California Captured – The Cinerama Dome

Marvin Rand was California's most inconspicuous photographer - but he defined its architectural iconography
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Marvin Rand's 1963 photograph of the Cinerama Dome, Hollywood, by Welton Becket & Associates, as featured in our new book California Captured
Marvin Rand's 1963 photograph of the Cinerama Dome, Hollywood, by Welton Becket & Associates, as featured in our new book California Captured

During the 1950s, to counter television's growing popularity, the movie industry introduced Cinerama, one of a number of wide-screen projection techniques that theatre owners hoped might tempt people away from their small screens at home.

The Cinerama Dome in Hollywood was purpose built in 1963 to show movies in this wide-screen format. Created by the LA practice Welton Becket & Associates, it drew on Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, and was actually quite cheap to build, despite its space-age, showy look. The theatre opened as scheduled at the beginning of November in 1963, just in time for the premier of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

The great 20th-century Californian photographer Marvin Rand recognised the Cinerama Dome as an important new LA landmark, and shot the building shortly after it opened, when it was still showing that very first movie.

However, Rand didn’t ramp up the building’s space-age aspects. He had been born in Los Angeles in 1924, specialised in mid-century architecture, and treated it in a subtle, unassuming manner.

 

LA architectural photographer Marvin Rand
LA architectural photographer Marvin Rand

In this picture, the pristine Dome and its sign is framed by Italian cypress trees and four lanes of cracked asphalt, suggesting, perhaps that the building didn’t represent some futuristic level of architectural and cinematic perfection, but just another passing development.

A few decades later, the movie industry had moved away from wide-screen venues, favouring multiplexes instead, and the Dome was, at one point due to be reworked, into a greater plan for a shopping mall on its Sunset Boulevard site.

LA’s planning department intervened in late 1998, designating the Dome a Historic-Cultural Monument, and today it looks more or less the same as when Marvin first shot it, almost 55 years ago.

 

California Captured Mid-Century Modern Architecture, Marvin Rand

For more beautiful takes on beautiful buildings check out California Captured Mid-Century Modern Architecture, Marvin Rand in the store.


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