The newly renovated dome theater at the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, which features an all-new projection system, has opened to the public.
Along with the addition of three new digital projectors, center Executive Director Don Comeaux said the theater was completely refurbished with new seating, lights and flooring. Those renovations were paid for by a donation from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
“It’s a three-projector system,” he said. “It’s all laser and 4K picture with the capability to go to 6K. The images are just incredible.”
The system also includes the ability for two-way communication between the dome theater audience and a presenter. This will allow audiences, Comeaux said, to interact with a diver at the Great Barrier Reef, or any number of other experiences. The center can stream video from the internet into the theater as well.
The Exploreum is only the second dome theater in the state to convert to all-digital projection and the only one currently in the country to have this specific system, Comeaux said.
The new system has a digital insert, which will allow for more traditional movies to be shown in the new Poarch Band of Creek Indians Digital Dome Theater, on a 45-foot-wide by 20-foot-tall screen. However, Comeaux said the center won’t focus on the Hollywood movies just yet and even when they do, royalty payments will likely prevent them from showing first-run films.
“We’re not going to jump to that,” he added.
The Exploreum is now showing “Hidden Pacific,” which was shot specifically for the dome and its new system, according to Comeaux. There will also be screenings of “Wonders of the Arctic” — a film Comeaux called the center’s “winter” movie. Then in January, the theater will debut a new dinosaur movie to go along with an upcoming Exploreum exhibit.
“We’re really pumped about this,” Comeaux said.
In addition to the theater, D3D, the company behind the new projector system, is letting the center use a virtual-reality experience called Birdly for the next six months. Through a headset and apparatus positioned near the theater’s entrance, visitors can simulate the feeling of flying above the New York City skyline as a bird. Starting in January, visitors will be able to use the equipment to simulate a pterodactyl flying above a prehistoric landscape.
The virtual-reality experience will be an add-on and cost $7 per visitor for a three-minute flight. The movies will cost extra as well, but nonmembers can get a discount for bundling all the experiences, Comeaux said.
While the science center held a soft opening of the new system Saturday, Nov. 1, Comeaux said a grand opening will be scheduled later when the theater will be officially renamed.
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