In 2004, 3D was just starting to take off. The electronics and entertainment industries were making big moves in the name of 3D, and the Museum of Science in Boston, MA was no exception.
The museum is a city landmark, an epicenter of learning for both children and adults and a popular daytime activity with alternating exhibits, not to mention the Omni Theater, a five-story-tall dome IMAX screen.
The Museum of Science expanded its list of attractions back in 2004 with a new 3D theater, and found audiences really responded to it. But then, almost as quickly as it came, the 3D craze began to fade.
“On the 10th anniversary of the 3D theater, we knew it was the right time for a change,” says Museum of Science theater manager Robin Doty, who spoke with CI about the new theater.
So 3D didn’t have the allure it once did. But instead of abandoning the multi-dimensional effect entirely, the team at the museum decided to take it a step further.
“We were very thorough in looking at possibilities,” explains Doty. “We are a museum of science after all!”
Doty wanted the content to have a message of science, and the experience to be as immersive as possible for the audience. The idea was to bring viewers inside the film, to not only be watching it, but truly experiencing it.
The museum chose Toronto-based SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment for the installation and content production. SimEx-Iwerks designs, builds and operates special effects-driven cinematic attractions. SimEx-Iwerks specializes in 3D and 4D theaters and the special effects involved in both.
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“We had been watching SimEx-Iwerks for a while,” says Doty. The company works with both the BBC and National Geographic as well as blockbuster movie production companies including Warner Bros., 20th Century FOX and Nickelodeon. The company’s content library seemed like a good mix of education and entertainment for the new theater.
The draw towards SimEx-Iwerks, besides its educational content, was this idea of the 4D Theater. 3D expands a film one dimension beyond the usual 2D theater screen, and 4D takes that a step further, involving the audience even more in the content, with special effects that entice the senses beyond mere vision.
“That’s what we had been looking for,” says Doty.
The doors closed on the 3D museum on April 1, 2014 for construction. It would take until August 1 until the unveiling of the new theater, which was much more than an adaptation of the old one.
“We wanted to build a new space, not squeeze into spaces that were available,” says Doty. “From the ground up, we built the infrastructure, and then SimEx-Iwerks came in and performed an installation of their materials.”
Calling it a “dust storm of activity,” Doty says the construction and following installation happened quickly and smoothly, and that the finished product was even more impressive than he had imagined.