Made @ The Tech

Spring 2015

IMAX takes movie fans around – and out of – this world

By Michelle Duncan

The Tech inspires the innovator in everyone in so many ways, but for many guests, this magic happens in the iconic Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater.

In 2014 The Tech educated, enlightened, and entertained more than 161,000 guests here. Our eight-story screen brought science and the natural world to life for audiences who swam with whale sharks in Papua, sang with lemurs in Madagascar, and explored invisible life that surrounds us all.

What’s it like to swim with a whale shark? Guests found out when “Journey to the South Pacific” opened in February. To extend the learning beyond the theater, The Tech worked with MacGillivray Freeman Films to secure a grant that funded school-trip viewings and brought in two marine biologists to speak. Museum guests got to pose for photos with a 25-foot inflatable whale shark.

“Island of Lemurs: Madagascar” introduced us to different species of the primates in their natural habitat and the perils that island faces. The museum programs team created a lemur-launching aerodynamic design challenge for students to reinforce the educational messages in the film.

National Geographic’s “Mysteries of the Unseen World” shows us creatures and actions our naked eye can’t detect, at a pace that keeps even youngsters interested. Highlights include time-lapse images of growing mold and decomposing fruit, and the slow-motion wonder of a droplet hitting water. This entrancing film even challenges us to imagine a cancer-free world thanks to discoveries being made in nanotechnology.

Movie fans also love to revisit their Hollywood favorites in our theater, and what a treat they had when The Tech secured one of just five IMAX 15/70 film prints of the special anniversary release of the 1993 blockbuster “Jurassic Park.” Fans were greeted by the park’s “tour guides” and that familiar yellow Jeep in front of the museum. And speaking of blockbusters, our Harry Potter film festival drew fans dressed as their favorite characters eager to revisit the famous wizarding world.

This solid slate of films earned high marks from audience surveys. But nothing could have prepared us for the phenomenon of “Interstellar.” The October kickoff was a three-minute trailer created specifically for science museums that was less about the movie and more about the need for space exploration, leading off with John F. Kennedy’s memorable call to go to the moon.

As he did with the last two “Dark Knight” films, director Christopher Nolan shot "Interstellar" on 35mm and 70mm film, an aesthetic choice that stirred excitement among film buffs. Twenty-three IMAX prints shipped worldwide behind a strong marketing push from IMAX, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros. to watch the movie in a film-based theater. But only three shipped unassembled to theaters with a chief projectionist with the technical expertise to assemble the longest film ever released in the format. The Tech’s own John Angle was one of the three: He spent three days threading 49 reels of film into a 10.5-mile long strip that weighed 650 pounds.

Now that’s a movie.

For three months “Interstellar” rocked audiences with a wild cinematic ride that included more than an hour of native IMAX 70mm film scenes. At the end of 2014, The Tech had sold out 36 shows to nearly 20,000 fans, and generated $279,000 in gross box office revenue — so popular that a seven-show extended run went into January.

We couldn’t imagine a better finale to 2014 for The Tech’s IMAX team, as we strive every day to inspire the innovator in our guests, open their world to new experiences and ideas, and help them dream big.

Michelle Duncan is the manager of The Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater.

2015 attractions

It’s going to be a fun year for movie fans, with extraordinary adventures unfolding on our iconic dome screen. Showtimes, dates, and tickets available at

“Humpback Whales” This film whisks audiences away to Alaska, Hawaii, and the Kingdom of Tonga for an immersive look at how these whales communicate, sing, feed, play, and take care of their young. Opened in February.

“D-Day: Normandy 1944” The largest Allied operation of World War II began in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Audiences of all ages can learn how the attack on Nazi-occupied Europe changed the world. Narrated by Tom Brokaw. Opened March 14.

“Jerusalem” Viewers can learn how this tiny region became sacred to three major world religions and why, after millennia, the Holy Land continues to stir the imagination and reverence of billions. Opens March 27.

“Robots” In this sneak peek into the future, scientists use innovative engineering and design to make cyber characters less humanoid and more just plain human. Robot “actor” RoboThespian takes audiences on an amazing tour of robotics labs around the world. Opens fall 2015.