Laserium Brochure, Circa 1977

Exhibit / August 29, 2016

Object Name: “Laserium: The Cosmic Laser Concert” brochure
Maker and Year: Laser Images, Inc., circa 1977
Object Type: Promotional brochure
Image Source: TwitchBat/Flickr
Description: (K.E. Roberts)

The laser light show was innovated by filmmaker Ivan Dryer in the early 1970s, after he was introduced to laser art by Caltech physicist Elsa Garmire. The laser technology itself, a “four-color (pure-spectrum red, yellow, green, and blue) laser deflection system” called VIDEO/LASER II, had been developed by Lowell Cross and Carson Jeffries for an interactive, multimedia pavilion at the Expo ‘70 in Osaka, Japan.

Dryer started Laser Images, Inc. in 1971, and his original Laserium show debuted in 1973 at Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory planetarium, where Dryer had previously worked as a tour guide. The “cosmic light concerts” became immensely successful, expanding to seven U.S. cities by November 1975 and grossing over $3.6 million. By 1977, Laserium had expanded to 13 U.S. locations, as well as venues in Canada, the U.K., and Japan. Laser light shows were integrated into rock concerts—as well as sports venues, art shows, and dance clubs—throughout the 1970s. Dryer himself operated the lasers for many of the stage performances of pioneering electronic music group Tangerine Dream. In 1978 the Food and Drug Administration declared lasers a “danger to the audience,” potentially causing serious eye injuries. Permits were soon required, and made an already expensive affair more burdensome. When Griffith Observatory closed in 2002 for extensive renovations, the Laserium was “discarded.” Interest in the medium had been declining since the 1990s, as cinematic special effects became much more sophisticated and the musical tastes of younger audiences became more diverse and decidedly less psychedelic.

The original Laserium is still active in Van Nuys, California, with live shows scheduled on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. All of the playlists used from 1973 to 1999 can be found here.

5 thoughts on “Laserium Brochure, Circa 1977

  1. I think it was about 4-5 years ago when I took my family along to the Laserium when it was on Hollywood Blvd. at some old, run-down theater. I’d heard about it back in the ’80s when they had it at the Griffith Observatory; it seemed oddly fitting that the only ones who talked about it with gusto were the total stoners and slackers at my school. I guess the popular thing to do was to go to the show super baked. lol.

    So I thought about that connection between laser lights and being high as a kite, as we sat through this laser-lit, Zeppelin soundtracked adventure that evening…perhaps my sober state may have taken away from what could’ve well been a spectacular experience 30+ years ago, or maybe it’s just kinda clunky compared to the hyper-realistic technology available to us nowadays.

    Nevertheless, it was mildly entertaining on the surface, but if I was to dig deeper and consider how much blood, sweat and tears went into this pioneering project way back in the early ’70s, then I was completely blown away.

    Knowing that, I’m glad to know it still survives. When I take a look at the next generation, somehow I think we may have some sort of Renaissance in the not-too-distant future. Who knows.

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