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Sat, Sept. 19

IMAX undergoing changes as 20th anniversary nears<br>

Work progresses at the National Geo-graphic Visitor’s Center, formerly known as the IMAX Theatre.

The center will host a community party on Friday and Saturday, June 18 and 19, in part to celebrate the anniversary and the upgrades but also to welcome newcomers to the community.

“The concept is of a kick-off party for seasonal employees,” said center manager Brent Kok. “It’s a chance for them to get together before the season starts.”

The event will also be a fund-raiser to benefit Kaibab Learning Center, the non-profit day-care center in the park.

The celebration will start at 6:30 p.m. each evening with a showing of the Grand Canyon “Hidden Secrets” movie, followed by a special screening of National Geographic’s “Forces of Nature.” After that, guests can enjoy food, beverages and music by the band Exit 64 until about 11 p.m.

For the past month work has been ongoing in the theatre and courtyard and should be finished in the next week or so, Kok said. The result will be a facility that is more “visitor friendly.”

It will contain an office for the Arizona Department of Tourism, a climbing wall where kids can work off some extra energy and a lounge for tour operators and bus drivers. Kok said he’s working with officials at the park to arrange for rangers to be stationed at the center to provide visitor information and sell park passes in an effort to reduce bottlenecks at the South Entrance Station. So far that initiative has been stalled over staffing, he said.

Vending machine purchases for park passes will still be offered.

There will also be asthetic improvements, including a mural of Grand Canyon on the lobby floor and banners on the south side of the building.

The philosphy is one that National Geographic is pursuing throughout its network of theaters adjacent to national parks.

“We want to position ourselves as much as possible with the Park Service,” Kok said. “Grand Canyon’s is the flagship theatre.”

Similar overhauls are in the works for National Geographic IMAX theaters near Zion and Yellowstone national parks.

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