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Rangos Omnimax Theater to Close

The popular domed theater, a fixture of the Carnegie Science Center for 25 years, will close this July and be replaced with a state-of-the-art cinema.

photo courtesy carnegie science center

The Rangos Omnimax Theater, one of only about 50 of its kind in North America and a key feature of the Carnegie Science Center for a quarter century, will close this summer.

In a press release, the Science Center announced a farewell movie marathon for the domed theater, scheduled for July 8 and 9; the 31-hour, round-the-clock event will include more than 15 audience favorites from throughout the theater’s history, such as “National Parks Adventure,” “Born to be Wild” and “D-Day.”

In November, the theater will be replaced by the Rangos Giant Cinema, a brand new, state-of-the-art theater boasting what is believed to be the largest screen in the Pittsburgh area (at approximately 70 feet). The new, 3D-capable screen will be flat, unlike the domed format of the Omnimax Theater. In addition to educational documentaries like those traditionally shown at the Omnimax Theater, the Giant Cinema will show some Hollywood features; Chad Hunter, director of the new theater, mentioned “Justice League” and “Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi” as titles the Science Center hopes to screen at the Giant Cinema.

The upgrade will also offer 4K digital projection (the Omnimax Theater was only capable of traditional film projection, increasingly becoming a rarity) and Dolby Atmos surround sound; no area theater boasts the latter technology, an advanced system that adds overhead speakers to the traditional surround-sound setup.

“We want to provide our visitors with the future of cinema and the best possible experience,” says Connie George, the Science Center’s senior director of marketing and community relations. “You will be even more immersed into the movie than you have been in the past.”

“We’re sort of limited in terms of what is available on [traditional] 70 millimeter [film,] which is not very much at all,” Hunter adds; as the former director of the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, he oversaw a film-to-digital conversion at that theater as well. “That’s what this move is about: taking that next step to a next-generation theater ... and to eliminate the limitations that are placed on us by having this aging 70mm system.”

In addition to documentaries and occasional Hollywood features, the forthcoming Giant Cinema will offer special events and screenings of live broadcasts from around the world. “I think we want to be a model of the type of facility and organization that we are,” Hunter says. “If you look at the giant screens around the country, many of them are just showing traditional science and education documentaries. They haven’t opened their programming up to show Hollywood blockbusters and event cinema.”

Hunter acknowledges that Science Center visitors have a fondness for the Ominmax Theater. “People are attached to the dome, understandably ... But that presents its own set of limitations, format-wise; it’s not exactly how films are meant to be presented.” He says that fewer and fewer films — even among science and educational documentaries — are even made available for presentation in a domed cinema. The popular documentaries from DisneyNature, for example, have not been made available to domed cinemas.

The 31-hour farewell movie marathon for the Rangos Omnimax Theater runs from 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 8 through 5 p.m. the following day. Tickets, which include unlimited come-and-go privileges throughout the marathon, are $10 and include admission to the Science Center; guests will also receive a piece of 70-millimeter film to take home. A cash bar and food stations will also be available; more information will be available later this month on the Science Center’s website.


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