Continued from page 1

All told, the works of MacGillivray Freeman Films have grossed more than $1 billion at the box office. A 2003 Los Angeles Times profile of the filmmaker dubbed Mr. MacGillivray “Nature’s movie mogul.”

@Subhed.sans:A place in history

One of the first Imax films ever made, “To Fly!” quickly worked its way into the local culture. President Reagan took the film with him on a trip to Moscow to show Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and President George H.W. Bush brought Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to the film on a visit to Washington. Heads of state from Spain, Great Britain, Indonesia and Greece are among those who have watched the tribute to American aviation.

“We’ve had people who said, ‘I saw this movie when the museum opened,’ and now they’re bringing their kids and grandkids,” said Holly Williamson, a communications officer at the Air and Space Museum. “It’s a tradition kind of thing.”

Already in the Imax Hall of Fame, “To Fly!” in 1995 became the first Imax film selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, joining films such as “Casablanca” and “Gone with the Wind.” It has been shown at film festivals in the United States and around the world. The Information Film Producers of America awarded it “Best Film of the Decade,” and Cine Golden Eagle awarded it a Golden Eagle Award.

Kim Hatten and her 9-year-old son, visitng with the boy’s grandmother from Lakeland, Fla., were taking a tour of the museums to escape the blistering heat outside. Despite knowing nothing about the film’s history, they enjoyed it, although they walked out of the film slightly disoriented from the swooping, banking aerial shots.

“It really shows how far we’ve come,” Ms. Hatten said.

In just 26 minutes, viewers are taken from a hot-air balloon launch in 1831 to the wonders of commercial and military flight and, finally, out to space. In the end, as the audience dips and swoops with a colorful hang-glider, they are left feeling lighthearted and satisfied, even though the film has not reached a conclusion the way traditional movies do.

“It’s a different kind of enjoyment,” Mr. MacGillivray said. “It’s almost more profound and, in a way, more lasting.”