PLEASANT HILL -- After news broke that the domed movie theater in Pleasant Hill is doomed, fans launched a Facebook page and an online petition to rally support for keeping the unique venue open.
Judging by the many posts on the "Save Independent Film and the CineArts Dome in Pleasant Hill" Facebook page, the theater brings back for some people cherished memories of favorite movies and first kisses. Others say they don't want to drive to Berkeley to see independent films. None of them want to see a landmark that has loomed large over the city for nearly half a century demolished. And they're really unhappy about a sporting goods store taking the theater's place.
But it's pretty much a done deal.
"There isn't anything we can do about the dome being planned for demolition. That's just not something the city has any control over," Councilman Jack Weir said.
However, Weir said a group is exploring the possibility of screening art-house films at a venue somewhere else in the city. Weir said he couldn't reveal who has been involved in these discussions.
SyWest Development has been trying for years to redevelop the southern half of the Crossroads Shopping Center. On Tuesday, the Planning Commission is scheduled to review the developer's proposal, which calls for demolishing the distinctive, geodesic dome-roofed theater and building a two-story, 73,176-square-foot Dick's Sporting Goods store.
SyWest also plans to renovate the adjacent 21,788-square-foot building that housed the Bally Total Fitness Gym. The health club closed in August 2011 after Bally lost its final appeal of a 2008 court ruling that terminated its lease.
The city's Planning and Architectural Review commissions will review the project's proposed building design, parking, signage and landscaping. Although the plan guiding development of the shopping center encourages including a movie theater, there is no mandate to preserve the dome, said Troy Fujimoto, senior city planner.
Growing up in Pleasant Hill, Giorgio Sassine, 28, fondly recalls seeing "Jurassic Park" and sharing his first kiss at the theater, formally known as the CineArts at Pleasant Hill and referred to locally as "the dome." Since January, more than 2,100 people have signed the petition Sassine and another theater supporter started on the Change.org website.
"By tearing it down, I feel that no one is going to remember that stuff," said Sassine, who attends law school in San Diego. "No one is going to go to Dick's Sporting Goods and say, 'Oh gosh, I remember buying my first soccer ball.' "
If the dome theater must go, Sassine hopes the developer will find a more creative replacement.
"I would love to see little restaurants, wine bars and outdoor seating. It seems like that side of (Interstate) 680 has always been the stepchild of Pleasant Hill," he said.
Cinemark Theatres operates the five-screen dome movie theater and the Century 16 Downtown theater on the other side of Interstate 680. James Meredith, vice president of marketing and communications for Cinemark, did not return a call seeking comment about whether the company plans to continue showing independent films in Pleasant Hill.
However, Weir confirmed that SyWest has agreed to donate artifacts and memorabilia from the theater to the Pleasant Hill Historical Society. The developer also plans to put up a plaque or monument marking the site of the dome theater, he added.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.
What: Planning Commission public hearing on redevelopment plans for Crossroads Shopping Center
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Pleasant Hill City Hall, 100 Gregory Lane