Dome Theaters in San Jose in danger!

Jun 13th, 2013 | By | Category: Architecture, Preservation

In danger of demolition are the Winchester Theaters, a group of dome-shaped movie theaters which opened nearly 50 years ago showing It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World  to herald both the space age and new cinema.

picture from http://www.svmodern.com

picture from http://www.svmodern.com

The buildings—originally called the Century Theaters—were the first theaters of their kind. Designed by San Francisco architect Vincent Raney and opened between 1964 and 1966 to accommodate a new widescreen technology called Cinerama that was developed to help theaters distinguish themselves from television, The Century Theaters are a cultural symbol of postwar prosperity for the masses and a widespread optimism in the future. Although the theaters have not been granted landmark status yet some architectural historians agree these are some of the best remaining examples of mid-century modern architecture in Silicon Valley and have as much historical significance as the Winchester Mystery House.

It was recently announced that the ground lease is due to expire and the landowner is seeking to find a developer for the property that is currently home to the Winchester Theaters, formerly The Century Theaters (21, 22 and 23.)  Theater 21 is a single screen; Theater 23 is a two screen theater, each under a single dome; and Theater 22 has three single theaters under three domes. The City of San Jose is in the process of trying to rezone the commercial property as an “Urban Village” to allow for high-density residential development. technology are at risk of demolition in Silicon Valley, but local preservationists hope to spare at least one from the wrecking ball .

The Retro Dome (under the direction of Guggenheim Entertainment, Inc) and the Preservation Action Council of San Jose (PAC-SJ) are partnering to raise awareness and promote action pertaining to the “Winchester Domes.” Since 1990, PAC-SJ has been dedicated to preserving the architectural heritage of San Jose.

One example of reuse, as suggested on the donation page, would be preserving Century 22 to provide a home to The Retro Dome, which occupied a sister Dome on Saratoga Avenue but was recently displaced when plans were announced to demolish the former Century 25. A wonderfully historic building would be saved from the wrecking ball and The Retro Dome would be reborn and serve as a home to multiple Silicon Valley-based performing arts groups. With the three adjoining theaters, Guggenheim Entertainment and its partners would be able to offer the region a cooperative Performing Arts Center unrivaled by any other.

After nearly four successful years in their location at the former Century 25 Theater, The Retro Dome (under the direction of Guggenheim Entertainment, Inc) was forced to close its doors when the property owner refused to renew the lease.  Guggenheim Entertainment is looking for a new location to make its home, offering the community and region high quality, professional entertainment and educational programming.

What can you do to help prevent the tragic loss of another piece of our Mid-Century history?

Sign the petition

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