PLEASANT HILL -- Although the final curtain closed on the iconic dome theater in Pleasant Hill on Sunday, many supporters were still hoping to rewrite the script for the decades-old cinematic landmark.
"I think this is the last historic venue in Pleasant Hill that represents our history, our culture and the arts," said Darcy Matthews of Pleasant Hill, who has lived in the city 50 years. "This could be a Pleasant Hill Arts and Cultural Center. These guys are missing the boat."
Matthews and other members of a grass-roots "Save the Dome" group stood outside the theater waving signs, collecting petition signatures and soliciting donations for their appeal of the city planning commission's approval of a project that would replace the theater with a sporting goods store.
A steady stream of moviegoers from as far away as Sacramento, Oakland and Palo Alto stopped by to sign the petition and share fond memories of the CineArts theater in the Crossroads Shopping Center, before going inside to watch "2001: A Space Odyssey," which appeared to be destined to be the final film shown in the beloved venue.
"It's very sad," said James Mowdy, 44, who grew up in Pleasant Hill and now lives in Oakland. "I came here to see 'Indiana Jones.' My dad brought me. I saw my first movie on my own here -- 'Hair,' in 1980. I saw 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' here. This is central to the story of Pleasant Hill. There needs to be critical mass from the community to save this."
William Egli, on the other hand, said he wants to save the theater more because of the independent arts films it now shows than because of its architecture or history.
"You have to go to Berkeley or Piedmont or San Francisco to see these movies that are playing right now," he said. "Would it hurt to have a little bit of culture in the 'burbs?"
Clayton residents Merwyn Powell and his wife, Roberta, both 75, said they have been coming to the dome for decades.
"This is a unique theater that has acoustics you can't get in other theaters," Merwyn Powell said, expressing sadness about its closure. "It's an experience that you won't be able to get."
Robert Merk, 52, said he drove from Sacramento to see a movie in the dome one last time, recalling the many films he watched there when he lived in Walnut Creek.
"It's a real shame," he said. "I'm going to miss it."
Adam Nilsen, 32, of Palo Alto, who grew up in Pleasant Hill, is trying to revive the city's historical society by drawing attention to the dome's demise. There are other landmarks that are also threatened, such as the Old School House on Oak Park Boulevard and Rodgers Ranch, he said.
"What we're trying to do is to instill a spirit of Pleasant Hill as a historic place," he said. "In Pleasant Hill, the pattern has been to tear things down and build new things."
The City Council will hold a public hearing May 6, to consider the Save the Dome group's appeal and review the city's approvals of the SyWest project. The public can also comment on the project before a Monday closed-session City Council meeting.
The Pleasant Hill City Council will hold a closed-session meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the city manager's conference room at Pleasant Hill City Hall, 100 Gregory Lane, to discuss undisclosed anticipated litigation. The public is invited to comment before the meeting on anything within the council's jurisdiction.
More information about the SyWest project and appeal is available by calling 925-671-5224 or by visiting www.ci.pleasant-hill.CA.us. Click on SyWest Redevelopment Project.
Additional details about the Save the Dome efforts are at http://savethedome.org.