Century 21 Theater opened in 1964, the finest in a series of dome theaters designed by Vincent Raney. Century 21 differs from its sister dome theaters (Century 22 and Century 23, built between ’64 and ’66) in that it was constructed almost entirely of concrete and it has a larger lobby.
The theaters are now closed, but the sign still stands. Old photographs of the sign like this one show that the top of what is now a little ‘stump’ over the sign once had 3 balls, making it look far more imposing.
The theaters were built to accommodate a new widescreen technology called Cinerama that was developed to help theaters distinguish themselves from television. Architectural historians agree they are some of the best remaining examples of mid-century modern architecture in Silicon Valley.
After a huge movement called SAVE the DOMES, Century 21 was given landmark status in 2014. But, what happens with this structure is still uncertain.
There’s some gorgeous vintage photographs and renderings of the domes here.
And the theater sign from the 60s? It remains to be seen if Federal Realty’s proposal for Santana West on this site will recognize and preserve these pieces of San Jose’s history.
3164 Olsen Drive