The world won't be a better place with one less dome and one more sporting goods store.
The CinéArts Theater in Pleasant Hill, known as "the Dome," likely showed its last movie this past weekend, which is a sad development for those of us who grew up in central Contra Costa County and a sad development for anyone who loves movies.
Pending an appeal scheduled for next month by some seriously devoted people, the iconic theater will be demolished to make way for a large Dick's Sporting Goods store and its accompanying revenue stream for the city.
One often hears city officials talk up the idea of expanding cultural arts offerings, not tearing them down. While few movie theaters qualify as cultural arts facilities, CinéArts for years has shown foreign and high-quality, limited-run films that people would otherwise have to drive through the Caldecott Tunnel to see.
Big loss for many
While a few other theaters in Contra Costa show some art house films, losing one still hurts. Distinctive theaters like the Dome have been disappearing for years, which is bad news for anyone who likes unusual, well-made and provocative movies.
There's a historical aspect to this loss as well. Economic expansion -- if that's what yet another sporting goods store represents -- is one thing. But severing a community's relationship with something that has been a constant for nearly five decades is plain sad. The Dome, which was a huge deal when it was built in 1966, represents wonderful memories for thousands of people.
I saw my first noncartoon, real nighttime sort of movie in the Dome when I was 8 years old: "Midway." Witnessing all that loud, World War II action on that huge (this was pre-Imax, so the screen seemed really huge back then) was-mind blowing. Later that same year, I saw the first remake of "King Kong" there. Even at age 9, seeing Jessica Lange running around in torn clothes on that ginormous screen burned an image into my brain that probably will remain as long as I live.
Even when folks aren't going to the movies there, the Dome is a huge presence. It's likely the most identifiable landmark along the Contra Costa County stretch of Interstate 680, and it has been so my entire life. (I'm old enough to remember Pleasant Hill's drive-in on the other side of the freeway. Once, during a nighttime traffic jam, I considered myself pretty lucky to catch a few minutes of one of the "Planet of the Apes" movies for free).
Worth a journey
The Dome was so head-and-shoulders above other theaters, we'd drive up from San Ramon in high school to see movies, bypassing our city's brand-new theater. It was where you took a date to impress her. I saw "Star Wars," "Star Trek" and "Jurassic Park" movies there, because there was no way any regular theater could do justice to the special effects the way the Dome could. The last movie I ever saw in a theater with my grandmother was "E.T." at the Dome. In my 20s, I would meet friends at the bar next door, then go see movies such as the director's cut of "Apocalypse Now" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." The opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan" was absolutely mind-blowing on that screen.
And now seeing the marquee, which says the theater is closed, is terribly sad. I promise you, nothing that eventually occupies that spot will create so many wonderful moments. Unless one has a strange attachment to sporting goods.
On May 6, the Pleasant Hill City Council is set to hear the appeal of its decision to grant the use permit for the site. For more info about the Save the Dome movement, go to www.savethedome.org.
Share your favorite memories of the Cinearts "Dome" theater at www.mercurynews.com/tony-hicks.