The Cinedome was a big piece of my history as a child as this was our local theater and we spent many family nights here. I ran across this piece of history written by Mark Tullis and I knew it had to be part of my personal history. Occasionally, I will be adding a piece of my personal history to the blog.
My personal history will be a gift a stories that I want to leave my children.
In addition, to this story below, I wanted to add that the owners daughter, Becki, was my teacher at Bonneville High School for communications and played a big role in my life senior year.
“The Cinedome 70 Theater opened May 1970, with a big grand opening with food catered by dozens of friends, like a big ward party. In fact, most of the employees came from the Roy 2nd and Riverdale 2nd wards – all friends of my parents and their kids (and then their kids’ friends, and on and on).
It attempted to bring some of the glamour of the big spectacular theaters like Radio City Music Hall, including a high-end Kimball organ on a pedestal in the center of the lobby played by the owner’s teenage daughter, Susan Tullis, on weekends and most summer evenings.
The building itself was built by owners themselves — a family of builders — not a big construction firm, using unusually large, curved glulam beams, painted black, and sourced from Yakima, WA.
It was the first theater in Northern Utah to feature 70 millimeter equipment (twice the width of 35 millimeter film )and 8 channel sound rather than 6 channel. The projectors were imported from England and were a huge pain to install and calibrate. The owners had to fly in an expert from England to fine tune the projectors, but once they were dialed in, the provided an exceptional presentation on the widest, curved screens in Utah at the time.
It was the first theater in northern Utah to feature an early form of stadium seating, with comfortable, wide rocking chairs–800 seats per dome.
It was one of Ogden’s important venues for big movie premieres, summer block-busters, etc. (Airport, Jaws, Star Wars, ET, etc.).
Its popcorn was repeatedly recognized by Utah magazine as the best theater popcorn in the state. (the popcorn machine was sold to Kaysville Theater, btw)..
It was owned managed by a local Riverdale family, Darrell and Nancy Tullis and their family, who lived on Ritter Drive above the theater, (Darrell died in a plane crash in 1975, leaving Nancy to manage it and keep it going, during which it thrived). Darrell’s sister and brother in law LaRue and Ray Hansen also managed it and the Riverdale Drive in, adjacent to the Cinedome. Ray was killed in the same plane crash that took Darrrell. The family made decisions about showmanship, presentation and customer service, rather than having an out of state chain make decisions, making the Cinedome more than just a great movie theater, but rather, an active member of the local community that contributed to Riverdale’s culture in many ways, including:
A Grease dance contest as a part of the Riverdale July 4th celebrations. People would dress up in “Grease” costumes and compete in a big dance contest, similar to the one portrayed at the end of the movie. Susan Tullis and Craig Stagg won the contest. July 1978
Dracula spook Alley featuring a local Riverdale resident, Mr. Rod Purser, who wore a very convincing Dracula costume, expert make-up and importantly, the silent mysterious demeanor that terrified so many onlookers. He showed up in an antique black hearse and silently skulked around in the lobby, frightening patrons and members of the staff, including a manager, Mae Ohlin, who fled to the roof in fear to hide from him. October 1976.
Star Wars Society and Spook Alley. Star Wars was a huge sensation for the Cinedome. It triggered much creativity from the Cinedome staff and management. Lucas Film’s top engineer flew to Utah to calibrate the upgraded Dolby sound system, a new technology at the time. He said it was the best presentation of Star Wars outside of California. We formed a Star Wars Society and gave awards to patrons who would dress up in costume and see the movie repeatedly. A mother and daughter team from Riverdale won the grand prize by seeing it 105 times, and memorizing the screenplay. They usually both dressed as Princess Leia with white robes and buns in their hair. In September and October 1977, we held a Spook Alley in the south dome vomitory, featuring many rooms simulating scenes from the movie: Cantina Bar, Garbage Compactor, Darth Vader in the darkened furnace room, with authentic costumes and masks, including a wonderful Chewbacca mask. We acquired the masks from 20th Century Fox which were expensive, unobtainable commercially, and very realistic. May-October 1977
Walking Tall Police screenings — Walking Tall was a huge sleeper hit and enormously popular. It enjoyed a long run. We invited police officers from the community– Roy and Riverdale City and Washington Terrace–for complimentary screenings. February 1973.
Where the Red Fern Grows — Darrell Tullis worked with the local PTA to create a fund raiser for local schools involving the movie Where The Red Fern Grows. He printed 50,000 tickets that were sold throughout Ogden, Riverdale, Roy, etc. It was a huge success, that was capped off by a big event in which the actors and dogs in the movie, actor Stewart Petersen mingled with patrons. The Standard Examiner sent reporters and covered the event.
There was also a free movie event for Riverdale Elementary school kids and teachers. The 5th and 6th students, including myself, walked single file from Riverdale Elementary on the shoulder of the road, and crossed Riverdale Road with police escort to see Where The Red Fern Grows. Of course there was free popcorn for the kids. This was a highlight of my 5th grade year. May 1974.
The Cinedome was used for several fund raisers, including Bonneville’s class of 81 fundraiser for Mary Taylor (a student body officer who was killed in a car crash during 1981). The class raised $7,000+ by selling tickets to a comedy that the Cinedome booked especially for this event. April 1981. Weber State College Chorale sold tickets for a fund raiser which financed their trip to Hawaii. 1979.
Local high school sports teams with the coaches frequently came on
Thursday evenings, the day before the game, to see a movie for free.
High School English classes for Weber school district could see
Shakespeare films for free, including Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, A Man for All Seasons and other period dramas.
The Fog—we installed a fog machine behind the screen to push out actual fog during the scary parts of the movie, terrifying the patrons on the front row, especially when “fog zombies” stumbled out from behind the screen and shambled towards the audience.
New Years Eve parties- we would stop the show at midnight and have the employees run in front of the screen spelling out the words Happy New Year with marquee signs and throw bags of popcorn and candy to the crowd. Audiences loved it and would come especially for that event. The employees would then play kissing tag immediately afterwards.
Children’s Saturday matinees in winter involving giveaway prizes and pre-movie skits, including the owner Nancy Tullis wearing a gorilla costume, the projectionist; Creighton Thompson riding a motorcycle around in front of the screen; a ventriloquist, Mark Borup, who entertained the kids. I would go with my dad on Saturday mornings to KMart on Wall Ave. and buy a truckload of toys for giveaways. He built a large spinner to determine who would win the toys, based on the numbers on the seats.
July 4th Demolition Derby in the south parking lot — For the Riverdale Fourth of July activities, one year we featured a demolition derby in the south overflow lot. One of the owners, LaRue Hansen, hid the keys to a specially prepared (concrete in the bumpers) car so that her husband Ray couldn’t participate, as she was scared he would be killed.
Call of Wild — display of dozens of wildlife trophies in lobby, including a standing polar bear, brown bear and two antelope that were killed with the same arrow (1972).
Fabulous Four MGM 70 mm series runs: Gone with the Wind, Ryan’s
Daughter, Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssee, the latter involved a local astronomy club to set up telescopes in parking lot and allow patrons to look at the stars after they came out of exit doors.
Sound of Music runs on a regular basis due to public demand (and the owner’s preference).
Venue for Miss Riverdale pageants.
Site for political debate for Riverdale mayoral candidates. It was the largest and most comfortable indoor venue for seating large numbers in Riverdale.
Becky Tullis – Layton Smith wedding reception with life size mannequins on the top of the domes, simulating a wedding cake. The wedding reception included a free movie (Casablanca) and popcorn.
Sensurround equipment for Earthquake installed in front of the screens that rocked the crowd. Simultaneously we played Towering Inferno in the north dome . The combination called “Shake and Bake” in a full page color ad in Ogden Standard – a first. December 1974.
Poseidon Adventure — fishing nets, starfish and miscellaneous capsized ship detritus suspended from the ceiling. This was the first movie I memorized by watching it 29 times.
20 foot Christmas trees in lobby procured by the Riverdale chief of police several years in a row with spectacular, oversized gold ornaments.
THE “Hold-up”, as recounted by Randy Jacobs, my cousin who has an intimate memory of the incident.
“At the time we weren’t being escorted by law enforcement when we did our night deposit at Commercial Security (now Key) Bank on Wall Ave. We just threw the night’s receipts into the trunk of our cars (in metal toolboxes from Sears, one red and one silver, that we called the “money cans”). One night it was my turn, I was taking the two change cans out to my car. I had just set them down to open the trunk and someone walked up behind and me and stated “sorry to have to do this”. When he pulled back his coat and began to draw his gun I was sorry too. Anyway, without thinking I jumped at him and tried to keep the gun from coming out of the holster. Wrong idea, he was bigger and stronger; once this realization sank in, I gave him a shove and made a beeline inside the Cinedome.
Now, I believe it was either Irene Sears or Ruth Simmons saw what was happening through the window and with brilliance dropped the actual bag with the night’s receipts into the trash. In the meantime as I was darting back to what I thought was the safety of the snack bar, my assailant’s girlfriend/accomplice now had a shotgun pointing at everyone in the snack bar area. She admonished everyone to stand still, which they did not, many of the snackbar ladies bolted hysterically screaming “we are being robbed” and running for cover. I kept moving and pulled one of the ladies into the back room with me. One of the ushers, Jay Ritchie, ran up stairs to the projection room and called the police (his dad was Roy Chief of Police).
Once the alert went out that there was a robbery in progress at the Cinedome, every law enforcement agency in the area converged. There were two other accomplices out in a get-away car. When they saw all the flashing lights from the police, highway patrol and sheriff cars approaching, they just drove away leaving their “friends” to fend for themselves.
Anyway everything turned out okay, the robbers were caught and the nightmares don’t come nearly as often after 30 years (just kidding). After the trial, the girl accomplice actually had the nerve to come back to the Cinedome to see a movie. Chief Woolsie of the Riverdale police was there and just told her, “no way”. It was the only time a patron was refused service.”
The picture was taken in 1970 when our first big film, Airport, filled the parking lot night after night. This was a turning point for the Cinedome and allowed us to bid for bigger movies.”