Monday, December 12, 2011

If I Had a Million Dollars

Former Cinedome 70, Riverdale, UT

This should come as no surprise, but I watched a lot of movies growing up. Despite what I often say, it wasn't EVERY Saturday that my parents would round all 5 of us Wood kids -- or at least those of us that were still young enough to not have "better things to do" -- and head to Ogden for a show, but just about.

A fairly typical Saturday at the Wood home would consist of completing our chores in the morning -- after cartoons of course -- a quick lunch, then down to the Newgate mall for a dollar-movie in the afternoon. After the show we'd stop at the Smith's on 12th street, where each child was given $1 -- sometimes $1.50 on special occasions -- to purchase whatever they could to take back home and cook for dinner. I was always a sucker for frozen burritos, they came 3 for $1 back then. Or some days I would get a frozen personal pizza (75 cents) and a yogurt, or I'd pool my money with Leah for a more elaborate dish like Ravioli.

Smith's was good for two reasons. First, there was a video rental store inside the smiths. We had a very democratic system for selecting a movie that would please anywhere from 4 to 7 people, consisting of a piles of 'yes', 'no' and 'maybe' and multiple rounds of voting and vetoes. Once Mandie and Jake grew up and had friends, Dad and I were often outnumbered by the women but still managed to squeak a Bond or Rocky movie through. Then of course there were mom's choices; strange, obscure, sometimes disturbing selections that she had 'heard about somewhere' and to this day provide our family with converstion points at Thanksgiving.

The second reason? Smith's on 12th street was right next to the Mini-mart and if we could subliminally remind Dad that he needed to fill up the car (you had to be subtle, or else the jig was up) then he would buy us 3 for $1 corn dogs and tater tots if we were extra lucky. We'd run home and clamber around the kitchen, a din of madness as 4-7 people cooked 4-7 seperate meals, and then we'd head downstairs for our second movie of the day. We didn't do popcorn, we did ice cream and if you've never had to divide a quart into 7 equal portions (yeah, SEVEN!) then you're luckier than my mother. (Tip: get the box quart, not the bucket)

Like I said before, these were the days before Megaplexes, when actual Moviehouses still reigned supreme. The Newgate was our go-to for the price. Around the time I was 12 they gutted the theater to make way for a new, shiny, 14-screen mall stain that, to this day, is overpriced. When you make a habit out of taking 7 people to the movies, you have to look for a bargain: matinees, discount theaters. Now that I'm older, my friends think I'm crazy when I suggest a Saturday morning movie, but I still believe it's the only way. Easy on the wallet, less crowds, and when you come outside the sun is shining and you have the whole day ahead of you.

Discount theaters come at a price, however, and for a family of movie buffs sometimes you have to see the new release and sometimes you have to see it right. In the 80s and 90s, in Ogden, Utah, there was one place to really see a movie, and that was at the Cinedome.

In hindsight, the Cinedome was too good for Ogden. It was too good for the lot of us, but for a few years we had it. It was the antithesis of today's movie market. An independent theater, consisting of only two giant screens housed in arching domes. It was more than a theater, it was a shrine to cinema, a mecca for cinemaphiles. The seats were concave rows of plush at stadium slope (before that was common). The screen was framed by draping red curtains. The roof of the theater towered over you and the circular space seemed to vanish altogether when the lights dimmed and the fanfare began. To this day I have never lost myself better than I did in the Cinedome.

I remember seeing Jumanji there with all of my cousins. When the original Star Wars trilogy was re-released in the late 90s we saw each and every one at the Domes.

The Cinedome shut it's doors in 2001. It was demolished last year.

Last weekend I found myself thinking about the old Cinedome. I was at the Lincoln Center 13 in New York watching Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Lincoln Center is one of the finest moviehouses I've visited and my experience watching that movie, perched on the front row of the upper mezzanine watching a slow-burn throwback to 1970s British espionage, was one of the best I've ever had. After the movie I was so delighted, I found myself running through great movie memories: Inception at Midnight at the University 6 in Logan, Serenity with my freshman roommates at the Providence 8, Alien vs. Predator at midnight with Jesse at the Tinseltown Newgate, Spider-man at Jordan Commons, Fellowship of the Ring at the Cineplex Oedian in Layton, Jurrasic Park with my cousins at the Layton Hills Mall -- I remember hearing my sister screaming from the other side of the theater -- Hellboy at the Provo Town Centre, sneaking into Blade 2 at The Reel Theater on 12th, Finding Nemo (my first date) with Kelsey at the Northpointe.

It didn't take long before I got to Jumanji, sitting between my cousins Nick and Tony sharing a giant tub of popcorn -- I swear they were bigger back then -- and being dazzled by the indoor monsoon scene or the giant spiders (they've aged, obviously, but they still look pretty good all things considered).

People often ask me what my "dream" is. They assume that if all barriers were torn down I'd be some hot-shot reporter, a movie reviewer, or maybe even a Hollywood screenwriter. I wouldn't. If I had a million dollars I would rebuild the domes. I'd operate it at a loss if I had too. We'd show two movies, hand selected for their quality and their ability to make your eyes go wide. I'd boot you for texting, and shine a flashlight in your face if your phone even rang. During the week we'd show vintage classics on one screen: Casablanca, Strangers on a Train, It's a Wonderful Life. I'd figure out a way to bring the limiteds, like this year's Tinker, Tailor and The Artist. But most importantly we'd have The Cinedome. We'd have the red curtains. We'd have the magic.


  1. I LOVED reading this post. Oh it brings back memories. Very sentimental for you. Really it was a pleasure to read! I have gotten behind on everyone's blogs and thought I'd try and catch up today - so glad I saw this! Miss you and our Wood Family Fun Saturdays!

  2. Love the pic choice. ROTJ is the only show I clearly remember seeing there...sure there was more, but that's the one I remember.

  3. I drove past the site yesterday...the dealership that replaced it is SOOOO boring. An age old idea that seems to envelope everything the Larry H. Miller group touches..."Nothing gold can stay."