Dan Snyder, the American billionaire owner of the Washington National Football League (NFL) team, is taking delivery of a new superyacht, complete with the world’s first floating private Imax movie theatre – at an additional $3m (£2.3m) cost.
You may think that sailing a 93-metre (305ft) yacht to the world’s most extraordinary locations would be the ultimate luxury experience. However, up-close encounters with penguins on the Galápagos Islands or sharks off the coast of South Africa do not appear to be immersive enough for Snyder.
Snyder, a former marketing boss who bought the Washington NFL team in 1999, made a “special and unusual request” when ordering his latest superyacht – called Lady S – from the Dutch boatbuilder Feadship.
“He wanted an Imax, that was his main request,” Jan-Bart Verkuyl, the chief executive of Feadship’s Royal Van Lent shipyard, told the Guardian this week. Verkuyl refused to identify the owner, describing him only as a “US billionaire”. The Guardian has since established, via several sources, that the buyers of the yacht, which is understood to have cost more than $100m, are Snyder, 54, and his wife Tanya. A spokesperson for Snyder declined to comment.
The couple, who also owned a smaller $70m (£54m), 68-metre superyacht called Lady Anne, were present when Lady S was launched in the Dutch village of Kaag (between Amsterdam and the Hague) in October. “We would like to thank Feadship director Jan-Bart Verkuyl and everyone at the yard for taking us on such an amazing journey,” the Snyders said in unattributed quotes provided to Feadship, which is part-owned by the luxury conglomerate LVMH.
Nearly every superyacht launched by shipyards across the world now comes with at least one cinema suite or facility to screen movies on deck as the sun goes down. However, Lady S, which is also known by its codename, Project 814, is the first to have an Imax. Verkuyl said the 12-seat, two-level Imax is so big “the vessel had to be built around the Imax”.
Lady S also features a pair of 8K HD TVs, a helipad, four VIP suites and facilities that “cater to a wide range of sports, including golf, basketball, volleyball and football”. The interior of the vessel is described as “akin to a beautiful and contemporary jewellery box”.
Snyder, who will take delivery of the yacht in spring, following its sea trials and finishing touches, made his fortune in marketing. He sold his company Snyder Communications to French billionaire Vincent Bolloré’s Havas for $2bn in 2000.
He bought the Washington NFL team for $800m in 1999 and remains the majority shareholder. Snyder has come under pressure to change the name of team from Washington Redskins, which is offensive to Native Americans. Despite calls from the then president, Barack Obama, for the name to be changed, Snyder told USA Today in 2013: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.” (It is Guardian policy to refer to the team as the Washington NFL team).
Ed Beckett, a naval architect at Burgess, the British yacht firm that helped design Lady S, said including the Imax made the build process “much more complicated and expensive” because the rest of the ship had to be designed to be as quiet as possible, so as to not to interfere with the movie experience.
“You couldn’t have sound from the Imax drifting into the cabins next door and, more importantly, you couldn’t have the sound of the engines or vibrations coming into the Imax. If they did we would not get the certification from Imax – and that was the most important thing for the owner,” he said. Beckett said the extra costs of having an Imax on board were “into the millions”.
A spokesman for Imax declined to comment on its work on the yacht, citing client confidentiality. The company has reported such strong demand for private Imaxs that it set up a specialised division – Imax Private Theatre – to target super-rich clients.
It describes having a private Imax as: “The entertainment solution so all-encompassing it transcends reality, maximising your sensory immersion and taking you to heights never before attained. Imax Private Theatre is for those who embrace the future, and who want to live it today.”
The first private Imax was installed in a new wing of a movie star’s home in Beverly Hills in 2016 and others have been built across the US, London and India. The land-based versions cost from $2m (£1.6m). The server supplied is preloaded with 200 Imax feature films and documentaries.
The Canadian company, which debuted the super-high-definition system at the Montreal World Expo in 1967, has installed more than 1,300 Imax screens across the world.