TUSAYAN — Over the past 18 years, any mention of the IMAX Theater in Tusayan would immediately bring one couple to mind — Bernie and Sandy Schnerr.
The husband-and-wife team was there when the theater opened on June 16, 1984. The Schnerrs were there when Grand Canyon visitation took off and IMAX experienced overwhelming success. And the Schnerrs were there when the highway through Tusayan quieted down after Sept. 11, suffering along with most other businesses in the area.
"They’ve been here since the beginning," said Loui Coleman, the new general manager at IMAX who came on board last week. "Bernie was very widely regarded in the large-format film industry. This theater is one of the most successful in the world. It’s always been a benchmark ... and that’s due to Bernie’s direction."
The couple always enjoyed life in small-town Grand Canyon-Tusayan. In fact, Sandra Schnerr said the company’s chief executive officer used to refer to Tusayan as "Schnerrville."
Schnerr will remember their years in Tusayan with fondness.
"In the beginning, it was just the theater with a little concession stand," Schnerr said.
Today, the IMAX runs movies all day and features dining and refreshment options along with a gift shop. The theater would even be the site of art shows during summer months along with other events, such as the special "Mysteries of Egypt" film that played here last year.
The Schnerrs were the guests of honor Thursday evening during a going-away party. They own a home in Las Vegas, where they had planned to retire. Sandra Schnerr said the couple, along with their 5-year-old pup Beethoven, may head back to their native Iowa for a while.
Bernie Schnerr will remain active with IMAX Corporate Worldwide as a consultant.
Coleman comes to the Grand Canyon from the National Geographic Theater at Hearst Castle in central California, where she served as general manager. Coleman has worked with the company for six years.
"When I joined the company, I came down and spent a week here with Bernie and Sandy in the summer of ‘96," Coleman said, who had nothing but kind words for the outgoing executives.
Coleman’s husband, Bill, will be working with the theater in a public relations capacity for an undetermined amount of time.
Prior to working for the theater, Coleman worked with the San Simeon, Calif., Department of Parks and Recreation. Her husband also worked there as a tour guide. Both have backgrounds in business management.