Tallying The World's Planetarium Attendance
by Mark C. Petersen, Loch Ness Productions

"In any given year, how many people visit the world's planetaria?"

This simple question is an important one, as it reflects upon the very viability and importance of our profession, and the dome theater itself as a media outlet and dispenser of enlightenment — astronomical and otherwise.

Since 1990, I've collected annual attendance figures for planetaria in the Loch Ness Productions database. School shows, public shows, concerts, laser shows, whatever and altogether — how many humans experience the simulated environment of the starry sky under a planetarium dome?

While I've received responses from about 10% of the world's theaters, this tally uses only attendance reports received over the last five years to keep the projection relatively current. For some additional observations and disclaimers, read this page.

A quick explanation about my methods:

  1. First, since the United States has nearly as many planetaria as the rest of the world's countries combined, it makes sense to separate out the U. S. responses for observation when counting.
  2. Next, I categorize the domes by size (diameter in meters).
  3. I add up all the annual attendance figures I received over the last 5 years for each category, and average the total.
  4. Then, I multiply that average by the number of domes of that size known to exist, to project an annual attendance for each category.
  5. Sum them up, and voilá, an estimate of total annual attendance. I also calculate for how much of the projection each category accounts.

Here's the tally:

As always, I ask your assistance in providing numbers: a recent attendance figure over a 12-month period for each of the domes your institution operates. I'll incorporate the information and publish it periodically here, just as I now have.

The best way to respond is to fill out an LNP Dome Theater Compendium Update Form — as this will allow us to "freshen" the data we have about your theater facilities, and fill in any blank fields.

The latest version of this article can always be found in the Reference section of the Loch Ness Productions Web site.

And if you have already responded, thanks!