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Al Columbo Reports on His IMAX Experience, Part I

Part I: In the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater


The gigantic dome screen was aflutter with enormous butterflies, 15-feet across, by the time I settled into the theater. It had been more than 25 years since I had been there. I thought I knew my way around, but I was guided to a seat straight in from the door as I was arriving late.

 “Dad, is the movie over?” I heard a young voice in the seat next to me.

 “No, son, that was just a preview,” his father said.

As my eyes adjusted to the dark I could see a toddler and his father sitting next to me in the mostly empty theater. The thought crossed my mind that it was odd for me to sit next to a kid that I didn’t know, but I was quickly distracted by the splendor on the screen.

The Reuben H. Fleet was one of my favorite places to go to when I was a young boy in the 1970s. I remember marveling at the exhibits and thinking that the theater was mesmerizing; it still is. I just happened to get a free offer to revisit the Fleet so I took it. After a tour of the IMAX projector in the basement, I was ushered in to see the new movie Rocky Mountain Express. I had seen the commercials and I was excited to see it. The movie is about the construction of the train system in western Canada. I am a bit of a history buff and am very interested in how things were built.

The movie is full of many amazing shots, breathtaking and spellbinding vistas of the staggering heights and deep valleys of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The documentary follows the construction of the railroad and the men who built it.

The little boy sitting next to me asked his dad a lot of questions. I didn't mind because I was so into the movie.

 “Is that where Grandma lives?” the boy asked.

 “No, son,” his dad replied.

 “Did that guy die?” The boy asked.

 “Yes, now be quiet and just watch,” the man said. “Ask me questions after the movie.”

The Giant Dome screen makes every scene look amazing. I really liked the sweeping shot; racing a train along the edge of a cliff.

 “How did they do that dad?" the boy asked his father.

 “Shhhhhh,” the man responded.

But the kid asked what I was wondering too. It looked too real to be animation, but too dangerously close to be a helicopter. Maybe the camera was mounted on a drone. They can go everywhere.

By the time the movie was over I realized the kid next to me hadn't spoken for quite a while. The film had silenced him. He fell asleep and his dad had to wake him up. I thought that was kind of cute. I know that making the child understand what the movie was about was not important. What was important was that the father and son had created a happy memory, something that money cannot buy.

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