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.
I have recently learned that the ground lease is due to expire and the landowner is seeking to find a developer for the property currently home to the three domed movie theaters on Winchester Boulevard. The Winchester Theaters, built in the 1960s to herald both the space age and new cinema technology, are at risk of demolition.
I am pleased to add my name to the growing list of supporters in favor of preserving one or more of the Domes. The Dome in Pleasant Hill was demolished earlier this year, and plans are underway for the demolition of the former Century 25 (aka The Retro Dome). I hope San Jose's city leaders would feel compelled to preserve at least one of the Winchester Domes or eventually, all of the domes will be reduced to rubble. I encourage the City of San Jose to preserve at least one of the buildings and direct the new developer to integrate the buildings into any proposed development. These architecturally unique theatres add tremendously to the cultural landscape of Silicon Valley and hold more than half a century of historical value for our community and its people.
I am pleased to support the efforts of PAC-SJ and I am excited about the possibility of what an organization like The Retro Dome and its partners can bring to the Winchester Domes should they be preserved. With their history in the former Century 25 dome-shaped theatre, their team is poised to immediately continue their award-winning programming and operate an outstandingly creative performing arts center with multi-use options for the entire community.
With the creativity of Silicon Valley there must be some innovative architectural minds who could design a plan that incorporates at least one of these structures into a viable commercial development that satisfies present needs, and not only honors the past but uses it effectively as a bridge to the future.
I look forward to hearing of your favorable reply on this matter.