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Omnimax Theater at St. Louis Science Center unveils $3.5 million upgrade

Omnimax Theater at St. Louis Science Center unveils $3.5 million upgrade

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This movie remake promises to be better than the last.

When the Omnimax Theater at the St. Louis Science Center reopens Friday, it will be one of four domed theaters in the world featuring Imax With Laser. The theater closed in July for the upgrade.

The $3.5 million renovation also means larger seats with retractable armrests, more accessibility for guests with wheelchairs and their companions as well as more accessibility for people with visual and hearing impairments.

The theater also now has the ability to screen feature-length films typically seen at other theaters. It reopens with “Frozen II,” along with the documentary “Great Bear Rainforest.” The documentary “Volcanoes: The Fires of Creation” also returns, and starting Dec. 20, the theater will screen “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

“The colors in ‘Frozen’ are just going to pop like you wouldn’t believe,” says Jackie Mollet, the St. Louis Science Center’s managing director of visitor services.

She says museum leaders had been talking about converting the theater to digital since about 2014, as more multiplexes made the transition. “We knew it was coming. We just didn’t know what our solution was going to be.”

Over time, the variety of documentaries the theater could show decreased, and prices to acquire movies increased, ranging from about $18,000 for a documentary to $35,000 for a feature film. An analog film weighed about 250 pounds and could cost $500 to ship to the theater.

Now, a film arrives on a much smaller hard drive, and the titles are about 60% cheaper, Mollet says.

Moviegoers will see a 95-cent price increase for documentary films ($10.95 for adults, $8.95 for ages 2-12). A ticket for a feature-length film, which includes parking, remains the same price ($16.95 for adults, $14.95 for kids). Military, senior and student discounts are available. Some tickets are free to museum members.

The Omnimax Theater opened in 1991 and was renovated in 2004 to install a new reel unit that allowed feature-length films to be screened without an intermission. The auditorium had 315 seats and now has 270, due to wider seats and additional accessibility.

The renovations also include the addition of adjustable captioning devices and hearing assistance devices with the option to listen to a descriptive narration. Guests with hearing aids and or cochlear implants can have the audio transmit directly to their device.

Six laser-aligned loudspeakers will help moviegoers hear every volcanic boom and every pin drop, and the five-story domed NanoSeam projection screen is almost seam-free.

The stage in front of the screen has been elevated 18 inches to make it easier for the audience to see presenters. And the theater has the ability to livestream and simulcast events, which will make it possible to host other events besides film screenings. The science center’s educators are already thinking up possibilities, Mollet says.

As for films, Mollet hopes to show more Marvel movies and possibly “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Wonder Woman 1984” when they debut next year.

Domed screens with Imax With Laser are only at science museums in Cincinnati; San Jose, California; and St. Paul, Minnesota.

“The image is rock solid,” says Mollet, who has seen several movies on such screens, “and the depth of contrast is just beautiful.”

When Reopens Friday • Where St. Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Avenue • How much $8.95-$16.95 • More info 314-289-4400; slsc.org/explore/omnimax-theater

“The colors in 'Frozen' are just going to pop like you wouldn’t believe.”

Jackie Mollet

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