When you’ve got a 90-foot screen to play with, you’re bound to make a splash — especially when the subject is giant sharks.
The Science Museum of Minnesota’s annual Omnifest, screenings of five large-format films in rotation at the William L. McKnight 3M Omnitheater, begins next Thursday with “Great White Shark.” The new Imax documentary is no “Jaws,” taking a decidedly sympathetic view of endangered great whites as its underwater cameras and divers travel between major shark hangouts from Los Angeles to South Africa to New Zealand.
The film points out that great whites don’t seek out human prey and would prefer a tasty seal any time. Still, expect plenty of thrills, as unprotected divers place tracking tags on toothy sharks three times or more their own length.
The other four films are favorites returning from past seasons. “Blue Planet” was filmed from the space shuttle. “Ring of Fire,” which the museum produced, boasts up-close eruptions of Mount St. Helens and Sakurajima as well as the birth of a new volcano in Chile.
“Stomp’s World Beat” follows the percussive-dance group Stomp on a world tour. And “To the Limit” endoscopically explores the inner workings of the bodies of three athletes — an Olympic skier, a ballerina and a rock climber — to reveal secrets of human strength and stamina.
It’s the “you are there” experience provided by the theater’s hemispherical domed screen that makes the festival one of the museum’s most popular events, senior vice president Mike Day said.
“It has its own language, so we make sure we select films that speak that language very well,” Day said. “You can turn on TV any day and find a documentary on volcanoes, but it’s not the same as seeing ‘Ring of Fire’ in the Omnitheater.”
Part of the seven-week fest’s purpose is to boost membership, because members get into Omnitheater screenings free. Every film will show twice daily all seven weeks, but advance reservations are advised, as many screenings at the 350-seat theater sell out.
“We like to think it takes you places you’re probably never going to get to otherwise,” Day said.
Like, say, up close and personal with a 17-foot shark.