Built in 1966, the CineArts theater in Pleasant Hill known as "The Dome," has been a destination for moviegoers in Contra Costa and beyond for more than 45 years. But the owners of the building want to replace it with a sporting goods store as part of a large redevelopment project that has already been approved by the city's planning and architectural commissions.
A group called "Save the Pleasant Hill Dome" has appealed these approvals in an effort to stop planned demolition of the theater. Some members of the group have even dreamed up their own ideas for the dome, in the hopes of turning the aging facility near Interstate 680 into a vibrant arts and cultural center.
Here's what some patrons said Sunday on the final day of screenings: Patricia Asvitt, in her 70s, has lived in Pleasant Hill for 50 years: "This could be used for live theater like Freight and Salvage. The center courtyard could be a coffee place. It just seems like we're so close to closing the door before we've really looked at all the avenues. I just hope the City Council can take a breath and step back for a little bit." Craig Donohoe, 20, Alamo resident who came with his mother: "We wanted to see a movie here in case it is torn down." Jane Donohoe, 52, Craig's mother: "It's a landmark and it should be protected. We're hoping it won't be torn down." James Egli: "I don't care about the architecture. It's all about the (cultural) movies they're playing." Dawn King, Walnut Creek resident and member of the Save the Dome group: "We've been getting support from all over the area. People from all over the county have heard about it, especially along the Interstate 680 corridor and in the East Bay. When I lived in San Francisco, I always went to the landmark theaters such as the Castro. I appreciate the architecture and independent films. This is sort of that last bastion of history and independent film. It's just beautiful. I don't think this community values architecture as much as they do back east and in Europe. A '60s icon like the dome is our contribution to the history of American architecture." Darcy Matthews, 50-year Pleasant Hill resident and member of the Save the Dome group: "A lot of seniors come here. One from Walnut Creek Manor said: 'Where are we going to go?' There's also a group that goes to the senior center for lunch and then comes to the movies. I said to the mayor: 'If we wanted a gun store and strip mall, we would move to Emeryville.'" Rosie Meddaugh, 67, has lived in Pleasant Hill 25 years: "To me, it's a symbol of when I tell people how to get to Pleasant Hill (because it can be seen from the freeway). I took my dad here. He had glaucoma and he couldn't see the smaller screens. I really would like to see it remain and become an attraction for the town. It just has a lot of memories." Robert Merk, 52, former Walnut Creek resident who now lives in Sacramento: "I've been going to this theater since 1973. I moved to Sacramento in 1977 and I still came back about four times a year. Sacramento had one dome theater they kept solid until the 1980s, then they divided it in half. This one is the only one I know of that's still in one piece." James Mowdy, former Pleasant Hill resident who now lives in Oakland: "The thing that people will remember is it's a landmark. The only cultural center in Contra Costa County is the Lesher Center (in Walnut Creek). The theater in Orinda is a great example of saving a theater." Adam Nilsen, 32, former Pleasant Hill resident who now lives in Palo Alto and is trying to revive the Pleasant Hill Historical Society: "We're hoping that for better or for worse, this will raise awareness that we have historical landmarks. Pleasant Hill has always been trying to build an identity for itself. Even though a lot of history is not visible in Pleasant Hill, it has a rich past with farm lands, but people don't think that. People think it's just tract houses and strip malls. We're trying to make people realize we've got to actively protect these places." Tony Phillips, Walnut Creek resident: "The only reason I come here (to Pleasant Hill) is to go to the cinema." Roberta Powell, 75, Clayton resident: "We support the dome and we don't want it to close. We don't need another sporting goods store." Merwyn Powell, 75, Roberta's husband: "That's the last thing we need." Peggy Rodriguez Redfearn (via e-mail): Rode her bike to see "20001: A Space Odyssey" there in 1967 when she was about 13. "It was one of the early 'big screen' experiences for us in the 'burbs!'" Before that, they went to San Francisco to theaters such as the Coronet to see "The Sound of Music" in 1964. Martha Ross, filed appeal on behalf of "Save the Pleasant Hill Dome": About 550 people came to the 2 p.m. matinee of "2001: A Space Odyssey." "At the end of the 2 p.m. matinee, the movie ended as well as the credits. The theater continued to play the 'Blue Danube Waltz' by Johann Strauss. People just sat and listened and looked up at the ceiling of the dome and started to take pictures." Marlene Schlaegel, 78-year-old Alamo resident who is part of the Save the Dome group: "I grew up here. I remember when they built it. I waited forever in line to see 'Jaws.' We have nothing (else) that breathes culture and romance and fun. It's just beyond beautiful and when it goes, where will that beauty be? The beauty is what it has inside and what it can present to people that they may not know. They would have to go to Berkeley. It's like a school of learning. We don't need another gun store, especially named 'Dick's.' It's just a sin." Chelsea Simmons, 25, former Concord resident who now lives in Danville, leader of Save the Dome group: "I've always gone to the dome as a kid. We're going to set up a nonprofit for donations. There are about 34 stores that sell sporting goods within an 8-mile radius of the dome. We had 791 signatures on our petition at the last City Council meeting. We've gotten about 500 more over the weekend and about 2,500 on an online petition." Kurt Turner, 43, Oakley resident: "I grew up down the street. People have these memories of when they came here and saw movies years ago. Forty years from now, you're not going to have people saying they remember when we went to Dick's sporting goods." James White, 54-year Pleasant Hill resident: "This was built in 1966 to be a three-screen cinerama 180 degrees around, like the movie, 'How the West was Won.' In Los Angeles and Seattle, they saved their domes. Pleasant Hill could be on par with L.A. and Seattle with a cinerama. The ceiling is high enough for an IMAX. This holds 900 seats and the Lesher holds 783. This should be the Pleasant Hill Civic Center. It's unique and its acoustics are really good."
Reach Theresa Harrington at 925-945-4764 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.