The Royal B.C. Museum has purchased the Imax Victoria theatre for $3.8 million from Destination Cinema Inc., the U.S. company that opened the big-screen theatre in 1998.
The deal, which came into effect Saturday, has been in the works since June 2019, following an engagement process between the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, the Royal B.C. Museum, and market research firm R.A. Malatest & Associates Ltd.
Destination Cinema had a 30-year lease that gave the museum two options to purchase the assets of the theatre, in 2008 and 2018.
Imax Victoria, which is located inside the museum building at 675 Belleville St., was acquired with funding from a government grant.
“In anticipation of working with government for a modernization of the site, it’s always wise to have control of the site,” Gary Lacey, chief operating officer of the Royal British Columbia Museum, said in an interview with the Times Colonist. “That’s why we moved forward with this at this time.”
The decision to purchase the Imax is part of a multi-year plan to revitalize the museum and the land on which it sits, in tandem with the provincial government, Lacey said.
“For the modernization process, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture is working on a business case, but I can’t really speak to that.”
A representative from the ministry could not immediately provide a comment.
All current staff, including theatre director Paul Wild, will be retained by the museum. Admission prices will not change.
Programming has not been interrupted during the official transition and Lacey said he does not expect that to change.
In a statement to the Times Colonist, departing operator Bob Perkins, CEO of Destination Cinema Inc., said it has been “an incredible 22 years” running the theatre. “We have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the museum and we are pleased to leave them with a theatre and a team that are well positioned to take Imax Victoria forward with the same skill, commitment and passion for the product and the audience.”
More than 356,000 people visit the 369-seat theatre each year.
When it opened in June 1998 — as the National Geographic Theatre — it was the 17th theatre in Canada to employ Imax technology.
It’s the largest Imax screen in B.C., measuring 18.59 metres high and 25.9 metres wide.
Following a short closure, the theatre reopened July 3 with COVID-19 protocols in place. Movies currently being shown include Great Bear Rainforest, Sea Lions, Turtle Odyssey and 1917.
“This is an exciting step for the Royal B.C. Museum modernization,” Jack Lohman, CEO of the Royal BC Museum, said in a statement. “Bringing the Imax Victoria into the museum operation opens up more educational opportunities as we work to update the museum.”