This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. Have to say, I thought this series had quietly reached its end. All that had come before had been covered. Well, “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” is an old Yiddish adage meaning, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.” My Mexican ancestors would heartily agree. And with the totally sad news that a certain distinctly designed palace for the cinema was not reopening its doors, the lament for film and movie theater fans is now reverberating across the ether.
So, another memory came up for documentation in that wake. Fitting once more that we close all watertight doors, zip up that parka, and go looking for something that intrigued Howard Hughes1 to no end.
November 2, 1968: the hook for attending movies in a special hall dedicated to its viewing was set long before this. Drive-ins were fun because they were outdoors, and most had playgrounds for kids to use before showtime (and sometimes during intermission in-between the first and second feature). And occasionally the flicks shown were a blast to watch, plus the adults in the front seat now and then would let the little tykes (like me) sit with them2. Ah… those were the days.
Still, once this child got to experience sitting in his own seat, with family, friends, or any of the other strangers seated right next to you, in an ornate setting dedicated for the sole purpose of participating in the communal experience of watching a movie together via a big curtained screen, well you just had to be there.
Most of the time, during the more innocent period of the early Sixties, this youngster (before hitting double-digits) would walk or get on a bus to nearby Huntington Park to take in a show offered at their three venues, as noted here. Yet, going anywhere else depended on grown family (with a car) to partake. And the same uncle who introduced me to OO7 likely that person. It was he I turned to when glimpsing the premiere of Ice Station Zebra at the famed Cinerama Dome Theatre broadcasted live on local TV station, KCOP channel 13.
The lure of going to see a movie under the uniquely iconic geodesic dome for the first time was too much. I won’t go into the lengths of begging and cajoling (or my instigated prodding of his mother and sister, my grandmother and mom) it took, but it was considerable. I think the tide turned when I mentioned the same guy we’d watched on TV together over the past summers in Secret Agent was also starring in this. Not long thereafter, I joined him this very weekend to head up the 101 freeway and exit on to Sunset boulevard.
This film was originally shown in Cinerama venues. In order to put it into these theaters, MGM pulled 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) while it was still having a successful run. ~ IMDB
After navigating our way around the circular interior walkway along the edge of the theater (now crowded with other patrons) to find our seats — situated slightly off-center mind you — and to stare up at that enormous curved screen and be inside one of the most unique movie palaces in all of Los Angeles, was sheer wonderment for moi. That it looked and felt nothing like anything or anywhere else, just cemented my love for such cinema edifices right then and there. Even if what was showing had nothing at all to do with an actual zebra:
1. At one point, Howard Hughes during his time as a very rich recluse, had it running on continuous loop at his home. His housekeepers claimed that he watched the movie more than 150 times. In fact, per IMDB, “In the era before VCRs, Howard Hughes would call the Las Vegas TV station he owned and demand they run this particular movie. Hughes so loved this film that it aired on his Las Vegas station over 100 times during his lifetime.”↵
2. That is until my brother showed up, but I had little control over that.↵