CORRECTION: The IMAX equipment at the Cradle of Aviation was not leased. Special thanks to “eightpanhead” on the yahoo IMAX message boards and James Hyder of the LF Examiner for bringing this error to my attention. According to Gary Monti, the Director of Museum and Theater Operations, via email, the funding for purchase of the IMAX equipment came from a donor and, as the funds were restricted for purchase only of the equipment, IMAX made an exception to the lease rule, which was being implemented at the time with new systems.
Sometime within what we believe to be the last month, the name of the Museum’s Grumman IMAX Dome Theater was changed, without acknowledgement on the Museum’s website or in the local press (as far as we can tell), to the Grumman Giant Screen Dome Theater. Overnight, we have been searching the internet for possible clues as to what may have caused the change and have come up with two possible answers.
In 2004, the Museum was suffering intense financial problems and one solution under consideration was bringing Hollywood films into the IMAX theater. This seemed to have worked fairly well, as a 2008 report to the County outlined expansion of the DMR program and the addition of concession counters.
However, starting in 2008, IMAX began an extensive expansion program of digital cineplex theaters. In October of that year, Regal Entertainment Group opened IMAX theaters in Sheepshead Bay and Deer Park, equidistant and in opposite directions from the Museum, essentially killing off the exclusivity that the Museum had in the Long Island market. This appears indeed to be a sour point with the Museum, with a posting on its facebook page today stating: “See your next movie on Long Island’s largest screen! Don’t be fooled by an Imax screen that’s barely larger than any other screen in that multiplex. We are LARGE SCREEN CERTIFIED!”
Another factor that may be at issue is the overall availability of Hollywood prints. From 2D operators that we have spoken with, most studios distributing 3D films are requiring first run IMAX films only be in 3D, meaning 2D operators, both flat and dome, must wait for second run, when the 3D prints are split into two for 2D distribution or they may not get the film at all. On the Grumman IMAX’s twitter page (the account has been discontinued), a tweet in November, 2009 expressed dissatisfaction with the inability to acquire Avatar. The theater also expressed additional issues with regards to the date it would be able to open Hubble, stating “It turns out that we are NOT getting ‘Hubble’ when we planned. Too much confusion with 2-D and 3-D product. Will keep you posted!”
Although the theater has changed its name, it appears to still be operating IMAX film equipment. We speculate that one of four possible futures lie in wait for it:
- The equipment lease could be up on the theater and the museum could be in negotiations for a new contract with IMAX.
- The IMAX projector will be replaced with another dome film system, such as one by CDC (identical to the projector at the Orlando Science Center).
- The IMAX projector will be replaced with a digital dome projector system by another vendor.
- The theater could be shut down and refitted for other uses.
All of this should be considered strictly as speculation. We have written to the Museum and will update as soon as we have a reply.