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March 12, 2007
Museum to Offer Special Theater

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Monday, March 12, 2007

By JEFF WRIGHT - Bulletin Staff Writer


The Hooker Furniture Corp. Theater at the new Virginia Museum of Natural History is so state-of-the-art that only a handful like it exist in the United States.

When the museum celebrates the grand opening of its new Starling Avenue location on March 31, area residents will have one of only 16 CineMuse theaters in the United States and Canada in their own backyard.

The CineMuse theater will seat 32 people and have a screen more than five feet tall and nine feet wide and a surround sound system that will blow people away, said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs at the museum.

Thirty-two seats is typical for museum theaters, he added.

The sound system, screen and high-definition projector will combine to show 15- to 30-minute films to create an experience that, visually and audibly, will be hard to match at other media venues, said Dr. Dennis Casey, director of education and public programs for VMNH.

Not only will the sound and video quality be top of the line, but so will the educational value of the programming selected to be shown in the theater, Casey said.

CineMuse is a network of museums, universities and cultural centers that offers an extensive library of educational programming that can be shown in member theaters.

More than 50 films were previewed by a group of educators, scientists and museum personnel.

They evaluated the films based on educational content and appeal to different age groups, Casey said.

From those, he said, four were picked that will be shown at the theater from the grand opening through sometime around the end of the summer.

The films will be shown at times to target specific age groups. Two of the films, for instance, are part of the "Nature Scopers" series, which is a cartoon series aimed at young audiences.

Those films will be shown Saturday mornings and at other times when children are likely to be at the museum, Casey said.

Another film that will run at the theater is "Weird Nature-Devious Defenses," which explores natural defense mechanisms that organisms have developed through adaptations to their environments. The film, which Casey said was selected on the basis of the quality of the program as well as its family appeal, will be shown at various times during the day.

The fourth film that will be part of the first rotation of programming was selected by the group because it is one of the "cornerstone" types of films and exhibits that the museum will build around, Casey said.

"Walking With Dinosaurs - A Time of Titans" is sure to be a family favorite at the museum, Barber said.

The technology in the theater will create an experience that is hard to find elsewhere, he added.

"When dinosaurs walk, you're going to feel it, you're not just going to hear it," Barber said.

Hopefully, the film will inspire children to "go out on their own, to feel like they're in power and to explore," he said. "All the questions have not been answered."?

Perhaps, he said, children will be inspired to become a part of science and help solve some of those questions.

Along with access to the vast library of films in the CineMuse network, being part of the network gives the museum the possibility of producing and distributing its own films about the work its curators do around the world, Barber said.

Visitors to the museum will be able to view films at no additional charge to the museum admittance fee.

Admission to the museum is $7 for adults; $6 for senior citizens (60 and older) and college students; $5 for children and youth 3 to 18; and free for members and children under 3.