Cinedome Theatres

3001 W. Chapman Avenue,
Orange, CA 92868

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Flix70 on April 24, 2017 at 10:06 am

Seeing Raiders @ the Cinedome was pretty memorable for me, too. My parents had divorced a few years earlier and my dad took me to see it that first Sunday of release. We rarely saw movies together (my mom and I generally went Saturdays) so it was kind of cool seeing a big action flick sitting next my old man.

Just a wonderful, enveloping cinematic experience from start to finish. I remember lifting my feet off the dark ground during the Well of the Souls sequence because I was freaked by all the snakes.

Easily one of my best memories of spending time with my dad.

Richie_T on April 2, 2017 at 5:57 pm

My one and only visit was so memorable… Raiders of the Lost Ark, summer 1981. We almost didn’t make it on time because a tanker truck jackknifed on the freeway and exploded. We literally took our seats as the Paramount logo appeared on screen. The vast dome was packed. My 8 year old brain experienced its first dose of cinematic bliss. What a ride! It was the last time our family of four saw a movie together. Divorce happened shortly thereafter.

3Dforlife on April 19, 2016 at 12:18 pm

I was the manager of the theater that started the last set of movies ever run at the Cinedome. The last movie (played to an audience) was “The Siege” and played in theater 11. As I was started each film I would recall each film I saw in each theater before starting the film. All the prints that night were being moved over to The New Century 25. If not I had to break them down (take them apart) and they were going over to the The Block (AMC) or back to the studio. I would run a film as background noise as I was working so the very last film EVER run at the Cinedome was the re-issue of “The Wizard of Oz.”

I have great fond memory’s of the theater. I was also the manager who did all of the promotions for the theater in it’s final years. Yes I was the one who ran the Star Wars Special Edition promotion and even “The 11 Screen’s Of Scream’s.” Which we ran classic horror film’s on the big screen like Alien, Alien’s, Creepshow, Dead Alive, Cujo, Christine and more in 1998.

Just can’t believe that theater I grew up with is gone. The theatres were all big… The smallest screen was almost the size of most Mid-sized theaters now (290 seats.) One of the reasons it closed was they needed to do about 3 million is repairs and to add two more theaters. But they opted to build the Century 25 theaters and the area around it for 25 million. It’s sad they didn’t keep the Domes.

Well I ended up with about 200 seats from the theater, the Phone “recording” machine that gave the showtimes, several things from the concession stand, a few poster frames and posters of “Welcome to the Cinedome Theaters” and many more items. DAMN I MISS THE THEATER!

vmoyneur on April 16, 2014 at 8:58 pm

I was there before demolition started. I was able to get inside to get the remaining equipment. Later on the Superintendent showed up gave him a hundred bucks and he helped me get the rest. Love this theatre when it was just 2 screens. My first movie experience there was Oliver. I also have lots of pictures of it during demolition.

dn6 on June 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I got to experience near the end-run of this awesome theatre during my college days. I remember on my days off or driving home from class, I would enter through the business complex in the back and park in the rear lot next to the dome where employees would park and leave/enter for their meal breaks. Occasionally, I could sneak into the theatre through the rear exit doors which were either left jarred open or the lock was still broken.

Some of my most favorite movies were seen during these times…Thelma & Louise, Terminator 2, People Under the Stairs, Star Trek VI…all of which were in 1991. Most of the movies I saw were during the same visit when one could still hop from screen to screen. The theatre more than made up for it from my constant visits to the concession stands and arcade games while waiting for the next feature to start. I truly miss this theatre. There will probably never be another one like it in OC thanks to the mega-scum small screen complexes that they keep building to please the masses and pack them in like sardines.

I, too, remember hearing the playful little blonde girl laughing and running around in the back of the theatre. She still haunts me to this day…

Bruce D
Bruce D on June 3, 2013 at 3:22 am

Miss this place….the two main theaters cannot be described…you really needed to experience it to understand how awesome those theaters were.

As a little kid I remember the first movie I saw there with my parents was Sounder and few year later Young Frankenstein. When I was old enough to drive I would drive from Long Beach to see movies there that I knew needed to be seen in a theater like this…Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Aliens, Jurassic Park…

Flix70 on May 24, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Good stories, Imissoldanaheim. I hear you, going to the movies just isn’t the same as when we were kids. The Cinedome, Big Newport, South Coast Plaza, they were palaces that made the great flicks even better. At least we have our memories.

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on May 20, 2013 at 10:16 am

I find that theatre hopping is a lot easier now. With 20-30 screens, just go in one side and lay low, nobody will bother you. With the smaller theatres, people would notice when you were there all day because there were only 10 employees vs. the 20-30 that a multiplex has now.

imissoldanaheim on May 17, 2013 at 11:33 pm

I actually tear up when I think of my beloved Cinedome. I went to Loara High and I have nothing but the fondest memories of my friends and I watching THE GREATEST movies there. There was a time when going to the movies was an EXPERIENCE. Every movie seemed packed which made going to the theater this really incredible shared experience. People cried, laughed, shrieked and clapped together. We seemed strangers going in and acquaintances coming out.

Does anyone remember seeing E.T. there? People were sitting in the isles so you couldn’t go to the bathroom!!!!!!! That’s not allowed anymore. Neither is “theater-skipping”. It was so easy to pay for one movie and see 6 if you wanted to. Nobody cared.

Some of the best times I had happened while I was waiting in the super long lines for a movie. When my friends and I were waiting to see Aliens, some guy next to us said he was hungry and was going to Burger King. He said he’d bring us back hamburgers and fries if we saved his place for him. Free Burger King and Aliens. It didn’t get anymore kick-ass than that! It also seemed like only cinephiles went to the Cinedome because everyone we talked always knew a lot about film and were just as passionate about going to the movies as I was.

After high school I went to Chapman College (now University) and would always catch a movie in between classes. I was in complete shock and overwhelmed with anger when I drove past the Cinedome and saw it boarded up. God, did that suck!

In an ironic twist, perhaps not so surprising, I later got an MFA in Film Production from Chapman. I was the first graduating class of the MFA program. I owe my love of film and career choice to the Cinedome. The theater-going experience for me now pales in comparison to what I had known in my youth but I feel lucky to have experienced it at all.

TustinMan53 on April 26, 2013 at 7:36 pm

You all missed the best movie to see ever at the Cinedome in 1969 which was 2001:a space oddysee. I was very dissapointed to see the Cinedome gone. I remember my dad taking me to see 2001 and the theater was packed. Then about a month later, I saw 2001 in the afternoon and there was only 3 people besides myself. Whats even more cool was the last movie I saw at the Cinedome. It was 2010. I love the little girl story. Just looking around in one of the Cinedome theaters while watching a movie was awesome at best.

moviebluedog on April 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm

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.

Flix70 on April 18, 2013 at 10:36 am

Can’t say I remember a hotel by the Cinedome. There’s been a Motel 6 across the street since as long as I can remember, along with a Dennys.

DepotBill on March 31, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Anyone remember the name of the restaurant that was right by the hotel near the Cinedome?

rivest266 on August 9, 2012 at 1:55 am

June 17th, 1969 grand opening ad has been uploaded in the photo section.

CharlieC on March 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm

I would like to add a very strange experience that happened to me when I worked briefly at this theater that still haunts me to this day when I think about it. When the Century 25 opened up I was about 17 and I applied for a job there. Circumstances happened where I had to be transferred briefly to the Cinedome while the situation died down. The Cinedome was in it’s last days when I was working there and business was very slow. During my break I went to watch part of some stupid movie called “I got the hook up with Master P”. While sitting there I kept hearing a little girl laughing and running around in the the back, the top part of the dome which is really dark. I ignored it but something about it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. She sounded like she was running closer. I turned around and squinted and thought I briefly saw her blond hair. Something about this wasn’t right so left the theater and asked the concessionist how many tickets we sold for that movie. He told me we had sold none. I explained there was a girl in there and asked if maybe her parents were in another theater and she had switched movies or something. He gave me the strangest look and said that they only sold a couple tickets to adults, then he added, “Did you know that a little girl died in there before?” I did not believe him so I confirmed this with the general manager and some other employees. Needless to say I rarely cleaned theaters alone there again, only when I HAD to and I was ready to run out at a moments notice. I just came across this forum and wanted to share my story. I should point out that I had no prior knowledge of anybody dying there so I have already ruled out the possibility of it being a mental projection of some sort. That’s my story. It feels good to finally get it off my chest somewhere.

kiddkurtis on March 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I worked there in 77' it was a great job, I really liked a girl that worked there with me, I will always remember Sherry.

Flix70 on November 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

Always loved the Cinedome. Saw some great shows there as a kid: Airport ‘77 and Raiders of the Lost Ark to name a few. Returned in my twenties for Wild at Heart, Wyatt Earp and Independence Day.

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.