The Johnson Imax Theater at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. (James Di Loreto/Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution)

Recently and to my astonishment, I learned that the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History is planning to destroy its Samuel C. Johnson Imax Theater. The destruction of this theater, a highly influential educational venue in Washington, my home town, must be stopped. I am president and chief executive of the Museum of Discovery and Science and AutoNation Imax Theater in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Here, our theater is a valued place where visitors learn in dynamic ways about the world around us and become inspired to protect our resources.

The Smithsonian’s theater is key to the museum’s educational mission. The stated rationale for closing — to provide better food service and create more generic “program” space — is a blight on the Smithsonian’s reputation and will be a long-term black eye for the institution. Such reasoning flies in the face of the museum’s basic raison d’etre — to educate and inspire learning about the world that surrounds us. Especially when one considers that the museums of the Smithsonian are largely supported by taxpayer dollars, it is absurd to place food service above education.

This ill-conceived decision will deprive tourists, families and schoolchildren the opportunity to be inspired by the extraordinary giant-screen documentary films that support the museum’s educational mission.  

Kim L. Cavendish, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.