PLEASANT HILL -- The domed movie theater, an iconic landmark in Pleasant Hill for nearly half a century, may be torn down next year to make way for a sporting goods store.

After years of delay brought on by the struggling economy, SyWest Development has unveiled plans to modernize the southern half of the Crossroads Shopping Center just off Interstate 680 at Monument Boulevard and Buskirk Avenue.

The proposal 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 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.

SyWest Development president Bill Vierra did not respond to calls for comment. The timeline for the project is unclear, but SyWest needs approvals from the Planning Commission and the Architectural Review Commission before moving forward with its plans.

Cinemark Theatres operates the movie theater, formally known as the CineArts at Pleasant Hill and known locally as "the dome." While the superhero blockbusters and vampire trilogies play at the Century 16 Downtown theater on the opposite side of the highway, the five-screen dome theater typically shows art-house films.

James Meredith, vice president of marketing and communications for Cine-mark Theatres, also did not return a call seeking comment.


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The wrecking ball has loomed over the theater since at least 2003, when SyWest (known then as Syufy) and ICI Development were competing to develop the 20-acre shopping center. Both companies proposed razing the outmoded building -- which resembles an inverted colander -- and replacing it with a sleek theater that still would screen independent films.

Eventually, the firms split the property -- ICI Development owns the northern part of the shopping center, anchored by Kohl's. In 2008, the developers settled a long-standing dispute over parking spaces and the terms of a 2004 agreement which established where within the shopping center each company can build. But then the bottom fell out of the economy and SyWest put its redevelopment plans on hold.

Councilman David Durant said he's excited for the opportunity to revitalize that part of the shopping center. In addition to Dick's, he hopes SyWest signs leases with small specialty shops that have the potential to draw customers from across the region.

"It's always sad to lose something iconic like the dome, but the real challenge for a lot of people to understand is that there's no way effectively to keep that theater operating," Durant said. "I think it's unfortunate, but to be candid about it, I think it's a sacrifice we need to make for the overall benefit of the community."

In 1967, the Pleasant Hill Soroptimists sponsored the opening night festivities for the theater. Nine hundred guests sipped sparkling wine and watched the romantic epic "Doctor Zhivago," according to the historical booklet commemorating the city's 25th anniversary.

Several movie theaters of similar design were built around the country in the 1960s. A group formed a few years ago to try to save the theater by seeking historic recognition, but the effort never really got off the ground, said Denise Koroslev, president of the Pleasant Hill Historical Society.

Society members recently met with the developer to discuss snagging an original memento for their archives. Koroslev said the theater exerts a powerful emotional pull on people who fondly recall first dates or first viewings of classic films beneath its curved roof.

"We knew for a long time it was likely to happen," she said. "We hate to see it go because it is kind of a trademark of the city. But if they can't restore it, then we understand that something has to be done to it."

Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.