Ivan Dryer, founder of Laserium® planetarium shows—the first continuously running laser shows in the world—passed away July 27, 2017 at the age of 78.
The International Laser Display Association recognizes Dryer as “the father of the laser light show industry.” Earlier this year ILDA’s Board declared March 7 of each year—Dryer’s birthdate—as “International Laserist Day” in honor of his pioneering work.
In late 1970 Dryer, an aspiring filmmaker, collaborated with Caltech physicist Elsa Garmire to film laser light patterns she had created. This became the short film “LaserImage.” He found, however, that filmed lasers were flat. They did not have the vibrant scintillating coherent speckle of live laser light.
Dryer and Garmire approached Los Angeles’ Griffith Planetarium with a proposal for a live show to be called “Laserium.” They were initially turned down, both by the Griffith and by banks.
Three years later, the new head of the Griffith approved a one-month test at the planetarium. On November 19, 1973, Laserium premiered. Four weeks later, 500 people a night were being turned away.
Dryer’s company, Laser Images Inc., went on to do laser shows in 46 planetariums and locations in other cities as well. The shows were seen by over 20 million people. At its peak, Laser Images Inc. had 70 employees.
In 1989, Dryer was selected by ILDA as recipient of the association’s first Career Achievement Award. The citation noted “his unique place in the history of laser displays.”
In 2002, the Griffith Observatory planetarium was to be closed for renovations. Laserium’s last show there was January 5, 2002. It had run for 28 years—the longest running theatrical attraction in Los Angeles, and the longest-running laser show in the world.
In recent years Dryer had cared for his convalescent wife, Carol. This took a toll on his health as well.
A documentary film on Dryer’s life and work is in production. It is expected to be released later this year.
Internment is August 4 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood. A memorial event is tentatively scheduled for early September.