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Saying Goodbye to Hollywood's Cinerama Dome

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Once upon a time, if you wanted to go see a movie in Hollywood, there were few better places to go than the Cinerama Dome. When it was built in 1963, it was the first new movie palace there in decades.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The first movie to play there - "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

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GARCIA-NAVARRO: It had a curved screen that would accommodate Cinerama movies projected with three different projectors, forming a super-wide image that slightly bends around the audience. And it was a strange shape - a geodesic dome. Sometimes that dome would be decorated for movie premieres. It became the moon for the Neil Armstrong movie "First Man." It was appropriately green with ears for "Shrek 2." Alas, as other movie theaters have announced they are reopening, the Cinerama Dome's owner, ArcLight Cinemas, says it will now be shut for good.

Lifelong Angelino Alison Martino, who catalogues the city's history on the site Vintage Los Angeles, remembers her first trip to the dome.

ALISON MARTINO: I have a very, very tender moment of seeing "E.T." when I was about 11...

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "THEME FROM JURASSIC PARK")

MARTINO: ...Which was kind of the perfect movie to see there - outer space, aliens (laughter). You know, and you're sitting in this space-age theater, so it kind of looked like, you know, like a planet had landed in the middle of Sunset Boulevard.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Larry Karaszewski also saw "E.T." in the Dome. It was the first major event he remembers there. He became a regular.

LARRY KARASZEWSKI: You went in there, and it just sort of felt like, wow, there's no other theater like this.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Karaszewski is now an award-winning screenwriter with movies like "Ed Wood" and "Dolemite Is My Name."

KARASZEWSKI: When your movie opened, that's where you wanted to be. That's where you wanted to see it because you knew that was where people would take it seriously.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Karaszewski says news of the Dome's closure has hit him hard.

KARASZEWSKI: That's probably the thing that's making everyone really sad. There's no mourning. You didn't have a chance to say goodbye.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Alison Martino told us that the Cinerama Dome was like an anchor in the city of dreams.

MARTINO: You know, in Hollywood, where everything comes down like movie sets, this really did hang on looking as - exactly like it did at the time. I think it looks better than ever.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Martino's not ready to let it go. She's been following a petition with more than 15,000 signatures to keep the Cinerama Dome in the movie-playing business.

MARTINO: We definitely want to get the word out how much this theater means to the community for developers that might want to come in and do something different. So it's good for them to hear our voices and also to please allow it to function as a theater.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: For now, Angelenos can relive their memories of that space-age dome and hope for an owner who can make their celluloid dreams come true. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.