At the centre of the tourism and entertainment district in the heart of Niagara Falls, the IMAX Theatre is more than a big screen – although a movie screening on a screen six stories tall is certainly a major drawing point. The complex is also a monument and educational experience dedicated to the Native American tribes first populating the area, the later European pioneers of the Niagara region and the original explorers who sought to conquer the falls. It’s a vivid retelling of the growth of what was once a frontier wilderness.
The IMAX screen itself was set up especially for film presentations dedicated to Niagara. Its main home-grown film – Niagara: Miracles, Myth and Magic – is a sweeping account of the 12 000 year history of Niagara Falls and a study of the reckless and brave daredevils who sought to conquer the challenge of the falls. With a screen that fills the entire peripheral vision, the effect is an immersive experience alongside the images of borderline-foolhardy explorers tipping over the falls in flimsy vessels. In consideration of the international variety of tourists visiting the theatre, the main films are screened throughout the week in a variety of language dubs.
As a way of adding to the experience, some of those vessels can be seen in the theatre complex’s Daredevil Exhibit: a collection of some of the actual barrels and contraptions used by sixteen of the ‘daredevils’ who turned the falls into a personal challenge to overcome. The exhibit is both a history lesson and a testimony to the determined spirit of brave individuals looking to break boundaries. And there are no boundaries in the exhibit itself – these vessels aren’t behind ropes or glass. They’re free to walk right up to and touch.
The IMAX Theatre sits in the middle of the main tourist hub of Niagara Falls – the casino and the Skylon Tower are on the same block, and just down the road is the Hornblower Cruises tour that takes tourists out to the falls. In Niagara’s tourist hub, the theatre acts as both a source of entertainment and as a museum of sorts, delivering a rich history of Niagara in a visceral and entertaining fashion.