mall. As we were crossing the bridge, a news anchor on KNX-AM said that “Star Wars” was breaking all box office records. I pleaded with my dad to drive faster so we could get to the theatre. My mom said, “We might not be able to get in if it’s that popular.” My heart sunk.
We managed to get to the City Center. There was no one around the lobby or box office as I recall. My dad bought three tickets and we went to the snack bar. I didn’t want anything. No popcorn. No candy. I wanted to get into the theatre!
Above the theatre doors, someone had made a sign that said “Star Wars,” but it was a homemade job made of glitter. Still, it was cool. We made our way into the auditorium.
It was packed.
The only seats we could find were in the front row, looking up at the enormous screen.
I don’t recall off-hand if the curtains parted, but when the “Star Wars” logo blasted onto the screen, I jumped out of my seat. The Dolby Stereo sound was loud and very impressive. I had never heard sound that clear, that loud, before. Then the ships roared over head, lasers flying across the screen in those few and very memorable cuts to establish the story. I was hooked and my eyes didn’t look away from that screen for the entire movie.
I had never seen a movie have such an affect on myself or an audience up until that point. Every scene that is now classic, from R2-D2 getting fried by Jawas, to the final explosion of the Death Star, got laughs and cheers. When the audience is taken into the Death Star’s trench for the first time, I can recall grabbing onto the edge of the arm rests. This was like being on a roller coaster ride. And when Luke destroyed the Death Star (and after that shot of the Millenium Falcon flying into help Luke), I swear it was like experiencing your team coming in and winning the game at the last second. 900 or so people in that audience cheered, clapped and hollered in triumphant relief.
For some reason, my parents would always stay for the credits, even on terrible movies. But this one was special. The end credit music by John Williams invited the audience to stay. If I recall, most of the audience did stay for the final credits, and when the lights came up, there was more applause.
I don’t think I stopped talking about the film for a year. I can remember during class, I’d try playing back the amazing beginning of the film in my mind. Weird kid, I know.
When the film was re-released, I’d beg my parents to take me to see it again. “You’ve already seen it.” I didn’t see it again until 1979 at the crummy Orange Mall 6…you know, the type of theatre with about 150 seats, a tiny screen, and mono sound. A friend of mine hadn’t seen it, so I convinced him to come with me. He wasn’t impressed. Even at 11 years-old, I realized why he didn’t like it: the presentation was a HUGE part of that movie.
Even though I didn’t run around in Star Wars pajamas or go to Star Wars conventions, it was and still is a big part of my life. I got into movies because of it….and way before kids that weren’t even born claim that SW was the reason why they wanted to make films!
It’s kind of sad, at least to me, that the movies have been re-worked, and that most of the great theatres I saw the SW trilogy (the good, original one) are now gone.
But those memories of seeing “Star Wars” for the first time in 70mm, in a great big theatre, are forever etched in my mind. And May 25th is special for another reason. My daughter was born on that day.
The links below include articles on the City Center, and a number of retrospective “Star Wars” articles.
Here are more details on certain engagements at the “Tenplex.”
It’s funny that a posting here mentioned that perhaps Steven Spielberg could save the theater. I was mentioning this to a friend of mine with the same idea this morning. Many of his films played at the National. He’s a huge movie buff. It would seem that he’d want to save this theater. There are very few around like it anymore. It far surpasses almost any other theatre out there for size and presentation quality.
It’s a wonderful idea to bring back the original Indiana Jones trilogy and have it play there. How about a Spielberg festival? Of course, first run movies would have to play there for the theatre to be viable (and not the dreary second hand titles the National’s been getting lately). This theatre has a glorious past and it’s a shame that it’s been pushed aside.
It’s not that Spielberg or anyone else is obligated to save the theatre. But it seems like the right thing to do. In fact, he wouldn’t even have to invest in it. He’s got enough clout to ask Paramount to revive the theater. It’s not in too bad of shape and it’s in great location. Talk about it being a premiere house again!
El Capitan in Hollywood is a single screen and does excellent business, and yet no one complains that it’s a relic and can’t compete with the megaplexes. And that theatre is much older than the National. So make the National an “in” spot to see movies again.
Too many classy and classic theatres have been lost since the mid-90s. We don’t need anymore megaplexes. Nearly every megaplex I’ve gone to looks like every other megaplex I’ve gone to. At least the National had its own magnificence. It’ll be missed unless someone takes it over.
A friend of mine says that the National is closing this week. It’s going to be gutted and turned into retail. Gotta love how the exhibition industry has made the moviegoing experience generic with megaplexes. Sure, some aren’t too bad like ArcLight, but you don’t see the quality and expansive presentation that the National had.
More pictures of the exterior and interior can be found at this website address:
This theatre was dreadful and typical of AMC’s 1970s fare. Tiny screens, tiny auditoriums, mostly mono sound, picture slide ads and terrible presentation. The seats were pretty uncomfortable. AMC spent very little time to design this theatre, and very little money to build it and it showed. It had no curtains over the screen, unlike the much more luxurious Cinedome on Chapman Avenue (also demolished). The staff, as I recall, seemed like they wanted to be somewhere else.
It’s hard to believe that AMC built so many of these similar theatres in the Southern California market and thrived with such mediocrity. I’m not sure if AMC pioneered the idea of slide show ads prior to a movie presentation, but even as a kid, I found these obtrusive to the movie experience.
It wasn’t until around 1987 that AMC took some planning, time and money and built some nicer theatres like the MainPlace and Century City 14.
The La Habra theatre, as I recall, was just as dreadful as the Orange Mall 6. There was another one in, I believe, Cerritos or Norwalk called the Alondra 6. I was a kid when these theatres were doing some good business (since they were usually very small, it was easy to pack the auditoriums on a Saturday night). At least in the case of Orange, there were two great alternatives in the Cinedome and City Center.
Still, the ‘ol Orange Mall 6 held some fond memories for me being a kid growing up in nearby Anaheim Hills. Since it was close and very inexpensive, most of our parents could drop us off there during a Saturday matinee. The theatre used to run some second run or return engagements of recent films like “Star Wars” and “Airplane,” and used to run most of the Disney releases/re-releases.
One of my friends hadn’t seen “Star Wars” yet, so he and I went to see it at Orange Mall 6 in 1979. He wasn’t impressed by the movie! Come to think of it, it didn’t have the same feeling as it did when I saw it at the Orange City Center Theatre. Bingo! We were watching “Star Wars” in a tiny, cramped theatre in 35mm mono sound. When I saw it in 1977, it was shown in 70mm Six Track Dolby Stereo. Talk about a difference in how one experiences a movie.
I saw a lot of the Disney re-issues here. And I think the first Dolby Stereo presentation I saw there was “The Karate Kid.” I recall being excited that this theatre finally had stereo sound. I’m not quite sure when AMC installed Dolby Stereo, but even after “Karate Kid,” they didn’t seem to run a lot of films in the format. By that time, I was going to the Cinedome much more often anyway.
Indeed, when the Orange Mall finally got renovated a few years ago, the Broadway dept. store was demolished, as was the Orange Mall 6.
I’ve only been to this theatre once and went to it by accident. My girlfriend and I decided to see “Dave” in 1993 and it was playing by our hotel. To my surprise, the theatre was very nice. The lobby was clean and the auditorium was huge. I’m estimating there were over 900 seats. I think there might have been a “maximum capacity” sign over the door as we went inside the auditorium and my jaw dropped when I saw the amount of seats. I had no idea how big this theatre was. We came at night and immediately went inside. I figured it was a small theatre.
Projection was clean and the sound wasn’t too bad. If I recall, there were curtains for presentation, but I don’t recall if they were closed before the movie started. The screen itself was pretty big, but I’m not sure how big.
I drove past it the next day on our way back home in Orange County. The Valley Circle was good sized. I think the outer wall was made of some type of flagstone, but I’m not sure off-hand. I have a print out from Motion Picture Herald somewhere in my files with pictures of it and seating numbers. It was equipped for 70mm projection.
Once again another ‘60s movie theatre has met with the wrecking ball. Sad. This was a good one.
I’m surprised this theatre wasn’t listed on Cinema Treasures a long time ago. It was one of four nearly identical theatres built by the Statewide theatre chain during the 1960s. There was one in Bakersfield (demolished), Anaheim (demolished), and San Bernardino (still standing as a audio/video store). Photos of the Anaheim and San Bernardino theatres can be seen here:
I wished I had the opportunity to go inside of the San Diego Cinema 21. In 1993, my girlfriend and I went on vacation to San Diego. We were bored one night and went to the movies at the Valley Circle to see “Dave.” What a beautiful theatre! Very big and it was still in great condition. The next day we were getting ready to leave when I noticed the Cinema 21 down the road. I quickly drove to it and happened to have my camera with me. Like a geeky kid, I was excited to discover this 1960s widescreen theatre. I took a few quick shots of it and it’s curved marquee. I wanted to go inside, even if it meant buying a ticket for “Super Mario Bros.” My girlfriend didn’t want to—-she thought the theatre was too rundown. I didn’t care! But I relented and we ended up driving away without going inside.
I thought the design was unique and fixed up, the theatre probably looked wonderful. A few years later, I drove past it and it had a new coat of paint on it and numerous lights. A church had moved in and it looked very nice. I was surprised to hear it was razed only a few years later. My girlfriend is now my wife and I still egg her on for not being a good sport for letting me see “Super Mario Bros.” there. :)
It’s so sad to know that another ‘60s-era theatre is now gone. Many of those theatres were very nice and a far cry from what we have today.
I can’t believe this theatre is now closed. I was just there to see a documentary on Syd Mead during the Dances With Films festival. There was a considerably large crowd there for most of the time I was there.
I was also at some of those 70mm screenings in 1990. What a great film festival. I saw that same “Blade Runner” print and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a movie theatre. Not only was it a neat surprise to hear that it was an alternate cut of the film, but the presentation was excellent. I also saw “Raiders,” “2001,” “The Wild Bunch,” and “Oklahoma!” in 70mm there. All were excellent prints, except for “The Wild Bunch” which terribly grainy and the 1995 restoration nearly looked the same.
What a sad loss with the Fairfax. It was kind of pain to get to coming from Orange County with the traffic. But it was a nice theatre.
Is the building still standing as of July 2006? Thanks.
Here’s an advance ad for the grand opening of the Raceway Cinema. View link
The address is listed as 1020 Old Country Road @ Roosevelt Raceway.
During the late-1980s, I went to many Edwards theatres. They usually did a pretty good job on presentation. The chain was one of the few in Orange County that actually ran title drapes before nearly every show (Syufy/Century did at the Orange Cinedome, until they began with the slide shows sometime in the 1980s). About the only thing that I didn’t care for at an Edwards was the Los Angeles Times commercial they’d run before the previews. But for the most part, I prefered seeing films at an Edwards over AMC or Mann theatres in Orange County.
In my opinion, when Edwards built the Irvine Spectrum theatres (which are very nice), they let the quality of their presentation and overall theatre cleanliness go down hill at other theatres. Town Center and Charter Centre were totally run down before they were closed, and it was a real shame to see them that way. Big Newport started showing signs of wear-and-tear before it was renovated. Still, I think as a grand theatre, it should not run the “2Twenty” and leave it as a grand place to see movies. Run it like the Grauman’s Chinese or Pacific’s El Capitan in Hollywood. Make it a class act once again.
Thanks Papibear for the nice compliment. Mike Coate, who is also co-owner of www.fromscripttodvd.com, is the other half of the research done on “70mm In….” He deserves a round of applause for his in-depth knowledge and editing expertise. :)
The “70mm In Orange County” project is really a labor of love, as you mentioned. It was an offshoot of the research we’d done on New York and Los Angeles 70mm engagements and theatres. I grew up in Orange County (before it was a catch phrase) and experienced going to most of these theatres. Mike and I thought it would be a good idea, while our memories were somewhat fresh, to catalog the them in print and with photos (if they were available). We’ll be adding some more new surprises to the OC section soon.
I saw “Die Hard” the first time at the South Coast Plaza Theatre III when it opened in Orange County. The print was a 35mm Dolby print. I remember loving the film, but being disappointed that I didn’t take the drive to Westwood to see it in 70mm. The 35mm print, in my opinion, didn’t have the “oomph” and excellent print quality of a 70mm print. (Fox, along with many other studios in 1988, wasn’t releasing a lot of widescreen or 70mm prints. It was a pretty dry year for movies). I was disappointed that OC didn’t get a print, but perhaps Fox didn’t have enough confidence in the film to release more 70mm prints.
I did, later that summer, take a drive to Westwood and saw it at the Avco. Wow! What a difference! This was the best 70mm presentation I had seen at that point in time. Even the best 70mm shows at the Cinedome, City Center or “Big” Newport couldn’t compare with the Avco. Awesome sound (THX, when it was done right and meant something to an audience), and a crisp 70mm print—-plus a packed house with 1100 people. Really spectacular! I could hear bullet casings dropping to the floor in some scenes (or a scene as I recall); the helicopter flying into Century City sounded like it was in the Avco auditorium. Too bad that the main auditorium was split in two in 1993. I guess GCC, like most theatre operators, didn’t learn a thing from the carvings from the 1970s.
I, too, saw “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” at South Coast “III.” What an experience. I remember the opening credits and jumping out of my seat when John Williams' score come crashing over the loudspeakers. And the mother ship’s loud, bassy response to the humans at the end of the film—again, jumped out of my seat. I’ve seen this film in 35mm DTS at the Cinerama Dome (and of course on a small television screen for many years) and it’s just not the same as that 70mm presentation I saw way back in 1977/early 1978.
Thanks for the memory update, Papibear! :)
Additional pictures of the Wescove can be found here: