Preservationists Ask City to Save Century 21 Dome Theater

Brian Grayson remembers watching “2001: A Space Odyssey” at the Dome, which felt all the more exciting given the Century 21 Theater’s space-age architecture and towering screen.

“You felt like you were a part of the action,” he said. “I have really fond memories of that place. I think a lot of us do.”

Today he’s on a mission to save the 50-year-old cinema on Winchester Boulevard from demolition. The retro dome lies in a part of San Jose zoned for an urban village, a master-planned community of mixed-use retail, transportation and housing. No developers have filed permits to build yet, but Grayson, head of the Preservation Action Council of San Jose, wants to preemptively take measures to protect the building. On Thursday, he’ll speak in defense of the theater at the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission. An online petition he started has collected nearly 4,000 signatures so far.

Century 21 is the oldest in a cluster of retro dome theaters slated for demolition since their leases expired. It sits on an 11-acre lot across from Santana Row and near the Winchester Mystery House. Grayson’s group chose to rally around the 21 in particular because it’s the oldest and more likely to qualify as a historic landmark. It was one of the first dome theaters in Northern California.

“The architecture was tied into the emerging high-tech and aerospace industries in the valley at the time,” he said. “It’s very different from other buildings around here—really reflective of a particular period in time. We want to hold on to it.”

Efforts in other Bay Area communities to preserve retro dome theaters haven’t met with much success. In Pleasant Hill, preservationists lost the fight with the city. Their Cinearts dome was replaced with a Dick’s sporting goods store.

“We’re hoping we’ll have more success,” Grayson said. “We have a good relationship with the city and an established organization.”

To be designated as a historic landmark, a building must have special architectural, cultural or aesthetic significance.

WHAT: Historic Landmarks Commission
WHEN: 6pm Thursday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to jennif[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

3 Comments

  1. Hint:
    A $50,000.00 donation to Pete Constant’s mayoral election campaign can buy you his vote immediately. Just ask Eric Swallow, Garden City Construction, and the M8trix Cardroom lobbysist Sharanjit (Sean) Kali-Rai

  2. Let’s get real Brian Grayson. Do your children and grandchildren care about the places that you frequented when you were young?  I’m sure your progeny is saying, “Grandpa watched a movie there.  We have to keep it just like it was for Grandpa, because Grandpa is the bestest grandpa in the whole wide world!”

    Are baby boomers are self absorbed or what?

  3. Granted state historic landmark status.  (For God’s sake I saw Star Wars, Jaws and a bunch of other cheesy movies at these domes let alone the bad revivals of 50’s and 60’s era movies movies like Lawrence of Arabia and Spartacus.)  The heirs will bicker and dispute how much money they can make off of the property they inherited (without working for it) and this shows their true nature.  Luckily, the SAN JOSE officials once upon a time granted a zoning allowance that allowed these theaters on the condition they remain as movie theaters and not be converted into intsa housing or mall developments.  This restriction remains in force whether the corrupt politicians like it or not.  If they wish to change it, put it before the voters and people of SJ on whether they’d like to sell out for a few dollars or votes or keep a state/national heritage site.