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San Diego's Cinerama

November 05, 1988

Certainly it's nice to see so much recognition being poured upon the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood ("Retrospective Recaps History of 'the Dome,' " by Jack Mathews, Nov. 1).

But let's not forget that the Dome was not the first Cinerama theater in California. Rather, that distinction belonged to the Cinerama Theater in San Diego, which was closed and torn down earlier this year.

As a longtime employee of that theater, I can only look upon the current events with a bit of regret for what was once the premiere showcase theater in San Diego.

The Cinerama San Diego opened Nov. 20, 1962, with "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" and continued to play films in the true Cinerama format for another year. Its opening was marked by visits from Hollywood guests such as Barbara Eden and George Pal, and was covered live by local television.

L. A. County Museum of Art Film Director Ron Haver said in Mathews' article that the Dome's curved screen is plagued with distortion problems. What could he be thinking? The Cinerama's wide screen provided the best movie viewing possible, making its huge screen seem even larger. What's more, many exhibitors are rediscovering the curved screen (witness AMC Century City) because of its spectacular image.

The Cinerama was a beautiful theater, with a plush 940-seat auditorium that had extraordinary successes in later years with films such as "The Empire Strikes Back," "Amadeus" and "Top Gun." Certainly it would be a shame to let the Dome get all the credit while the forerunner is forgotten.


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