IMAX gets science lesson

Exhibs pass on 'Volcanoes' fearing creationist protests

The nation’s culture wars took a new turn last week with news that Imax science doc “Volcanoes of the Deep” has had trouble getting bookings in the South because the large-format film makes references to evolution.

And museum programmers in places like Fort Wayne, Tex., and Charleston, S.C., say fears of being picketed by creationist Christians hang over all their decisions, including which Imax films they book.

But Imax doesn’t seem to be sweating the issue.

Though the large-format purveyor has its roots in such science centers, the company’s growth strategy is to promote theaters that show Hollywood product like “Robots,” “The Polar Express” and the upcoming “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” rather than science docs like “Volcanoes.”

Of the 11 new theaters Imax sold its equipment to last year, 10 were commercial locations and just one was institutional. And of the 149 Imax locations in the U.S., there’s now a near-even split between commercial sites (75) and institutional ones (74).

The kerfuffle over evolution and Imax has been more about skittishness by non-profit institutions than a response to any public protest by creationists. For the most part, Imax theaters at science museums depend on school field trip auds so they’re controversy-averse.

Officially, Imax, which didn’t produce “Volcanoes,” is trying to stay at arm’s length from the controversy, issuing a statement that independently-owned Imax theaters “make their own independent programming choices.”

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