If you want to see Paul Wild blush, just call him the Seven Million Dollar Man the next time you go see a movie at Imax Victoria.
The theatre housed in the Royal B.C. Museum set an attendance milestone this month when it welcomed its seven-millionth moviegoer.
“It’s all teamwork,” said Wild, crediting his staff with achieving the record-breaking numbers at the Belleville Street theatre, which opened in June of 1998.
The last time an attendance milestone was marked was in late 2013, when attendance numbers reached six million, he said.
Wild said booming attendance is the result of a number of factors, including good tourism numbers, a strong slate of films and the theatre’s new laser system.
Business has boomed since Imax Corp. launched its next-generation 3-D laser projection system at the theatre in March. The upgrade, two years in the making and one of the world’s first such rollouts, included installation of cutting-edge laser projectors, a new 540-kilogram silver screen measuring 18.6 by 26 metres, a customized 12-channel audio upgrade and new reclining stadium seats.
“Especially in the local market, from the annual passholders’ point of view, they were keen to learn more and see the new system, so we definitely had quite an uptake on local market support,” Wild said.
The rising movie attendance has been in step with attendance figures for the museum — 14 million combined over the past 18 years.
Wild attributes that in part to the successful pairing of exhibitions and films reflecting specific themes, such as Mammoths: Titans of the Ice Age, paired with the museum’s current Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age exhibition. The film, produced by Chicago’s Field Museum, documents the 2007 discovery in Siberia of Baby Lyuba, a well-preserved 40,000-year-old baby woolly mammoth.
The new milestone cements Imax Victoria’s position alongside Butchart Gardens and The Royal B.C. Museum as one of the region’s top-three attractions, said Wild.
The theatre has been earning the thumbs-up on online sites such as TripAdvisor.
“When the announcer suggests that what you see may seem actual, believe it!” commented one visitor on TripAdvisor in March. “The new laser projection system and accompanying sound enhancement make you feel part of the action ... I watched America Wild and got sweaty palms, then the newest Star Wars feature [The Force Awakens] was [so much] around me that I flinched during a light-sabre duel.”
Being able to see evening showings of feature-length Hollywood releases, including 3-D offerings such as Captain America: Civil War is among the most popular new features, polls show.
A current favourite is The Jungle Book: An Imax 3D Experience that Wild says he was so captivated by, he lost track of the time when he test-screened it.
“I totally got into the film and started watching it and forgot that this was about work,” said Wild, who had to be reminded by staff the first show of the day was about to start.
Other popular summer entries include A Beautiful Planet, America Wild: National Parks Adventure 3D and Living in the Age of Airplanes.