Through a partnership with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI), the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center has announced a major renovation of its dome theater, including a transition to an all-digital format and eventual move to large-format commercial films.
While several details remain unclear, including a timeline for the changes and anticipated costs, Exploreum Executive Director Don Comeaux did confirm that PCI, which has been involved with some of the educational aspects at the center before, would be footing the bill.
“We’ve always had a close relationship with the tribe,” Comeaux said today. “They sponsor our films quite often. We have a very good relationship.”
Working with D3D, a nationally recognized company based in Evanston, Illinois, the Exploreum will make a huge leap from its current state as a film-based theater into a digital laser-based Giant Screen Dome theater.
Comeaux said the visual upgrades include three digital, laser projectors for viewing films on the dome, as well as a fourth insert digital projector for smaller large-format films shown on a 40-foot-by-22-foot section of screen. The fourth projector would be used to show commercial Hollywood films, weeks after their initial release, he said. The movies will not be 3D, as watching 3D in a dome theater “would make you ill,” Comeaux said.
“They won’t be first run,” Comeaux said. “But to see it as big as we can show it, with the sound, will still be an experience.”
The state-of-the-art laser system is capable of delivering up to 150,000 lumens on the dome producing incredibly vivid images with a brilliant expanded dynamic range and color gamut far beyond the capabilities of film-based and xenon-illuminated projection systems. D3D will also upgrade the audio system with a dome-optimized surround-sound speaker array delivering 25,000 watts of power for an incredibly lifelike and immersive aural experience, capable of reproducing the clap of a sonic boom or the whisper of an evening breeze with equal fidelity, according to a statement released Friday morning by the Exploreum and PCI.
In addition to a drastically upgraded visual experience, the theater will be getting a near top to bottom overhaul in other areas as well. A state-of-the-art sound system will be installed during the conversion process delivering enhanced audio equal to that of the new visuals. Upgraded seating and new flooring will be installed as well as an all new lighting system, resulting in a nearly brand new theater, according to the statement.
“The Exploreum Science Center has always enjoyed such great success with their Giant Dome Theater, and we’re honored to have been selected to help them usher in the exciting new digital era in Mobile,” Don Kempf, President of D3D Cinema said in a statement. “The product that Christie Dome solution and our team will be deploying there is undoubtedly the highest quality solution on the market, and one that will be able to evolve as future new technologies emerge, allowing the Exploreum to do what science museums do best – showcasing the most advanced technology in the world.”
This cutting edge technology will enable the Exploreum to greatly expand its various educational and professional programs. Comeaux said the new system will allow live video conferencing through a two-way, live-streaming set up.
For instance, not only will theatergoers be able to watch one of the center’s educational videos, but in some cases, they will be able to interact live with on-screen presenters, Comeaux said.
“The Tribe is deeply committed to furthering innovative educational opportunities for the entire community, and we are proud to be part of this noble endeavor that helps make the wonders of science accessible to everyone,”PCI Chief Government Relations Officer Robbie McGhee said in a statement.
The theater will be renamed, with PCI receiving the naming rights, Comeaux said. The IMAX branding will also be removed.
Comeaux said additional announcements will be made on the cost and the timeline. He said the renovations could be a slow process, as the projectors alone take six months to be delivered. The system the Exploreum will use will be completely new and has never before been used anywhere else in the country, he said.
To read about what’s currently happening at the Exploreum, click Gehghis Khan exhibit opens at Gulf Coast Exploreum
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