Last month, a new cinematic attraction arrived on the Atlanta’s BeltLine Eastside Trail in Poncey-Highland. Illuminarium is an immersive cinematic experience, and its first film, WILD takes viewers to the savannas, forests and lakes of Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. A little like VR without the goggles or IMAX in the round, Illuminarium incorporates Panasonic 4k projectors on the walls—and occasionally the floors—offering larger-than-life looks at Africa’s spectacular megafauna.
A co-creation of RadicalMedia, Rockwell Group and former Esquire publisher Alan Greenberg, the new Atlanta-based company invested $10 million in its first 45-minute production, filming the wildlife on location and stitching the scenes together to create its series of vignettes. For a $35 entrance fee, patrons can walk around the room, hopping into projected puddles or getting up-close looks of (and selfies with) lions, giraffes, hippos and other creatures they might encounter on an African safari.
“Our aim with content is we want to democratize the world’s most extraordinary experiences,” says Illuminarium VP of tech and content Brian Allen. “We look for experiences that have mass appeal but not many people can take part in. So if you were out on the BeltLine here in Atlanta and you were asking 100 people have they been on safari, maybe two per cent would say yes. But 99 per cent would most likely say they would love to go on safari. So our aim is to transport you to a different environment. I don’t think people have really experienced animals—or the Big Five—at scale. Because of our 22-foot-high projection, people get truly immersed in the environments that we’re showing.”
And with a only few prominent billionaires blasting off into the upper atmosphere lately, it makes sense that the company’s next production is tentatively titled Space Walk, slated to take over the Atlanta location this winter with a brief run of a holiday-themed experience in between. “I’m sure everyone would walk on the moon as it were,” Allan says.
The waiting room has its own projector experience, and at 8pm it gets converted into Illuminarium After Dark: Shibuya Night Market, a full-service bar with a small tapas menu that transports you to the streets of Tokyo. The $15 cover charge and $16 cocktails might make you feel like you’re in Japan, too. The room is also available for corporate and private events.
By the end of the year, Illuminarium Experiences plans to open its second location in Las Vegas, followed by Chicago and Miami in 2022, and they don’t plan to stop there. “We’re looking at the top tourist cities in the United States, as well as overseas,” Allen says. “We’re heavily looking in the Asia-Pacific region. As that comes to fruition, we’ll announce that.”
For locals and tourists tired of being stuck at home, Illuminarium hopes to bring people out together. “VR as a medium is interesting, but it’s a singular experience, so it’s confined to yourself,” Allen says. “What we’re trying to do here at Illuminarium is create communal experiences where you’re transported together, so you can be with your partner or your family and be transported together but still have individual experiences.”