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Riverdale's twin-domed cinemas an attraction for northern Utah moviegoers for more than 30 years met the wrecking ball Monday to make way for a new Larry H. Miller car dealership.
While Cinedome 70 fans lacked resources to save the landmark that shut down in 2001, they now hope to preserve its memory.
"I saw 'Tora! Tora! Tora!' there in 1970" launching a lifelong love for that theater and the movies, said Ogden resident Rod Nelson. Nelson, 51, reminisced about gazing at the hypnotic "waterfall" lamps in the Cinedome's large lobby and the grand moment when the usher announced his movie and he'd ascend the curved walkway.
"You'd be inundated with this huge curved screen as you came around the bend," Nelson said. "And the chairs rocked back. That was a novelty."
Earlier this year Nelson and others learned of the building's pending demise and took steps to save it, attending City Hall sessions and launching Facebook sites that drew thousands of followers.
The family-owned business, however, had outlived its heyday, no longer able to compete with corporate-owned multi-screen theaters.
Allen Glines, who created "Save the Cinedome 70" on Facebook several months ago, had hoped to see it preserved as a community concert hall.
"People that went to see one movie there remember it," Glines said. "It's an ambience thing."
Through the summer, Cinedome fans held a glimmer of hope that a benefactor would come forward to preserve it.
"Once this building is gone," Nelson said, "Riverdale has no history left."
The glory days • In his early teens, Mark Tullis donned black pants and a red blazer and worked as an usher in the theaters his father, Darrell Tullis, and grandfather, Roy Tullis, built at Riverdale's west edge. He also sold snacks, acted in skits, helped with the parking lot crew and toted "money cans" to the night bank depository.
"We would hire multiple families who were friends with my parents," Tullis said.
The theater stayed open every day of the year except for the one December night when it hosted a big employee Christmas bash.
Employees, in turn, went the extra mile.
In 1977, the long hallway leading to the theater transformed into a Star Wars spook alley for several months.
"We obtained 20th Century-approved masks of Darth Vader and Chewbacca," Tullis said.
When Grease opened in the summer of 1978, the Cinedome lobby teemed with patrons clad in leather jackets, poodle skirts and bobby sox.
"We had a lot of fun," said Tullis, who now resides in Portland, Ore. "As a family, we could do a lot of unusual promotional events that you don't see anymore."
That added service and showmanship paid off with packed houses.
The road down • Darrell Tullis and Roy Hansen partnered to run the business until they died in a small plane crash in 1975. Their families carried the twin theaters through the next decade.
But by 1985, the film industry had evolved and the families retreated, signing operations over to Plitt Theatres in a 20-year lease later transferred to Cineplex Odeon.
"It was becoming more and more difficult to raise the guarantees to the film companies," Tullis said. They had mortgaged the building several times to keep getting big-name blockbusters. The lease finally landed in Sony's hands, Tullis said, and it defaulted on payments in 2000.
"We ended up having to sell it for financial reasons," Tullis said.
By 2001, the Cineplex 70 went dark for good.
Saying goodbye • TinaMarie Gardner, a Cinedome 70 fan who now lives in Albuquerque, N.M., recently accompanied Mark Tullis and his mother, Nancy Tullis, and others on a farewell walk through the once-grand place.
Gardner cut down the gold and greenish-blue curtains that hung around the two large screens.
"I have enough material to make 10 throw-sized comforters and a quilt," Gardner said.
"It's sad to see her go."
What's next • The Larry H. Miller Group, based in Sandy, expects to open a new Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge dealership on the 10-acre property by June.
"It's a great site as the gateway to Riverdale," said Jay Francis, executive vice president of operations.
The Weber County city stretches eastward from Roy to Ogden, its residential areas tucked behind the heavily commercial Riverdale Road. Several car lots, big-box stores, restaurants and strip malls line each side of the busy thoroughfare.
"It will be a great state-of-the-art dealership," Francis said, "first class and a nice addition to the city."
email@example.com Farewell to Riverdale's Cinedome 70 Twin Theatres
Opened May 15, 1970
Closed Feb. 6, 2001
1,600 rocking stadium seats, 800 on each side
60-foot high domes, 110 feet in diameter, enclosed each auditorium
Four projectors could show 35mm and 70mm films
Six-track sound systems supported by 10 speakers behind each screen