The IMAX building in Spokane’s Riverfront Park will be torn down sooner than was first announced by city officials to make room for more open space.
SPOKANE — Paint it green and yellow, and it could be a twin to the Shadle water tower. Squint and maybe it’s a cousin to R2-D2. Or, if you like, it’s just a big old white cylinder.
Whatever you think it looks like, come Monday there’s one thing the IMAX building in Riverfront Park definitely will be: a goner.
On Thursday, the city announced an expedited demolition schedule of the kind-of-iconic building in Spokane’s central park. Instead of March, which was announced earlier in the week, a high-reach excavator will be clawing at the building Monday.
“It did make sense given that there was the heavy equipment on scene,” said Fianna Dickson, spokeswoman for the parks department, referring to the machines that took off the ice-rink roof below the U.S. Pavilion last week. “In March, that area (around the Looff Carousel) will be much more heavily developed so it makes more sense to do it now.”
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Beginning about 1 p.m., the old, ribbed white cylinder will be torn down, little by little. It’ll take most of the week, Dickson said, and it won’t be replaced. Its location will be open space, called a “central meadow,” between the U.S. Pavilion and the paved Howard Street promenade running through the park.
The decision to demolish the IMAX theater came in September 2016, but its fate was in the works for years. A master plan for the park’s redevelopment, agreed to in 2014, called for closing the IMAX because of declining revenues.
The IMAX building was built in 1978 and reached peak attendance in 2005 with 106,000 visitors. The attraction’s revenues plummeted after the opening of the IMAX screen at the AMC cinema in nearby River Park Square and the loss of licensing to show big-budget Hollywood films in 2009.
In 2012, the theater lost $342,000 and just 36,500 people attended its movies.
Though the old building has one more show in it — its own destruction — treasure hunters are warned off. Besides the danger surrounding the demolition, the theater already has been cleared out.
In September, the city auctioned off most everything associated with the 40-year-old theater: seats, large metal film packing cases, audio equipment, vinyl banners, posters and more.
“Some of it went back to IMAX,” Dickson said. “It was used to refurbish other historic IMAX theaters around the country.”