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