It was recently announced that the ground lease is due to expire and the landowner is seeking to find a developer for the property that is currently home to the Winchester Theaters, formerly The Century Theaters (21, 22 and 23.) These iconic theaters, built in the 1960s to herald both the space age and new cinema technology, are at risk of demolition.
Don't Let The Domes Meet Their Doom
The Retro Dome (under the direction of Guggenheim Entertainment, Inc) and the Preservation Action Council of San Jose (PAC-SJ) are partnering to raise awareness and promote action pertaining to the “Winchester Domes.” Since 1990, PAC-SJ has been dedicated to preserving the architectural heritage of San Jose.
The large, dome-shaped venues are located on the property adjacent to the famous Winchester Mystery House and across the street from the Santana Row shopping center, visible from 280. Theater 21 is a single screen; Theater 23 is a two screen theater, each under a single dome; and Theater 22 has three single theaters under three domes. The City of San Jose is in the process of trying to rezone the commercial property as an "Urban Village" to allow for high-density residential development.
A Call to Action
We invite you to join the many Silicon Valley residents in favor of preserving these historically significant venues. We believe the Domes should be saved and reused, and incorporated into any Urban Village proposal. One example of reuse would be preserving Century 22 to provide a home to The Retro Dome, which occupied a sister Dome on Saratoga Avenue but was recently displaced when plans were announced to demolish the former Century 25. A wonderfully historic building would be saved from the wrecking ball and The Retro Dome would be reborn and serve as a home to multiple Silicon Valley-based performing arts groups. With the three adjoining theaters, Guggenheim Entertainment and its partners would be able to offer the region a cooperative Performing Arts Center unrivaled by any other.
The buildings—originally called the Century Theaters—were the first theaters of their kind. Designed by San Francisco architect Vincent Raney and opened between 1964 and 1966 to accommodate a new widescreen technology called Cinerama that was developed to help theaters distinguish themselves from television, The Century Theaters are a cultural symbol of postwar prosperity for the masses and a widespread optimism in the future. Although the theaters have not been granted landmark status yet some architectural historians agree these are some of the best remaining examples of mid-century modern architecture in Silicon Valley and have as much historical significance as the Winchester Mystery House.
After nearly four successful years in their location at the former Century 25 Theater, The Retro Dome (under the direction of Guggenheim Entertainment, Inc) was forced to close its doors when the property owner refused to renew the lease. Guggenheim Entertainment is looking for a new location to make its home, offering the community and region high quality, professional entertainment and educational programming.
Saving the Domes is an opportunity to restore and reuse an historic property. The Retro Dome and its partners stand poised to immediately provide tenants for the building and breathe new life into whichever venues can be saved. The Retro Dome, with its award-winning programs, would be able to move in and begin operations immediately, creating captivating entertainment for all ages and demographics, making the new Retro Dome another jewel in the crown that is Silicon Valley's entertainment scene.
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