Laserium show hopes to rock on despite dashed comeback attempt in Hollywood
After nearly 40 years, Ivan Dryer says he hasn’t soured on bouncing brilliant light beams to a big rock beat, even though his most recent Laserium venture didn’t exactly shine on like the crazy diamond in the Pink Floyd song that has formed a backdrop to many a laser-rock display.
Dryer, the founder and chief executive of Laser Images, Inc., the company that put on laser shows at Griffith Observatory from 1973 to 2002, says a combination of bad luck and business miscalculations forced him to turn off the lights just five months into a comeback bid that began last summer at the Vine Theatre in Hollywood.
But he said today that he’s still in the hunt for a new venue, possibly a different theater in Hollywood, or maybe by working out a deal with the Fleet Science Center in San Diego. The science center has the ideal domed-theater configuration that was lost when the Griffith Observatory underwent renovations from 2002 to 2006, then reopened with a science-only mandate for its planetarium.
It was a bad omen — and bad for business — that Laserium’s Hollywood reincarnation began the same day, June 25, that the world learned of Michael Jackson’s death.
Grieving over the iconic music and visual dazzle they’d lost, Jackson fans drove into Hollywood in hordes, clogging the area as they crawled toward Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, about 10 blocks west of where Dryer was trying to sell tickets for an attraction that had its own way of combining iconic music and visual dazzle.
“You couldn’t move on Hollywood Boulevard because of the traffic. It jammed the place up for the better part of a week,” Dryer said. He believes it cost Laserium's comeback a chance at a blazing start.
On Nov. 29, after a hoped-for Thanksgiving week rush didn’t materialize, Laserium shut down, having averaged about half the 80 ticket buyers per performance it needed to sustain the business. Dryer said there had been 14 performances a week, with admission $10 to $15.
In addition to bad luck, Dryer said, the new location, a stretch of Hollywood Boulevard just west of the Pantages Theatre, wasn’t the “iconic destination” the Griffith Observatory had been and lacked the planetarium's free parking. Also, rock radio had splintered since the Griffith Park days, forcing Laserium to advertise on a half-dozen stations when previously it could blanket the market by booking spots on just a couple.
On top of that, Dryer said, “I think we made some errors.” One was a new attraction, the Light Dancer Experience. An “audiovisual karaoke,” as Dryer describes it, Light Dancer preceded the traditional Laserium shows, with audience members stepping onto a couple of platforms where they could control laser and video effects with their movements. The problem was that not everybody could do it at once, and not everybody wanted to – leaving many folks to wait through the Light Dancer segment when the traditional Laserium show was what they’d come for.
“If we were just doing the Laserium show, it would have been a lot cheaper” to operate, said Dryer. Game for another try, he said he’ll be making inquiries about a new venue, with an eye toward reopening with the laser show and the music, sans Light Dancer.
Laserium, he’s convinced, can still enchant, even at a time when homes and movie theaters are wired to present sounds and images nobody could have anticipated when the genre first came into its own. “People are torn between dozens of entertainment possibilities, and it’s difficult to compete. On the other hand, people in homes don’t have the environment we can offer, with that kind of theater, with those kinds of effects.”
-- Mike Boehm
Photos: Laserium marquee at the Vine Theatre in Hollywood; Laserium 3-D projection at the Vine Theatre. Credits: Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times