There've been rumblings about big changes for OMSI's Omnimax theater for a few months—I never heard anything quite solid enough to report, but they usually went along the lines of either (A) OMSI replacing their dome IMAX theater with a smaller, flat screen, or (B) OMSI going all-out and bringing an actual IMAX theater to Portland—unlike the expensive, IMAX-branded, and underwhelming "Liemax" screens at places like Lloyd Cinemas and Bridgeport Village. Rumor was that OMSI's would be like the IMAX at Seattle's Pacific Science Center, with a screen six stories tall.
I was pulling for (B), because a real IMAX would be rad to have in town—for both OMSI-friendly documentaries and big blockbusters, an actual IMAX would provide the motivation to see stuff in a theater that places like Lloyd Cinemas aren't currently offering. I'm also, to be fair, not a huge fan of the current theater at OMSI, as it's... well, kind of terrible? Domes might be great for
plane-ariums planetariums, but when it comes to watching anything that contains, say, straight lines, or human faces, or normal day-to-day objects, there's pretty much no way for OMSI to project anything on a domed surface without a majority of the audience being subjected to a grossly distorted picture.
Following a post on Reddit Portland (and a subsequent online petition) about upcoming changes, OMSI spokesperson Amita Joshi sent out an email on Friday night confirming that... well, something is happening with the theater. Sounds like it won't be a real IMAX theater, though—those still require 70mm film, and whatever the Omnimax is turning into, it'll be digital, with 4K projection (the same that's used by chain multiplexes, including Regal) and Dolby Atmos sound. (As of now, the only theater near Portland offering Atmos is Cinetopia Vancouver Mall, which charges an extra $2.50 for the privilege.) OMSI will also be playing "more mainstream content during off-hours."
The full press release is below; once OMSI decides to talk more about what, exactly, their plan is with the Omnimax space, I'll post 'em. Here's hoping that in one way or another, it's something that isn't already offered by other theaters in town.
While our present large format film projection system continues to entertain visitors we, like many theaters across the country, are facing the inevitable demise of the film format. The transition to digital is a reality for everyone.
In order not just to keep up, but to thrive in the changing business of theaters, planned upgrades include the addition of a state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos audio system and the latest 4K digital projection technology. This means we'll soon be able to show more content, and in many forms, including live satellite feeds, Blu-ray material, and content from computers. Furthermore, the wealth of new opportunities will not be limited to expanded educational and documentary programming. The changes will also enable us to show more mainstream content during off-hours. Another very important advantage: we'll finally have the ability to offer assistance to hearing impaired visitors, an option that does not exist in our current set up.
We understand that the OMNIMAX theater is an important part of the history of both OMSI and Portland. We respect and honor that history.
We must also adapt to meet the times. This upgrade allows us to continue to operate and to do so with expanded educational content. We believe that to be critical in delivering upon our mission of science education.
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