The Orange City Center Theatre opened in 1972 outside of The City
Mall. Originally owned by ABC Theatres, this two screen complex
opened shortly after ABC opened the
Century Plaza Cinemas in Century
City. The Orange version was smaller, but similar in concept:
modern, sparse, yet somehow luxurious. The main auditorium’s screen
was large and the seats were comfortable.
The theatre was part of a “island” on the outskirts of the mall’s
parking lot. Across from the theatre, via a walkway, was a
restaurant. The theatre building was plain as can be, and
appeared small from the outside. Backing the building was a health
club. The theatre was built at a time when the City Mall and
its office complexes were considered "high-class."
The lobby was wide, with the snack bar to the left of the entrance.
Theatre #1 was to the left side of the front doors, and theatre #2
was straight ahead.
Theatre #1 was long and narrow, but had a lot of seats. Theatre #2 was the flagship of the
complex. A walkway in the middle of the auditorium split the
upper and lower seating sections. The auditorium was wide, holding
a massive screen.
By the mid-70s, Plitt bought the theatre and kept it first class by
showing a Sensurround presentation of “Midway”
(1976), then being one of the few first wave theatres to exclusively
show “Star Wars” in
1977 in 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo. This was
the place where I first experienced “Star Wars.” The film and
presentation are forever embedded in my mind. The picture was clear
and the sound was magnificent. I jumped out of my seat when the
titles for “Star Wars” blasted onto the screen. I cheered after the
Imperial Star Destroyer flew over my head. I applauded when the
Death Star was blown into oblivion. This theatre had a lot to do
with how I experienced that movie. In 1979, I saw it in a re-issue
at the AMC Orange Mall 6 on a tiny screen in mono sound. I tried to
convince my friend, who hadn’t seen it, that it was great! But he
was unimpressed. I think had he seen it the way I did originally,
it would’ve changed his mind.
The City Center showed quite a bit of 70mm presentations, and they
were some of the biggest hits of all-time. “Alien” (1979) and
“E.T.” (1982) screened here. What probably made this theatre
somewhat forgotten was that the
Cinedome had more screens and booked
more 70mm prints. Also, the fact that the City Center was on the
outskirts of a dying mall didn’t help matters, either.
The theatre was split into four screens by 1985 by Syufy (Century)
Theatres. Piggyback auditoriums were built into the main
auditorium, creating a mushroom shape. This made it very difficult
for people sitting in the rear of the theatre to see the massive
Eventually, the theatre became a second-run house. Occasionally,
Syufy would send over a 70mm print of, say, “Empire Of The Sun”
(1987) or a sweet sounding print of “Batman Returns” (1992), but
theatre’s days were numbered. Gangs began to hang out at the
theatre, and one unfortunate night, a security guard was shot and
killed in the lobby by gang members who were asked to be quiet
during a film presentation. This occurrence made the news and soon
the theatre was shut down for good by the mid-1990s. Mills
Corporation bought the City Mall and the theatre, then tore everything
down. The Block of Orange now sits on the property and has been
very successful. The spot where the City Center once stood is now a