Thursday, September 06, 2007

I Miss Cinema 180

One of my favorite amusement park attractions growing up was the Cinema 180, a movie projected onto a huge, round 180 degree screen. The image was so large and surrounding that it completely gave you the feeling of movement even though you weren't moving at all. In fact, these theatres never even had seats - everyone just sat on the floor. The theatres itself was actually a big dome tent-like structure that housed nothing more than a screen and a projector. But I used to love those things! The movies never had any point to them what-so-ever! They would be a collection of images such as driving real fast through traffic, flying in all sorts of airborne contraptions, and the very popular front seat of the roller coaster shot. All these movies had at least one trip on a roller coaster which the audiences loved, which looking back on it is kind of silly because these theatres were in amusement parks where an honest to goodness REAL roller coaster experience was just a few footsteps away. I remember one of the more creative Cinema 180 films features larger than life footage of a circus and another scene where a man opened a jar and tarantulas came crawling out toward the audience.
My most vivid memories of Cinema 180 come from (of course) Kings Dominion. Their theatre used to be slightly off International Street on the right hand side. It's not there anymore, however over at Hersheypark the Cinema 180 tent still stands but it's used as an arcade. I suspect most parks got rid of their theatre when the technologies of motion-simulators became popular at amusement parks. These rides offer a similar sensation except your seats actually move.
The image above is from a brochure for a long-gone Orlando, Florida attraction called Adventure Dome. This Cinema 180 theatre wasn't part of an amusement park, it just sat by itself on the side of the road and you paid for just the movie. It didn't last too long.

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