Column: Recalling the Cinerama Dome. Twice.

I felt a twinge of nostalgia-enhanced sadness with the announcement on Monday that Arc Light/Pacific Theaters is closing the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard.

It’s not like I’m a movie-theater snob—I’m not a movie-theater anything; the last time I sat through a movie in a theater was in 1997 when I took my kids, ages 9 and 3, to see a screening of “Good Burger,” which you’ll fondly recall was a Nickelodeon comedy starring the team of Keenan and Kel. We all saw that at the also permanently closed Pacific Theater complex in Lakewood.

Now, of course, my keeping clear of movie theaters has become a key, if not defining part of my personality, right up there alongside the fact that I’ve never had macaroni and cheese; two unique and unlikely abstinences that have transformed me into an exceedingly interesting person at parties and other gatherings at which I am invariably nudging discussions toward the subject of either movie theaters or macaroni and cheese so I can break things wide open with one of my singularly amazing macaroni/theater facts.

Back in my movie-theater-going days, I did manage to see one film at the Cinerama Dome. It was my birthday, Jan. 12, 1969, and I asked my parents to drop me and my best friend off at the theater to see Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I felt a combination of guilt and love for asking my dad to take us, because it was also the day of Superbowl III, a good chunk of which Pop would miss because of squirreling me and my friend to the faraway land of Hollywood, then driving back to Long Beach to catch about 20 minutes of the game before driving back to pick us up.

Of course, I didn’t feel any guilt at all at the time. It was my birthday. I was king of this land for the day. It took about an entire generation and my dad’s death before the guilt set in.

The only thing that marred the day for me at the time was the fact that in the Super Bowl, the New York Jets beat my beloved Baltimore Colts, a team that had become my favorite for the simple fact that they looked cool in their white uniforms one day when my dad was watching them play the Rams on TV. After that, I was a die-hard fan of the Colt legends Johnny Unitas, Tom Matte and Raymond Berry, although “die-hard” might be overstating it as you’ll note I skipped watching the game so I could see a science-fiction movie in Hollywood.

For whatever reason—maybe latent remorse?—I never saw another movie at the Cinerama Dome, but I did visit the theater again 27 years later (just a year before the release of “Good Burger,” you’ll note) as a member of the elite will-cover-anything-if-there’s-free-food-involved press corps to cover the introduction of McDonald’s’ Arch Deluxe, the fast-foodery’s “hamburger for grown-ups.”

It was a North American extravaganza event, with satellite links showing the New York celebration featuring Ronald McDonald dancing with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, Toronto’s fireworks display at the perhaps-hamburger-shaped SkyDome, and LA’s contribution: Tarting up the Cinerama Dome to look a a 700-foot tall Arch Deluxe and offering the new burger to the famished reporters along with glass Arch Deluxe flutes full of champagne.

Much was made about the importance of the order of which the ingredients (lettuce, tomato, onion, American cheese, ketchup, special sauce and the optional sweet hickory smoked pepper bacon) were stacked on the burger. We were told 500 different builds were tried before perfection at last was achieved.

It was never made particularly clear what made this a hamburger for grown-ups, but it was strongly implied that its own secret sauce (a who’d-ever-guess mixture of mustard and mayonnaise) was a key factor. Or perhaps it was the new potato-flour bun. Or it could’ve just been the champagne speaking.

Whatever it was, it was a recipe for disaster. After a $300-million research and promotion campaign, the Arch Deluxe blundered along for about four years before it was yanked from McDonald’s’ menus, making it (if you keep its connection to the Cinerama Dome) one of the most expensive flops in Hollywood history.

Maybe someone will come in and save the legendary Dome, though now I’ve forced myself into the position where I won’t/can’t go back to see a film there. And, as for the Arch Deluxe, it’s dead for good, leaving grown-ups with nothing to look forward to, fast-foodwise, but McRibs and Shamrock Shakes.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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