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IMAX Theater Undergoes $2.3 Million Transformation To Digital Projection At The MoST

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Scott Willis
/
WAER News
Sen. John Mannion talks with MoST President Lauren Kochian in front of the former IMAX projection room. Kochian says it will become a multi-media lab where virtual programming will be done live and recorded, along with demonstrations.

Those who’ve wanted to watch a film on the giant domed screen at the IMAX theater at the Museum of Science and Technology won’t have to wait too much longer.  It’ll be a new experience when the theater reopens early next year. 

The Bristol IMAX has been closed since the pandemic began. Some of that time has been due to pandemic restrictions, but the last several months have been for a different reason. The theater is undergoing a major $2.3 million renovation, which was unveiled last week at the MOST’s 40th anniversary celebration. Former long-time high school science teacher turned state senator John Mannion was able to secure $80,000 for the project.

"The MoST renovated theater and planetarium will now include high-resolution digital projectors, providing cost-saving access to content, and installation of new seating, carpeting, and energy efficient lighting, all of which will enhance the visitor experience."

The theater and its equipment were 20 years old, and was one of only a handful in the country still using analog equipment to run the huge 70-millimeter films. MOST president Lauren Kochian says an upgrade is long overdue.

"As analog film was phased out, we had no content to choose from. There weren't a lot of analog films being made over the last decade or even longer. That's where it became prohibitive for us. We had to show the same shows over and over, and ticket sales started to slump."

IMAX Ticket sales were in the mid-20,000 range in the four years before the pandemic, after dropping steadily from over 60,000 in 2010. Meanwhile, overall museum attendance has been rising. Kochian says the new technology will enable the theater to expand from 4 showtimes to 6 or 7, which could push attendance to 70,000. The museum will also realize significant utility, maintenance, and fee savings. The renovated theater is scheduled to reopen in February. The project comes on the heels of a newly renovated Life Sciences exhibit unveiled last month.