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NatGeo uncrates as IMAX vacates | JS Online

August 15, 2012

Milwaukee museum upgrades digital 3D system, inks NatGeo deal and drops IMAX.

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Soref gift to fund new digital 3D movie system at museum

By Steve Schultze of the Journal Sentinel 8/14/12

Spurred by a $1.6 million gift, the Milwaukee Public Museum is adding a new digital 3D movie system and has signed a deal with National Geographic to provide the nature and science film content for the museum theater, officials said Tuesday.

The gift from the Daniel M. Soref Charitable Trust, coupled with an additional $400,000 being raised, will buy a new digital giant screen projection equipment, a new dome screen and a new sound system.

Together, the upgrades are aimed at injecting a shot of excitement into the museum’s planetarium and big screen offerings. Attendance has stagnated for the past several years, as big screen and 3D theater options have multiplied.

Attendance at the public museum’s planetarium and IMAX big screen films for the fiscal year that ends this month is forecast at 133,000, down from 135,000 for the previous year and from 154,000 in fiscal 2010. Revenue from the theater has fallen below estimates.

The first phase of the upgrades will be the new 3D system, which is expected to premiere in October, said Bob Bonadurer, director of the planetarium and IMAX theater. The technology is called “immersive 3D” and will provide images that “fill almost the entire dome,” Bonadurer said.

The first 3D movie from National Geographic Cinema Ventures will be “Flying Monsters,” a film that features winged dinosaurs that look as though they are leaping straight at you, he said. Though the museum will mainly run National Geographic content, there will be some movies from other sources.

The museum has no plans to show Hollywood studio 3D films, Bonadurer said.

The subsequent phases of the theater upgrade will play out over the next two to four years. A new digital projection system will replace the film projection technology now being used for planetarium and IMAX shows, along with an improved seamless dome screen and better sound. The area now housing the film projectors will be converted to another use.

With completion of the new equipment installation, the museum will drop its affiliation with IMAX and use of the IMAX name, Bonadurer said. The National Geographic partnership should be a better fit than IMAX, which has branched to mainstream movies and neighborhood multiplex movie houses, Bonadurer said.

The Soref trust also provided $1.8 million toward the museum’s 2006 planetarium equipment, billed then by a museum official as “the most advanced system on the planet.” Rapid improvements in technology have long since dated that claim.

Audrey Strnad, trustee for the Soref charity, said it was important “that the theater feature the best systems available today.”

Original article from JS Online here.

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