Installed in 1982, Cinema Vision was a kind of short film movie theater that was housed in a geodesic dome. This was built on the northern edge of the park (today, Pioneer Frontier), and the area surrounding it (later themed Music Box Way from 1990-2013) was named Odyssey Alley.
Hersheypark first began considering installing a Cinema 180 system in 1981. They fielded two main offers, one of which was from a company selling an IMAX theater, the other from Cinema 180 producer Omnivision, Inc., of Sarasota, Florida.
The initial proposal was that Recreational Amusements Company of Pennsylvania (RA), the company that operated all of the game stands in Hersheypark, would own and operate Cinema Vision for the park. The reason why this was being considered was because:
A) Risk. If the park owned and operated it, itself, then all risk is on the park. If the theater is a failure, it could be a big setback.
B) The contract between RA and Hersheypark provided an easy out, that if the movie theater was successful in the first year, Hersheypark could buy out the contract and own the theater outright. Alternatively, if it were not a success, then the park could ask RA to change the concept, relocate the theater, or use the theater for something else.
However, an analysis of the Cinema 180 showed that if at least 540,000 people attended the theater per year, it was better for the park to own the theater outright. The reason this was the case is because Hersheypark would be paying RA to operate the theater.
If you’re wondering why RA would want to operate a theater for the park, that’s because the owner of RA, Mel Getlan, was anticipating the theater would drive more business to Hersheypark, which in turn would help his business overall since more people would be playing more games.
Additionally, at the time, Hersheypark’s attendance was not where management was expecting it to be. This was largely due to various economic and social issues of the time, particularly two events that occurred in 1979 which were a major setback to park attendance (Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident and a polio outbreak in Lancaster County).
Because of that, Hersheypark management had decided not to invest in larger rides as they had in sooperdooperLooper in 1977 (and as we know, they wouldn’t put in another major ride until Canyon River Rapids in 1987). It was Getlan’s hope that he could push Hersheypark into getting back into the 1970s-80s amusement ride “arms race,” by operating a major attraction in the park.
Three choices of domes
There were three options for the theater dome, of which Hersheypark really only seriously considered the larger two. Park management decided to go with the largest dome of the three, 90 feet in size, and rather than rent the theater, buy it outright. This avoided any possible issues with Mel Getlan.
That’s not to say that Hersheypark didn’t look at the smallest size dome at all, however. They did look at what they would do with the 55 foot dome; they would have placed it in Carrousel Circle where the Flying Bobs had been from 1978-1981. They would have done that because the dome would have easily fit in that spot (since the Flying Bobs was removed after the end of the 1981 season). However, the park wanted to get as many possible people into the theater, so that demanded a larger dome.
So for the reasons mentioned, the park was really only looking at the two larger domes. The other dome size was 72 feet.
The dome was a Seaman Portomod Frame Supported Tensioned Membrane Structure, constructed by Seaman Building Systems of Sarasota, Florida. It cost $63,025 to construct. However, because the dome had two colors (yellow and sandstone) it dome had a total cost of $65,025.
Naming the theater
The park decided to name the theater Cinema Vision; this comes from a combination of Cinema 180 and Omnivision. The original name proposed was “Omnivision 180.” The park was unable to use the original name because Omnivision, as a product name, was owned by Panasonic. Omnivision, the company, was only able to use it as their company name. (Panasonic did sell a console television called Cinema Vision, at the time, but Hersheypark using that name didn’t seem to be a problem.)
Hersheypark had two movies which were presented from the point-of-view, first person perspective. According to a post by Hersheypark on their Facebook page, films ranged from “simulated rides of a roller coaster to speeding down a busy road.”
Hersheypark posted a photo of Cinema Vision on their Facebook page in November 2013.
Hersheypark leased two release prints of one Cinema 180 70mm film. The rent cost the park $50,000 which was spread over three years: $20,000 the first year, $15,000 the second year, and $15,0000 the third year. The lease was dated to begin on April 15, 1982, and end on April 14, 1985. At the end of term, assuming there were no lease violations, Hersheypark had the option to extend the lease on a year-to-year basis, which they did in 1985. The movies were changed from year to year. It’s unclear what the standard movie was for those years.
However, as an option for the rental schedule Hersheypark chose, they were able to lease an additional film at a cost of $2975. The park exercised this option, renting the film, “International Thrill Show.” This lease addition was for a period of one year beginning on April 15, 1982; it also limited the park from renting more than 2 films at a time from Omnivision. For $900, the park was also able to order a second print of the “International Thrill Show.”
“International Thrill Show” was offered in three languages: English, German, or French. The scenes in the film were sequenced in the following order (in at least 1982):
- Giant Dipper roller coaster
- Night Midway scene
- Sky Wheel amusement ride
- Jumbo Jet roller coaster
- Enterprise amusement device (the park had one, Cyclops)
- Chuck Wagon Race in Calgary, Alberta
- Runaway Cable Car in San Francisco, California
- Cypress Gardens Waterways in Florida
- An air boat ride
- Pitts Special Aerobatics
- Niagara Falls, both American and Canadian
- A fly by of:
- the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri
- the Grand Canyon
- High Speed Freeway Chase
For a list of all of the movies offered by Omnivision in 1982, click here.
Cinema Vision operation 1982-1985
In 1984, Cinema Vision’s attendance was approximately 470,000. The park decided to continue operating the theater in 1985, so they extended their lease on a year-to-year basis for that season. Attendance declined in 1985, to near 425,000. The park decided to replace Cinema Vision at that point.
Cinema Vision was replaced by an Arrow Magic Room called Frontier Meeting House. The ride was supposed to open in 1986, but it was delayed until 1987. Frontier Meeting House was then in the park until 1989, at which point the building was converted into an arcade, which it still is today.
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6 thoughts on “Cinema Vision theater”
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My mind is blown that the old theater is now the Playdome Arcade.