A while ago I wrote about the Dome in Pleasant Hill was in trouble. Developers wanted to tear down the theater and--let's get the giggling done now--put up a Dick's Sporting Goods Store. Since I am an eternal optimist who thought that hey, Pleasant Hill would not tear down a beloved landmark, I figured my job was done. The dome would be saved. The petition for it to be saved had over a thousand signatures--some of them I recognized as regular readers of this blog (Thank you) I figured the powers that be would say to Dick's: Thank you, but we are not going to get rid of such a beloved mainstay at the dome."
Cue hysterical laughter!
The Pleasant Hill Planning Commission ded in favor of the sporting goods store. Never mind Pleasant Hill has several sporting good stores, if it's Dick's, it has to be good. To be fair, the sales tax will bring in revenue to the city. But it has ticked off many East Bayers. According to the Contra Costa Times, four dozen people came in to protest tearing down the dome. One of the councilmen Jack Weir said that Syfy (who owns Cinearts) said they would donate artifacts to Pleasant Hill's historical society (thanks to Martha Ross' Crazy in Suburbia for this info) I just wonder, what memorabilia? The gum stained floor? The faded carpet? Let's face it, the biggest historical artifact of the theater is the Dome. If it's not stopped soon, it will have a date with a wrecking ball soon.
This being the Bay Area, citizens decided to take it to the streets for peaceful protests. Because my father is recovering from pneumonia and needs help grocery shopping/running errands, I haven't been able to make the protests. Last weekend Dad came to visit. Driving on the highway I looked at the Dome and saw protesters. "Oh my God, there's a demonstration at the Dome!" I cried out.
"What?" he said.
"Dad, I told you. They want to put a Dick's Sporting Goods store there."
"I think it's a good plan." He has a bias; his name is Richard.
"It's a terrible plan. That's the closest thing Pleasant Hill has to a Main Street. Besides, why the Dome? They could demolish the old KMART that's just sitting there and bingo, we have a Dick's!"
"Isn't there a movie theater down the street?"
"Yeah, but the point is this: Pleasant Hill doesn't have many landmarks. It's the Dome and Casper's."
He nodded in agreement. He lived in nearby Walnut Creek for a while. I went between him and my mother on weekends. I knew it wasn't for him; he always complained that there weren't many things to walk to. He was like me that way. When the Gemco was torn down, he went back to the City. The Gemco was his one stop place to get groceries and clothes. Once that was gone, there was no point living in Walnut Creek.
"Besides, this isn't the only theater that's closed.The Lumire and the Bridge closed as well in the City."
Both the Lumiere and the Bridge closed within months of each other. Lumire lost its lease; the Bridge gave no reason why they closed. "
You never see movies in theaters anymore," Dad countered. "I try to. Besides, where can one go if they want to see an old movie on a big screen? I know what your ideal movie theater would be: all the movies played would be from 1939."
He sat back for a moment. "Oh, that would be perfect," he said, imagining it.
1939 was a watershed year in movies. That was the year Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Women, Stagecoach, Babes in Arms, Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz came out. Two of Dad's favorite movies came out that year: Gunga Din and Beau Geste. He knows them by heart.
"I'm just saying that change isn't always good. Why change something when it's shouldn't have to be changed?" I asked.
He changed the subject. I wondered if I was being sentimental about the whole thing. It's just a movie theater, wasn't it?
The next day I went over to Pleasant Hill to get some photos. A security guard was up front. No protesters. I walked around; the truth is the mall surrounding the Dome depresses me. t was always run down. Yet even with all the new stores they put up five years ago it looked worn out. As I mentioned, the mall was always sad looking. When I was a kid there was a Leatherby's, a Chinese place only senior citizens went to, a bible bookstore, a fabric store, Payless, and the movie theater. There was a Bank of America, which had a little garden no one went into. The hallways were very cavernous; sometimes I cupped my hands while walking and said "Hello, hello! Can anyone hear me?" The words echoed down the hallway, ghost like.
The only time it came alive was when a big movie was playing, and Christmas time when all the artists would come and sell holiday themed items. After that, things were back to normal.
In the mid 90's it was decided that Pleasant Hill needed a "Main Street." They redistricted Contra Costa Blvd and the surrounding area. Gone were the warehouses that sold cheese and fixed cars. An apartment building went dust in the wind. The bowling lanes? Who bowls anymore? Poof, it disappeared. Nate and Al's TV fix it shop was toast too; who brought their TV's to be fixed anymore? People just bought new ones!
When the new stores sprouted up it was fun. Chipolte! Hallmark! My favorite of course was Borders. The new movie theater debuted as well, leaving people to wonder about the Dome. Not to worry; Century 16 would be for new films, Century 5 would become Cinearts, the place to go to for independent films. It was perfect. And it worked for a long time.
I walked by Starbuck's, Kohl's. My melancholiness deepened. I didn't want to go off chains; however what represented downtown these days? When I thought of Pleasant Hill I thought of course of Meranda, her family, working at the library. But everything was different and not in a good way. The Dome was my main street, my downtown. I knew I wasn't alone in feeling like this. Many people wanted to save the theater. Yet why was our voices not heard when counted?
I decided to head for home; I wasn't going to get answers. I wondered if Thomas Wolfe was right; you can't go home again.
Life went on. I wrote essays, then got news that if the Dome was going, then by God, it was going out in style by showing Sound of Music, Jaws and 2001.Meranda and I made immediate plans to see Sound of Music.
An appeal was filed written by Martha Ross but as of April 14th the last operating day is April 21st.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries