“Raiders of the Lost Ark” Last Movie to Be Shown at San Jose's Iconic Winchester Century Dome Theaters

Unless an unforeseen change occurs, this was the last weekend to see a film at San Jose's iconic Winchester Century dome theaters.

The final screening at the Century 21, 22 and 23  theaters was on Sunday at 7 p.m.: A  goodbye showing of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."  Perhaps the people who want to save these nearly-half-century-old structures (the oldest of the domes tuns 50 in November) from the wrecking ball can find inspiration in Indiana Jones.

The character is, after all, very adept at outrunning extremely large round boulders and has a knack for saving and preserving historical artifacts against all odds.  He persevered and claimed victory in all his adventures.

But can local preservationists do the same?  They are certainly trying.

One woman who used to work the snack bar at these theaters has posted a video to YouTube, pleading with people to sign a petition on change.org to save the domes, which are located next to the Winchester Mystery House across the street from Santana Row.

More than 6,000 people have signed their names to the website, asking Mayor Chuck Reed of San Jose to preserve the domes and have them designated as historical structures. There's a Save the Domes Facebook page, too. Turns out the city is already working on this.

Next month the state will consider historical designation for these theaters, and the federal government is expected to consider that as well.

"We don’t expect you to preserve all of them," Shannon Guggenheim of the Retro Dome said. "That’s not realistic, but could you see fit to preserve one of them and really re-imagine it into something innovative and exciting for this area."

Still, the families who own this property want to tear down the theaters and redevelop these large parcels of land to put into something that will make much more money than these theaters are bringing. 

Especially since the dome theaters built in the 1960s don't bring in the crowds like they used to as they compete with the big multiplexes and on-demand movies at home.  The owners of Santana row have already entered into a long-term lease to develop the property.

On Sunday night, a thousand people crowded into Century 21 for a sold out show and a farewell party.

"I am here to relive a little bit of my youth and say goodbye to the rest of it," moviegoer Steve Dorsey said. "I worked here for a few years in high school and been seeing movies here since I was knee high to a grasshopper, and now, they’re tearing it down. It breaks my heart."

"It’s the last chance to say goodbye, the last chance to see a movie and a movie that I actually haven’t seen," another moviegoer John Parker said.

The Century dome theaters opened in San Jose between 1964 and 1966.

"Vincent Rainey designed these pod-shaped buildings that were kind of speckled all the way down 880 and they are really going by the wayside," Guggenheim said.

Some former employees said they hope at least one dome can stay standing.

"Hopefully, they can save one instead of replacing it with another store," former Century 21 employee Ron Szaely said. "I like stores, but this is better, huh?"

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