Brrrrr. Time to hunker down and binge-watch a few eight-story-tall movies.
Just in time for some necessary indoor hibernation comes the Science Museum of Minnesota’s 18th annual Omnifest, featuring five giant-screen films that, thanks to the theater’s domed ceiling, truly envelop their audiences.
One of the museum’s most popular events, the six-week fest draws upward of 100,000 visitors to the 350-seat theater.
“We have people who will come in and watch all five in one day,” said Mike Day, senior vice president of the museum. “One couple came in one year, and when the wife became ill during the first film, her husband sent her home in a taxi and stayed for the rest.”
The only new one of this year’s bunch, “D-Day: Normandy 1944,” premiered last year but hasn’t yet been seen in this market. Narrated by Tom Brokaw, it blends animation, CGI, historical re-enactments and live-action aerial footage to retrace the momentous World War II turning point.
“A lot of movies about D-Day are quite graphically violent, but the director [Frenchman Pascal Vuong] said he wanted to make a movie that was appropriate for all ages, and he’s done so in a good way,” Day said. “It was this massive military operation, but a real intimacy comes through. It’s also a good memorial to those who lost their lives.”
The four other films being screened are all return engagements. “The Greatest Places” (1998) is the only one produced by the Science Museum, one of 11 to date.
Day served as executive producer and got to visit three of seven geographic wonders detailed in the film, including the Namib desert, home to the tallest sand dunes in the world, close to 1,000 feet high, and the vast Okavango delta in Botswana. He didn’t make it to “the top of the world, the great plateau of Tibet that stretches for 1,500 miles,” he said. “The average altitude is 14,000 feet, and precipitation comes mostly in the form of hailstorms.”
“The Living Sea” (1995), narrated by Meryl Streep, tags along with surfers, whale trackers and a Coast Guard rough-weather crew.
“Flight of the Butterflies” (2013), about a Canadian scientist’s passionate search for the wintering spot of monarch butterflies, has a local connection: A monarch tagged in 1975 by then-14-year-old Hopkins student James Street at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was found dead on a Mexican mountaintop 2,000 miles away, proving the study’s hypothesis.
“Hubble” (2010), narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, follows an astronaut crew on a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, taking viewers on a virtual tour inside the Orion Nebula.
It serves as a prelude of sorts for the next Imax world premiere, “Journey to Space.” That film, which explores archived space-shuttle mission footage, the building of NASA’s Orion spacecraft (which recently made its first voyage) and future travel to Mars, will open at the museum Feb. 20 in conjunction with its new exhibit “Space: An out-of-gravity experience.” The museum is also working on “America Wild,” an Imax film about the National Parks System that will premiere in 2016.
While production of Imax films in emerging markets such as Russia, China and India has been on the rise, it has slowed worldwide in recent years as the parent company and theaters make the transition from film to digital, Day said. The Science Museum will be a beta test site for design of a laser digital projection method to replace the film system, he said.