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When directors at the Koch Immersive Theater & Planetarium promise patrons an immersive experience, they’re not kidding.
“The 360-degree experience puts guests inside the story. Instead of merely being a viewer of show, the film is all around them,” said Karen Malone, Ruby C. Strickland curator of education for the Evansville Museum, which houses the theater. “It creates a sense of excitement—it’s an experience they cannot get elsewhere.”
Dome Technology built the concrete dome used as the planetarium screen. Movies fill the interior surface of the dome for what’s known as a fulldome experience, or a film being projected in 360 degrees with the picture covering the surface. Dome Technology was well suited for the project after nearly 40 years of building curved structures.
“From Dome Technology’s early beginnings to present day, we have continued to innovate in our construction methods, in particular the size and shapes of our structures. The ability to economically build a spherical-shaped structure for the planetarium was key to the success of this planetarium project,” said Dome Technology sales manager Daren Wheeler.
According to Mitch Luman, director of science experiences at the museum, the theater primarily shows giant-screen movies and traditional planetarium films, screening more than 1,000 movies and 300 planetarium shows a year. It also plays host to film festivals, community events, and private parties.
But perhaps the most important work done in the planetarium happens on the education side. According to Malone, 6,500 students and adult chaperones visit the theater annually for field trips; favorite films include Sea Monsters, Flight of the Butterflies, and Wildest Weather in the Solar System.
“Teachers love selecting a show because the educational films tie into the academic standards they are teaching in the classroom. The students love the films because it is an immersive experience that is unlike anything they have seen before on YouTube, a traditional movie theater, or in the classroom,” she said.
Learning new things, whether as adults or children, has a lasting impact when the audience feels a part of what they’re watching.
“Bigger is better,” Luman said. “We have the largest projection screen, by area, in town. The result is a truly immersive experience for our visitors.”
Photos of completed project courtesy Evansville Museum