Lighthouse Immersive, the company at forefront of immersive art craze, files for bankruptcy
What a difference two years makes.
The immersive digital art craze was cresting in summer 2021, when “Immersive Van Gogh” opened in Hollywood in the former Amoeba Music building on Sunset Boulevard. Van Gogh fever swept the neighborhood, with crowds lining up for the digital light show and nearby cafes filling their tabletops with sunflowers and Van Gogh sugar cookies.
Now Lighthouse Immersive Inc., the Toronto-based company that brought us “Immersive Van Gogh” and its immediate follow-up here, “Immersive Frida Kahlo” in spring 2022, filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy in Delaware last week. As insolvency proceedings go forward in Ontario, the move is an attempt to protect its U.S. assets.
The Times got a sneak peek inside the “Immersive Van Gogh” show as it was being installed. Here’s what to expect when it opens Saturday.
“Lighthouse Immersive Inc. and the affiliate Lighthouse Immersive USA, Inc. are currently undergoing restructuring in Canada,” said Nick Harkin, a spokesperson for Lighthouse Immersive. “This in no way impacts the operations of our venues or the presentation of currently scheduled shows. Our goal is to emerge from restructuring a stronger company and continue to offer incredible shows to the public.
“All of our Lighthouse ArtSpace venues currently operating are still open to the public,” he added.
Impact Museums, which co-produced “Immersive Van Gogh” and “Immersive Frida Kahlo” in L.A., did not provide a comment when contacted by The Times.
“Immersive Van Gogh” featured a 40-minute video installation of animated Van Gogh images by Italian film producer and exhibition creator Massimiliano Siccardi, with mostly original music by Italian composer Luca Longobardi. Creative director David Korins (set designer for “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen”) created mirrored sculptures throughout the galleries, reflecting repeated imagery on the walls and floor — an ethereal, immersive pandemic escape at the time.
As the ‘Immersive Van Gogh’ show finally opens in L.A., just how far can art get commercialized? The answer lies in the gift shop.
Audiences, it seemed, couldn’t get enough of digital tour de forces through art history. By spring 2022, “Immersive Van Gogh” — to which adult general admission was $39.99 — had seen more than 5 million visitors across North America. Madonna visited the show and was so inspired, she posted a video on Instagram. And remember Episode 5 of “Emily in Paris”?
In addition to “Immersive Van Gogh” and “Immersive Frida Kahlo,” the company also launched “Immersive Monet & The Impressionists,” “Immersive Klimt: Revolution,” “Immersive King Tut” and “The Immersive Nutcracker,” among others. To date, according to Lighthouse Immersive’s website, the company has sold more than 7 million tickets and is operating in 21 North American cities.
During its popular U.S. runs, “Immersive Van Gogh” experienced ticketing snafus. Its Dallas opening in 2021 was pushed several weeks due to permitting issues, creating a bottleneck affecting about 46,000 tickets. The Los Angeles opening, in the former Amoeba space, was also delayed because the show’s certificate of occupancy from the Los Angeles Fire Department hadn’t been issued in time, affecting a media preview and 2,500 expected ticket holders on opening day.
Immersive art show’s sold-out opening, originally set for Saturday, has been delayed while organizers wait for clearance from the fire department.
“Immersive Van Gogh” is still on view in Las Vegas (“Extended Through January 7th, 2024 By Popular Demand!” Lighthouse says on its website) as well as in Detroit and Toronto.
Plans for Immersive Disney Animation, produced by Lighthouse Immersive but not Impact Museums, are now “on hold,” Harkin said. “But the production continues to be presented in multiple markets across North America and in Japan.”
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