Century 21

3161 Olsen Drive,
San Jose, CA 95117

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The San Jose Century 21 was opened November 24, 1964, with the intention of using the 3-strip Cinerama process; but it actually only showed 70mm.

The screen was later replaced with a flat model, but has remained intact as a wonderful throwback to the domed Cinerama palaces of the 1960’s. It was closed March 30, 2014.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 49 comments)

boxcop on January 14, 2014 at 12:46 pm

On the issue of these theaters closing – With some serious funding from some serious supporters, the Century 21 could become a class act entertainment destination in the heart of the Silicon Valley once again. With some minor changes to the exterior, lobby and auditorium and a few major changes to the projection booth and screen, this theatre has the potential to be a first-run, 3D digital movie theatre, a one-of-a-kind single-screen IMAX venue and even a Cinerama-capable auditorium (as it was originally constructed to be) all in one. Just see what Paul Allen did for Seattle’s Cinerama Theatre and what the Pacific Theatre chain did for the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. The developers even built around that one and both sides won. The issue here is that we have wealthy corporate executives and we have dedicated, film-lovers who appreciate what these screens were in the past, what they are today and what they could be in the future. The problem that we face is that we do not have both qualities in the same person who is willing to swoop down and save the day, like Superman did for me in 1978 (another classic film I watched at these domes – technically across the street at Town & Country, which was still considered to be a part of the old “Block” Century Theatres complex).

Coate on January 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm

boxcop… At the time of the “Superman” engagement, the Dome Complex and the Town & Country were in competition with each other. The Domes were run by Syufy and the Town & Country was run by Mann. Syufy’s (aka Century) ownership of the Town & Country came years later. See my Still Believing A Man Can Fly article for a reference to Town & Country being a Mann operation in 1978/79 (and for a list of where else “Superman” played when it was new).

pina321 on March 3, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Sad to say, but the remaining domes—Century 21, 22, 23—will close after March 31. It is too bad, such great memories. I will really miss these wonderful theaters.

Horace_Austin on March 18, 2014 at 2:19 pm

The farewell screening at the Century 21 will be RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK on Sunday, March 30 at 7:20 pm. Appropriate given that RAIDERS opened at the Century 21 and 23 on June 12, 1981.

Zubi on April 1, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Like the 24 and the 25, the 21, 22, and 23 are now closed and may be soon demo’d. Sunday night’s finale at the original and never multiplexed 21, presided over by Shannon Guggenheim and the Retro Dome repertory company, was attended by representatives of the Syufy family, the media, and over a thousand patrons. Completely sold out, it was a festive send-off (the audience even clapped to the beat of the old 1990s Syufy/Century Theatres trailer). However, the new leaseholder and the property owners appear intransigent. So it looks like The Block-San Jose may soon join Coronet-San Francisco, National-Westwood, Cinedome-Orange, Cinema 21-San Diego, and countless other nice California theatres so that there can be more of what we already have too much of here in this state.

heytoddo on April 2, 2014 at 7:45 am

It breaks my heart to see these theatres go. I was born in the early 1960’s in Santa Cruz, but grew up in San Jose. This is what my mother recently wrote about Century 21: “When Century 21 was new it was like going to a live theater. The big screen, the large, comfortable seats, it was comfortable to be there. Things changed over the years, but I think they set the bar.”

In the early 1980’s, I would work for Syufy as an Assistant Manager at Century Almaden (five-house theatre at Blossom Hill Rd and Almaden Expressway) for first Ron Giffen and later Kevin Payton. One of my duties was to set-up the marquee sign, a dangerous job to reach the top sections from a ladder up on the platform that was fifteen feet off the ground — sometimes in the rain. But I loved threading the projectors on the big platters to the five old Cinemeccanica reel-to-reel projectors between showings throughout the day, or turn up the sound in the projection booth to listen and watch my favorite parts of some movies.

I would help out occasionally on the Big Block, mostly for Ron Giffen at Century 23 or Bill Tannehill at Century 21. I met Ray Syufy Sr. once when he came to Century Almaden to decide whether to split the center big house in two, but he never did. Sometime later while working the door at Century 23 a younger man walked up and said he was Ray Syufy and he wanted to see the manager. I chuckled, since I had already met Ray Syufy. I went to the office and told Ron Giffen some guy said he was Ray Syufy and wanted to see him. Ron exclaimed, “That could be Ray Syufy, Jr.!” I was mortified.

Just this weekend, on 30 May 2014, I took my two daughters (8 and 6 years old) to a special Retro Dome showing of Walt Disney’s “Finding Nemo” at Century 21, where they enjoyed the huge screen instead of a television monitor on DVD — they loved it!

It is like saying goodbye to an old friend.

SavetheDomes on June 13, 2014 at 2:18 am

There is a large preservation movement… The City of San Jose has just granted the Century 21 City Landmark status— it doesn’t remove the threat of demolition, but it makes it tougher to do. The National Register of Historic Places is determining whether or not it will be added to the register… the state can also do this.

We hope the developers of the property will see the value in a restored movie house, possibly with Stargazer’s from CO or a similar company.

PLEASE help us save the Century 21! Sign the petition, pass it along to all of your friends— there’s strength in numbers! If anyone has any Hollywood connections— please put them in contact with us! http://www.change.org/petitions/save-the-winchester-domes

or on Facebook :https://www.facebook.com/savedome

Coate on November 24, 2014 at 11:22 am

Happy 50th! The Century 21 opened this day in 1964.

To celebrate, here’s a list of the Century 21’s bookings during its first decade as researched from their original newspaper promotion.

1964-11-24 … IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (19 weeks)

1965-04-06 … MY FAIR LADY (33)

1966-06-15 … BATTLE OF THE BULGE (9)
1966-08-17 … DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (58)

1967-09-26 … GRAND PRIX (43)

1968-07-23 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (87)

Kevin_OKeeffe on August 13, 2016 at 7:24 pm

I saw so many films here over the course of literally five decades (from the early 1970s, through 2011)…probably the most “significant” would be the time in 1983, when my dad took me to see Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” during its 15th anniversary re-screening.

MSC77 on July 23, 2018 at 10:45 am

Fifty years ago today Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” opened its exclusive Silicon Valley roadshow run at Century 21. It ended up running 87 weeks, making it the longest, continuous run of the film in the United States (and second longest in the world just behind Toronto’s 127-weeker).

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