The History of the Seattle IMAX Dome Theater

The history of the Seattle IMAX Dome Theater traces its roots back to 1979 when it began as the Aquarium Theater. At the time, it was one of only seven OMNIMAX® Theaters in the world, and due to the limited availability of films for the domed screen, the theater faced challenges in attracting an audience. Famous Players of Canada initially operated the concession and briefly changed the name to OMNIRAMA.

In 1981, entrepreneur Dave Jasper from Minnesota purchased the theater concession and coined the term “Omnidome Film Experience” to describe the unique and little-known film format. However, it wasn’t until 1983 that the theater became a seasonal presence on the Seattle waterfront, operating from May to October due to low foot traffic during the winter months.

A turning point for the theater came in 1984 when the film “The Eruption of Mount St. Helens” premiered. The film generated enough attendance to allow the theater to remain open year-round. Today, the Seattle IMAX Dome Theater boasts an annual attendance of 200,000.

The Cinema Group, led by principal Richard James, purchased the theater in 1996 and renamed it the Seattle IMAX Dome Theater. Over the years, the theater has focused on screening films that complement a visit to the Seattle Aquarium, with titles such as “The Living Sea,” “Whales” (produced by Mr. James), “Dolphins,” “Into the Deep,” and “Ocean Oasis.” However, no other film has proven more popular than “The Eruption of Mount St. Helens.”

The Seattle IMAX Dome Theater has been an important financial contributor to the community, as Richard James highlights: “Over time, the theater has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in admission tax, sales tax, and rent to the City of Seattle and Parks Department. We are proud of the contributions we have made financially to the community.”

Not only has the theater been a significant financial asset, but it has also been an innovator in the film business. The Seattle IMAX Dome Theater stands as one of the last independent theaters in the city and is home to one of the final union projection rooms in Washington State.

Throughout its history, the Seattle IMAX Dome Theater has evolved and adapted to changing times, always staying true to its mission of providing unique and engaging film experiences for its audience. With a legacy of innovation and a commitment to the community, the theater continues to be a cherished landmark in the city of Seattle.