Starting September 30, the National Museum of Natural History’s Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater will close indefinitely. It is the largest IMAX screen in the District and one of only two IMAX theaters by the National Mall with the second one located in the National Air and Space Museum. In response to this news, a group of IMAX producers and directors have sent a letter to the museum in protest.
In the letter, it reads:
“The Johnson IMAX Theater is the premier venue in the United States dedicated to running the most successful and impactful educational documentary films about the natural world. This theater and its massive six-story screen draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Many of these visitors are school children who come to learn about the wonders of our environment through the IMAX experience. The effect this venue has on future generations is important, serving to educate and engage them in nature, and even to inspire them to become botanists, biologists, zoologists, anthropologists, entomologists, geologists, archeologists, and deep-sea explorers. IMAX films give audiences the ability to EXPERIENCE and learn about nature viscerally, in a way that traditional and often static museum displays normally do not accomplish as effectively.”
The letter further asks for there to be more public dialogue on the plans as well as a detailed financial report of all IMAX theaters owned by the Smithsonian. The letter also requests the National Museum of Natural History share the expected revenues from its expanded cafeteria.
While the letter indicates that the theater will be “demolished,” this is not entirely accurate, according to a source at the National Museum of Natural History. Instead, it will be removed with no major changes to the historic 1910-built building.
The reasoning behind the closing is that the theater only averages 20 percent capacity in its 475-seat space.
Along with the closing, the West Court of the museum will undergo multiple other changes in the next year and a half. The existing cafeteria will be expanded, and additional programming will be created. By 2019, a new Fossil Hall will be added.
More specific details of these changes are expected to be announced this fall.
• Letter to the Smithsonian [Save Our IMAX]
• Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater [Smithsonian]