The recent opening of Illuminarium heralded in the regaling of one of the most exciting business-related and socially forward events since COVID put on the brakes. CEO Alan Greenberg and several other supporting investors celebrated June 30 the next day’s grand opening of the Illuminarium, a permanent structure in the Common Ground building on the Atlanta BeltLine.
This immersive adventure combines techniques used in traditional motion picture production and virtual reality that allow visitors to experience filmed content like the initial offering Wild! (a safari) and later re-created worlds such as oceans and outer space, all without having to wear goggles or gear. The power of the music, background sounds and special effects are the pinnacle of creative technology.
Greenberg is a seasoned global entrepreneur and founder of Greenberg News Networks, acquired by WebMD, and he is former publisher of Esquire magazine, among other leadership roles.
Over the past few years, Greenberg has labored over the Illuminarium concept, which was inspired by great worldwide experiences like Team Lab in Tokyo, Atelier des Lumieres in Paris, Meow Wolf in Santa Fe and Yayoi Kusama’s displays.
He emailed the AJT, “After three years of ideation, business development, filming (four trips to Africa) post-production, construction and operational planning, we are so proud to open the world’s first Illuminarium in Atlanta. July 1 we opened our doors to the world by bringing one of the most special experiences in the world … a grand Safari … to life!”
On June 30, 500 guests were greeted by playful “human” giraffes and zebras on stilts posing for photo ops. All attendees were then transported on a safari, where water ebbed and rushed in on floor corners, birds cawed, the stars glittered in African night sky clarity, lanky giraffes whipped their majestic necks, and lion cubs joyfully played under mom’s supervision. Then poof, they were gone and replaced by new, better-than-National Geographic scenes. Leaving out no detail, African percussive music sealed the atmosphere.
During the reception, Bold Catering & Design, Proof of the Pudding and the in-house Illuminarium catering teams ran delicious settings of companion menus aligned with the safari theme. Examples of stations were “Eat What Elephants Eat: All Vegan items – Cucumber Avocado, Spicy Shitake Mushrooms, Teriyaki Veggie Crunch” and a Serengeti grain bowl station with Ethiopian collard greens and potatoes lined up along ancient grains such as farro and quinoa.
Walls fluttered with cascading butterflies and massive hippos swam whisker-close nose-to-nose. The dessert display was house made marshmallows on sticks in versions such as s’mores and strawberry shortcake.
Public relations guru Joel Babbitt remarked, “A lot of Jewish people have invested here. I hope it does well. It looks like they did their research, which is a good sign.” Daughter Brooke, 15, thought “it would be a fun place for parties.”
Investor-real estate magnate Steve Selig said, “The Illuminarium is a wonderful addition to the city. It will be a major success for Atlanta. Everybody is going to want to come.”
Selig’s granddaughter Casey Shoulberg, 18, exclaimed, “I have never before seen anything like this. It’s a fun new experience. I hope to bring my friends.” Mom Mindy Selig Shoulberg was equally impressed.
The anterior party room adjacent to the main room housed another bar, where the walls and ceiling glittered as an ice palace then morphed into Chinatown and scenes stirring the imagination.
Stephanie Blank, accompanied by recent Bucknell University graduate Matt Novak, glowed. “This is absolutely beautiful, levels above an IMAX feel,” Blank said.
Dr. Steve Wertheim noted, “This is truly amazing. The photography is incredible. It’s ‘New York level entertainment’ premiering here in Atlanta.” Dr. Ramie Tritt, echoed, “This is nothing short of a phenomenal experience.”
Also on hand were Calum Pearson, general manager of the future Las Vegas Illumiarium, and Eric Heacock, head of design and construction for Legends Global Attractions, one of developers.
Erin and Moshe Lis of Added Touch Catering, excitingly relayed that their division, A Kosher Touch, would be the vendor for on-site kosher special events. Erin, said, “The contract was just inked. We are super excited!”
Note that after Wild! completes its course, new shows will run, beginning with Space Walk, undersea worlds, and surprises with celebrities.
Guests left with a complimentary ticket to revisit the Illuminairum.
Just yards out the back door, skateboarders and joggers loped by in a world far from the machinations on the inside.
Welcome back, Atlanta! It seemed like a decade, and then it seemed like a mere blip on the social scene. And yes, there were hugs.
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Alan Greenberg COVID
- Atlanta BeltLine
- Esquire magazine
- Greenberg News Networks
- Team Lab in Tokyo
- Atelier des Lumieres in Paris
- Meow Wolf in Santa Fe
- Yayoi Kusama
- National Geographic
- Bold Catering & Design
- Proof of the Pudding
- Joel Babbitt
- Brooke Babbitt
- Steve Selig
- Casey Shoulberg
- Stephanie Blank
- Matt Novak
- Calum Pearson
- Eric Heacock
- Erin and Moshe Lis
- Added Touch Catering
- A Kosher Touch