October 6, 2021—We regret to share the sad news that Mark Peterson, a veteran of the planetarium and giant screen industries, died of heart failure on September 2 at the age of 78. During his long and storied career, he completed over 100 theater projects around the world. His knowledge, wisdom, and advice were crucial to the advancement of the giant screen industry. Even if you didn’t know Mark personally, if you are involved in the giant screen industry, your life is undoubtedly touched by his work and dedication.

In 1968 he was hired as Assistant Curator of the Gates Planetarium in the Denver Museum of Natural History and a year later was named Curator. In 1982, he conceived the idea of transforming the Phipps auditorium into an IMAX theater and raised $4.5 million dollars for the construction. He later worked as an IMAX/giant screen consultant before joining White Oak Associates in the same capacity until his retirement.

His friend and colleague John W. Jacobsen of White Oak Associates kindly gave us permission to post this:

Mark Peterson, our friend and colleague, left us of heart failure at 78, after years of health challenges, but decades of brilliance.

Mark wrote the book on IMAX theater operations, gleaned from his over fifty theater feasibility studies. If you have a flat giant screen (GS) theater in your museum that opened between 1975 and 2010, chances are good that Mark developed your study and plan.

Mark’s economic model—a wealth of data in an Escher-like nesting of Excel worksheets—calculated such key planning figures as yearly attendance, income, seat count, ushers needed, show schedules and more. His attention to detail and his track record at calculating whether a proposed theater “could wash its own face,” i.e., breakeven, and go on to “realize its full potential,” earned him deep respect in the GSCA community and many commissions.

Mark’s work contributed to the success and dramatic growth of the GS field in museums in its first decades.

Mark joined his practice with White Oak Associates, Jeanie Stahl’s and my museum planning firm, in the early 1990s, forming with our other associates, a team of experts helping museums start up or expand. Over two decades of collaboration, we became friends and trusted colleagues, and the friendship continued during our retirements.

In the last decade, Mark pursued his passions for astronomy, star maps, nature, his dogs, poetry and of course, his beloved wife, Marci.

We at GSCA send our deepest sympathies to Mark’s family, friends, and colleagues.

His full obituary can be viewed here:


Please also consider a donation to the GoFundMe campaign organized to help cover the costs of the extensive medical bills his wife Marci is facing: https://gofund.me/380ae71b