Tech-Driven Entertainment Experience ‘Illuminarium’ to Open as Key Tenant at Toronto’s Distillery District [Interview]


Share post:

Illuminarium, a new tech-driven entertainment experience, will open its first Canadian location at The Distillery District in Toronto on August 25.

In partnership with Toronto-based Secret Location, the concept uses state-of-the-art technologies to activate all of the senses and enables guests to see, hear, feel, and even smell experiences they previously could only dream of.

Ryan Andal

“We’re so excited to join together to bring Illuminarium to Toronto. Illuminarium’s platform gives us the ability to uniquely combine techniques used in traditional motion picture production and virtual reality to make you feel like you are actually there,” said Ryan Andal, President & Founder of Secret Location. “While Illuminarium at The Distillery District is an incredible canvas for us as creators, I think it’s even more exciting for our guests as it’s something they could never experience at home.”

The concept will open in the former Fermenting Cellar, a 13,500-square-foot complex at 28 Distillery Lane.  

Future Illuminarium at the Fermenting Cellar in The Distillery District (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Image: Illuminarium

It will join Atlanta and Las Vegas as the third Illuminarium location in North America. 

“By now everyone has already seen Immersive Van Gogh, but that really just opened up the possibilities of what you can do in a projection-based environment. Illuminarium’s spaces take that technology platform to a whole new level which allow us the creative freedom to experiment with game-like interactivity, theatrical performance, live music, and even immersive dining. This isn’t a one-and-done experience. We’re at The Distillery District for the long term. This city has so much talent that we’ll be able to collaborate with and showcase,” said Andal.

“I’ve been trying to open up locations for the last five years. Looked at a number of different locations. Inside malls. Yorkville. We really liked this Distillery location partly because of the owners here. They’re very careful about what they curate into the Distillery space. They are very mindful of supporting small Canadian business.”

Image: Illuminarium

“We are incredibly proud to be welcoming Canada’s first-ever Illuminarium to The Distillery Historic District,” shared John Berman, Co-Owner of The Distillery History District. “As an incubator for first-to-market brands and retailers and a district that has become a cultural hub celebrating and supporting the arts, we couldn’t think of a better fit for Illuminarium’s foray into Toronto.

“Illuminarium will be opening in the spectacular Fermenting Cellar, the one-storey westward expansion of the Stone Distillery Building, built in 1869, which represents an important part of The Distillery District’s rich history. We are excited to be bringing a completely innovative, immersive technological experience to a whole new generation of people to enjoy, juxtaposed against our beautiful heritage buildings and architecture.

“We look forward to welcoming Torontonians and visitors from across the country to experience Illuminarium at The Distillery later this summer.”

Andal said the venture will be at the Distillery District for the long term. So it wouldn’t make sense to open another location in Toronto as it would be competing against itself. 

“We are looking at other Canadian locations. Looking at Montreal. Looking at Vancouver. Potentially Calgary. Potentially Niagara as well. So we haven’t identified any specific locations yet but we’re looking,” he said.

“Illuminarium itself is growing quite aggressively. They have a location in Macao that they announced a JV deal with a company out of there. Potential deals in other countries. Chicago.”

Secret Location, which has been around for about 15 years, is known for its Emmy® award-winning interactive VR and AR experiences, to combine cutting-edge technology with immersive storytelling to create incredibly digital projection mapped experiences.

Image: Illuminarium

“We’re thrilled to open our first Illuminarium in Canada,” said Alan Greenberg, CEO of Illuminarium Experiences. “Toronto is booming with entertainment creation so it was a natural fit for us to open up our first Canadian experience here. We look forward to showcasing our unparalleled immersive offerings with exclusive content pieces as well as the entertainment programming we have in our U.S. locations. 

Alan Greenberg

“We are also excited about combining our own content together with the unique offerings created by Secret Location to continually offer guests a great new portal into immersive entertainment. Illuminarium at The Distillery District will be a playground for all – from first dates to families and everyone in between.” 

The company said state-of-the-art technology including the world’s most advanced RGB pure laser projection by Christie, LIDAR sensors that blanket the space with interactivity, scent machines, a unique digital sounds space and programming using the latest video game engines allow guests to feel like they are inside a game or film. By enabling audiences to see, hear, feel, smell and even personally affect the space around them, Illuminarium at The Distillery District places the guest “inside” the narrative.  In essence, Illuminarium at The Distillery District exemplifies a “Virtual Reality, without the glasses” experience.

Image: Illuminarium

Illuminarium and Secret Location said they will initially open with two immersive spectacles along with a 19+ After Dark experience on weekend evenings.

The first two shows are: 

SPACE: A JOURNEY TO THE MOON & BEYOND is an out-of-this-world immersive experience, taking visitors on an extraordinary journey across the galaxy. The exhibition will include interactive and visually-stunning imagery from the James Webb Telescope through the lens of Illuminarium’s high-tech animation systems and 360-degree fully immersive screens. Fly through the latest stunning images of nebula, kick up dust on the moon, see Saturn’s rings up close, and weave through an asteroid belt. A giant leap into the unknown, SPACE will transport you to places you’ve only ever imagined.

WAKING WONDERLAND created by Secret Location, is an interactive adventure that invites you on a dreamlike journey, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Tumble down the rabbit hole and encounter surreal settings and colourful characters. Chase the Cheshire Cat through the magical forest, stir things up in the Mad Hatter’s tea factory, and tiptoe into the throne room to awaken the Queen of Hearts, as you brave our hero’s quest to breathe life back into a dormant Wonderland.

Also opening in September is the adults-only immersive nightlife and hospitality experience called SPACE AFTER DARK. At After Dark, guests 19+ can enjoy innovative cocktails served by futuristic robots, while surrounded by fantastical dreamscapes that are ever-changing. Through proprietary, state-of-the-art projection and audio systems, the experience offers cinematic, real-time audio and visuals alongside DJs, musicians, and other live performances to create a unique party atmosphere.

Future Illuminarium spectacles coming to The Distillery District will include a WILD Safari Experience, Lite Brite Worlds of Wonder, The Greatest Moments in Rock & Roll, Virtual artist residencies featuring many of the top names from the global music industry, a Prehistoric World Dinosaur Experience and many more.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More From The Author



Subscribe to the Newsletter


* indicates required

Related articles

Elevating Canadian Retail: How JLL’s Expertise Reshapes Property Management [Interviews]

Landlords are increasingly turning to JLL for pioneering property management solutions that prioritize both enhanced customer experiences and sustainability.

Mandy’s to Open Gourmet Salad Restaurant in Toronto’s Yorkville as Chain Expands [Exclusive Interview/Renderings]

The popular Montreal-based foodservice concept is growing its presence in Toronto with multiple locations, including one behind a soon-to-open Saint Laurent flagship store.

Gen Z’s Digital Upbringing Meets a Passion for Tangible Retail and Authentic Brands [Interview]

A new report on Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, provides insight into consumer behaviours as well as a look into the upcoming Generation Alpha.

Interview with Giant Tiger’s New CEO Gino DiGioacchino on the Future of the Iconic Canadian Retailer [Interview]

DiGioacchino speaks to Retail Insider after being appointed as the new President and CEO of Giant Tiger, and discusses the future of the business and importance of maintaining strong connections with local communities.

Purdys Chocolatier Expands Footprint with Pop-Up Stores [Interview]

The strategy involves providing customers with a taste of Purdys' renowned chocolates in areas where the brand hasn't had a presence before.

Colliers Report Emphasizes the Retail Advantage of Bridging the Digital-Physical Divide [Interview]

A recent report by Colliers Real Estate Management Services reveals that retailers who effectively blend their online and physical store operations are 35% more likely to achieve profitability, with the study emphasizes the importance of omnichannel strategies, convenience, property maintenance, and retailer-driven ESG initiatives.

Preview of ICSC@CANADA Conference 2023: Retail, Technology, and Networking Opportunities in Toronto [Interview]

Craig and Kyle Tomlin, Director of Events in Canada for ICSC, discuss the highly anticipated ICSC@CANADA 2023 conference, set to take place from October 2nd to 4th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre North Hall in downtown Toronto.

Canadian Grocers Take a Page from Carrefour’s Playbook to Tackle ‘Shrinkflation [Op-Ed]

French supermarket chain Carrefour has labeled products impacted by reduced size, and similar measures may be adopted in Canada to enhance transparency in food pricing, says Sylvain Charlebois.

Jeweller Mejuri Debuts Personalized App and Innovative Membership Program; Plans Expansion with 5 New Stores [Co-Founder Interview]

The popular brand's personalized mobile app and membership program aim to enhance customer engagement and personalization, as Mejuri enters major markets with stores.

Fast-Casual Restaurant Concept MightyBird Opening 1st Location in Toronto in a Partnership [Interviews]

The new concept at Union Station will be the first of many in a partnership between Eat Up Canada and Open Concept Hospitality.

KIT + ACE Launches Store Expansion in Canada Under New Ownership [Interview]

The Vancouver-based retailer will open two locations this fall in Toronto and Calgary, with plans for a substantial expansion into 2024 says CEO David Lui.

Casual Steakhouse Chain MR MIKES Expanding Further in Canada [Interview]

With plans for continued expansion into Western Canada and Ontario, the restaurant chain is evolving its concept and targeting smaller markets to establish itself as a hub for local communities.