Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Maritime Aquarium opens new SimEx-Iwerks 4D theater

The guest experience at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk goes to a whole new additional dimension – literally – on Feb. 22 as the South Norwalk family attraction officially debuts its sensational new 4D movie theater. 

This new cinematic experience sends the action visually spilling off the two-story screen and over audiences in 3D, in addition to such thrill-enhancing sensory special effects as bubbles, snow, wind, mists and more.  

“We’re very excited for our guests to have this fun, new, immersive way of exploring and understanding our world,” said Jason Patlis, president and CEO of The Maritime Aquarium. “Having a shark swim right off the screen so that you believe you can touch it and feeling the spray as an ocean wave crashes will be memorable shared experiences for kids and parents, students and teachers, young and old. Including a 4D movie is going to be a must during a visit to The Maritime Aquarium.” 

Built in partnership with SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment, the 169-seat state-of-the-art theater premieres with two films that play every hour throughout the day: 

•  BBC Earth’s “Shark: A 4D Experience” puts audiences face to face with some of the world’s most strange and mysterious shark species. (The 12-minute film pairs perfectly with the Aquarium’s biggest collection of large sharks in New England, as well as its “Shark & Ray Touch Pool.”) 

•  And for pure family-entertainment fun, the 9.5-minute “Ice Age: No Time for Nuts 4D” follows the nut-crazed saber-toothed squirrel as he time-travels in his zaniest adventure yet. (Remember that Long Island, and Long Island Sound, was formed during the last ice age.)  

Tickets for a 4D movie are $7 per person ($6 for members) in addition to Maritime Aquarium admission: $26.95 adults; $24.95 seniors (65+); and $19.95 for children (3-12). 

The opening of the theater shifts the Aquarium’s main entrance back to its bus circle, at Ann and North Water streets. Guests – who currently are required to purchase their tickets in advance online for timed entry – enter with the options of going to the theater, to the Aquarium or to the new Sound Bites coffee shop proudly serving Starbucks’ full menu of hot and cold drinks. Pastries and other items from a rotating lineup of area bakeries are sold as well. (The Aquarium’s Cascade Café remains open on weekends with a broader selection of food and drink.) 

“We look for ways big and small to support the local community, and welcoming some of the area’s wonderful bakeries to provide a steady supply of pastries and other foods to the Sound Bites coffee shop is a delicious idea,” Patlis said.  

Patlis noted that the new theater is a multipurpose asset also capable of 2D and 3D digital screenings, and is perfect for hosting lectures and other Aquarium special events. The theater also is available for multimedia corporate presentations and other rental opportunities. 

“We intend to take full advantage of this exciting new resource, with animal and art talks relating to our new exhibit called ‘A Slug’s Life: Facing the Climate Endgame,’ plus a spring lecture series, and other special presentations,” he said. 

The Maritime Aquarium will meet or exceed state and federal COVID-19 guidelines regarding theater capacity, cleaning between shows and other protocols. Special 3D glasses worn by guests during the movies are turned in and machine-cleaned after every show. The Maritime Aquarium’s new 4D Theater was built and will operate in partnership with SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment, the expert in integrating the highest-quality 3D high-definition projection with in-seat and in-theater effects to create fully immersive experiences. SimEx-Iwerks has successful partnerships with more than 40 museums, zoos and aquariums across North America, including the Central Park Zoo, San Diego Zoo, and Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium. 

The 4D Theater replaces the Aquarium’s original IMAX movie theater, which closed Jan. 18 to make way for a federal railroad bridge replacement project. A second simultaneous Aquarium construction project in response to the bridge work – a 150,000-gallon fully enclosed seal exhibit – is expected to open in May. Funding for the theater and the seal exhibit came from a $40 million “functional replacement” agreement between the City of Norwalk and State of Connecticut negotiated because of the adjacent bridge project. 

Learn show times, prices and more – and reserve tickets – at www.maritimeaquarium.org.

IMAGES courtesy The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

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