Cincinnati Museum Center Presents New OMNIMAX Theater Film: "Volcanoes: The Fires of Creation"
Dave Duszynski, OMNIMAX Theater manager
Photo by Tracy Doyle
Who doesn’t remember their first IMAX theater experience?
Well, I don’t, come to think of it.
I mean, I do – It was in the late 1990s and I remember being awestruck and amazed. But I didn’t live in Cincinnati at the time, and as far as the name and nature of the film, I draw a blank.
But that is all the more reason I am making a point to see “Volcanoes: The Fires of Creation” in all its fresh, riveting digital sight and sound at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s (CMC) recently renovated Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater as soon as I possibly can. The theater, closed until recently for the duration of the repair and restoration of Union Terminal, now sports a new digital projector, an improved dome screen, updated sound system, and new chairs and carpeting.
Dave Duszynski, president of Mercury Museum Services and OMNIMAX Theater manager for 28 years, promises me “Volcanoes” will be a most unforgettable immersive film experience. The theater’s mission has always been to take people to places where they can’t or would never want to go, he adds. And I can honestly say that the fiery edge of an exploding volcano would not be my first destination of choice.
But if I can be made to forget I am sitting in a theater and feel like I am precariously perched on the edge of a giant mountain of fire, peering into erupting, blazing lava? Yes, that would be cool.
“We knew this would be the perfect film for our re-opening because it captures the essence of our remodeled theater,” Duszynski says. “Today’s newer digital cameras are smaller and quieter and can be put on drones in order to get to places we couldn’t get to before. It really makes you feel like you are there. ‘Volcanoes’ is a perfect film for us now, like ‘Blue Planet’ was when we first opened in 1990.”
“Blue Planet” was an awe-inspiring space film about Earth, billed as giving viewers an experience that, up until that point, had only been shared by astronauts. The documentary’s spectacular scenes from space, filmed aboard several space shuttle missions, were intertwined with breathtaking scenes of the Earth’s surface.
Back in the early, pre-digital days, IMAX films were shipped to theaters in segments, much assembly required. Hence, when “Blue Planet” arrived, the OMNIMAX team literally had to put 15 segments of the film together in the correct sequence before the sound was added. “I remember sitting in the theater with the chief projectionist, Jim Kral, who is still with us today, looking at the film without sound, and thinking it was not a very good film,” Duszynski says, with a chuckle. “I remember thinking it was too bad this was the film we chose to open with.”
Imagine his relief when, after the sound was added, he realized what an extraordinary film experience “Blue Planet” actually was.
“I learned my lesson,” he says. “You can listen to the soundtrack and appreciate the music on its own, but you can’t appreciate the pictures without the sound – it lacks emotion. Sound is 51 percent of the IMAX experience.”
Suffice to say, CMC’s OMNIMAX Theater has been more than a popular success since it opened 28 years ago, showing 72 films between “Blue Planet” and “National Parks Adventure,” the last film shown before the theater closed for renovation two years ago. “National Parks Adventure” – narrated by Academy Award winner Robert Redford – offered a magnificent panoramic overview of the country’s national parks. It was described as “equal parts adrenaline-pumping odyssey and soulful reflection on what the wilderness means to us all.”
Through the CMC’s five-story, domed OMNIMAX screen, viewers soared over red rock canyons and hiked up jagged mountain peaks in celebration of America’s most beloved majestic parks, including Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Yosemite and Arches.
Fun Fact: CMC was a winner at the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) International Conference and Trade Show in Toronto, Canada that year, receiving the award for Best Film Launch by a Theater for its launch of “National Parks Adventure.” A member of the Giant Dome Theater Consortium (GDTC), CMC helped fund production of the film, which received a total of seven awards including Best Film, Short Subject; Best Cinematography; Best Sound Design; and Best Original Score.
“Volcanoes – The Fires of Creation,” I recently read, is a movie teeming with science, culture and thrilling adventure – again, three things which, unless they happen before 8:30 p.m., I am not usually immersed in. So, sure, I am willing, via the OMNIMAX Theater, to be one with daring explorer and photographer Carsten Peter, dodging boulders at the edge of an active volcano in Indonesia, descending to a lava lake in Vanuatu, and visiting incredible acid ponds, geysers and mineral deposit fields in Ethiopia.
Again, I’m not exactly a thrill seeker. But going on an adrenaline-filled adventure by enjoying a drone’s stunning digital eye view of molten worlds and exploding craters simply by sitting in a comfortable seat inside the newly remodeled OMNIMAX Theater? I’m there!
Not the First Remodel
It’s been a busy two-plus decades since the OMNIMAX opened, with the theater logging 8,627,343 visitors.
“We did do a small renovation in 2006,” Duszynski recalls. “We were closed for about eight weeks. At that point in time, we changed out the seats, installed new carpeting, added an improved projector lens, and improved the dome projection surface, which is actually the most critical part of the theater.”
Ten years and millions of visitors later, it was time for another upgrade. And it was definitely time to go digital.
“The reality is, film won’t be with us too much longer,” Duszynski notes. “Not too many flat screen or traditional movie theaters are still using film. The clock has been ticking for us to get out of the film business and go digital.”
IMAX was happy to demonstrate its new digital dome projector system in June at the OMNIMAX Theater while it was still shuttered for renovation. Company officials were able to do a temporary installation of the laser digital projector so Duszynski and his team got to see how the new digital format would look in all its OMNIMAX glory.
“We did the dome debut in Cincinnati and we learned a lot,” says Dave Keighley, president and chief quality officer at IMAX, who began his IMAX career 47 years ago. He experienced IMAX for the first time in May 1971.
“I turned to my wife of one year and said, ‘That’s unbelievable. I have to figure out how to get involved.’ I wanted to be at the forefront and raise the IMAX bar.”
The bar has clearly been raised.
The dome screen experience is the most immersive cinema environment a viewer can be in, Keighley adds. “It wraps around you 180 degrees, you can look far right and left, and the sound – you can feel the bass an octave lower than with any other cinema format. It’s a great system.”
The digital format is a welcome boon to the IMAX industry, he says.
“It’s very good for theater operators, museum exhibitors, film distributors and the public because it offers so much more diversity in the types of programming you can put in a theater.”
Broadening Visitors’ Horizons
“One of the nice things about our theater is that it is like having another ever-changing exhibit gallery,” says Duszynski. Content, image, sound – putting it all together and, when possible, linking the CMC’s featured and permanent exhibits with the OMNIMAX Theater’s films – it’s all part of the process, Duszynski concludes.
“Going digital is exciting because it’s a chance to broaden visitors’ horizons with every new film, to create new, more amazing adventures for our audiences. There is virtually nothing that hasn’t been changed out during this renovation. I’m very excited for our guests to experience the new theater.”
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is located at 1301 Western Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45203. For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org