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A year-by-year, film-by-film history of 70-millimeter wide gauge exhibition in Orange County, California


 Compiled by Michael Coate and William Kallay



70mm Equipped Theatre Pictures



Theatre Specifications
Chains: SoCal / Galaxy / City Cinemas
Opened: May 24, 1989
Seats: 500 (main auditorium)
Number of auditoriums equipped for 70mm: 2 (main auditorium and theatre # 9, located next to main auditorium)


Anaheim Hills is a planned bedroom community that is really an extension of the City of Anaheim. Some of the area was owned by the Texaco corporation, and by the early 1970s, housing developments began springing up.


Up until the late-1980s, this hilly section of Anaheim didn’t have a major mall or a movie theatre complex. Residents had to drive to Orange or Brea for the nearest theatres.  By 1989, that changed with the opening of one of the nicest and best-run theatres around the county: Cinemapolis.


For years, the Sanborn Family, a Southern California exhibitor since 1919, had plans to build a movie theatre complex in either Yorba Linda or Anaheim Hills.  Due to zoning and residential protests, Yorba Linda was dropped and Sanborn’s SoCal Cinemas focused on building a theatre in Anaheim Hills.  In the early ‘80s, SoCal found a property on Imperial Highway and La Palma Avenue bordering a railway.  The property already was home to a home improvement store called Sutherland Lumber and Knowlwood’s, a locally famous hamburger restaurant.  By 1988, SoCal had overcome city hurdles and broke ground on the first theatre in Anaheim Hills, Cinemapolis.


Opening with ten screens under an acre’s worth of roofing, Cinemapolis was considered one of the largest complexes in Orange County at the time.  Designed like a castle, patrons entered the large lobby and were greeted by some unusual things.  Patrons could watch 35mm previews being shown on a screen above the snack bar.  A faux-movie theatre marquee hung over the entrance to the main theatre that held 500 seats.  All of the rest of the theatres either had some theming (i.e. Egyptian) or “cute” names for the smallest auditoriums (i.e. Director’s Lounge), etc.


The main auditorium was built in a “wide-body” style, where it was more wide than long.  The seating area was divided by three rows, making the auditorium seem larger than it really was.  Curtains covered the screen and “accent” lighting adorned the side walls.


Cinemapolis officially opened on May 24, 1989 with a 70mm print of “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.” Patrons for the first show of the day waited in the hot sun in a parking lot that was still covered with dirt from construction equipment.  Once inside the main auditorium, those first paying guests (there was a benefit screening the night before) sat down in what seemed like a big black box; curtains and lighting fixtures hadn’t yet been installed.  But it was the show that made Cinemapolis great.  A 70mm preview of “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” blasted the audience out of their seats, with the whole crowd bursting into cheer.  Owner Bruce Sanborn once remarked that his sound system here was superior to THX Sound. He was correct (though he would include THX in some of his complexes opened in subsequent years).  Once Indy came on the screen, the audience cheered again.  The picture was bright and the sound was loud.  What a way to start off summer!


The theatre was considered a class act in exhibition.  A theatre employee would get the audience excited by touting the film playing that night, and would give away free goodies to those who answered film trivia questions correctly. And for those technically savvy patrons, he or she would tout the theatre’s projection and sound system.  This, and the fact the theatre was well-kept, earned it the “Theatre of the Year” award from NATO for a few years running.


Three more screens were added shortly after the theatre opened, and a small parking structure was attached to the back of the complex.  Although the theatre has changed names and owners in recent years, it’s still considered one of the finest movie theatres around.  It is currently known as City Cinemas.




SoCal's Cinemapolis under construction (c.1989)


Under construction (c.1989)


SoCal's Cinemapolis grand opening day ad (Sunday ad prior to May 24, 1989 opening) [Enlarge]


Ticket stub from the grand opening of Cinemapolis featuring "Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade" in 70mm [Enlarge]


Cinemapolis shortly after opening (May 26, 1989)


Cinemapolis entrance (2005 — Now known as Cinema City)




Cinemapolis box office, located directly under the tower (now completely automated)


Cinemapolis' large auditorium exterior wall


The large auditorium exterior wall with approximate dimensions of the auditorium


Cinemapolis' sign on La Palma Avenue

[1] William Kallay
[2] The Orange County Register / SoCal
[3] Anaheim Bulletin



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