Few people I know can remember their first time at the "dome" theater in Pleasant Hill. They were too young to recall that initial sensation of gazing up at the giant gray umbrella with a feeling of wonder and excitement. But I remember my first "dome" experience as if it were yesterday... because it was.
Sunday was the final day for the CinéArts theater, and the last chance to see a movie at the "dome". The screening was "2001: A Space Odyssey," a science fiction event courtesy of Stanley Kubrick in 1968.
There was a crowd outside the theater before the 7 p.m. and final showing, including a small group holding "save the dome" signs. Movie goers posed in front of the doors and snapped photos of the iconic "dome". A young red-haired boy handed a camera to his dad and stood proudly in front of the theater.
Before Concord's Brenden and Pleasant Hill's Century, there were only two local movie theaters, I'm told — Contra Costa Cinemas in Martinez and the "dome" in Pleasant Hill. So, this was the theater where locals saw the classics for the first time, including "2001: A Space Odyssey."
I thought it was a strange choice of movie for the last showing at the "dome," but once I was standing under the theater's 50-foot rounded ceiling, I saw a connection. The "dome" itself looks like one of Kubrick's space ships, floating gracefully above the earth — an awe-inspiring and unique setting to watch the most epic science fiction movie of all time.
What must it have been like, sitting under the "dome" in 1968, listening to HAL's soft imitation of a human voice and watching Dr. Dave Bowman's eyeballs as he rockets through a seemingly unending montage of psychedelic dimensions?
The movie goers on Sunday were transported back in time, especially when the film darkened for an intermission.
The older couple sitting next to me were holding hands. I wondered how many first dates had been spent under this arch. How many couples had cuddled up in the darkness and felt the first pangs of love — for movies, and for each other? How many had returned and returned over the years to reconnect with those feelings?
Everyone seemed united by a sense of nostalgia on Sunday night, with each reliving a cherished moment and holding it close before saying "goodbye" — all while pondering the meaning of the monolith.
What was your experience like saying "goodbye" to the "dome"? Share your story below.