IMAX steers clear
of Darwin's theory
'It's not going to draw a crowd,
it is going to create controversy'
Posted: March 20, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com
Some IMAX theaters are refusing to carry movies that promote evolution, citing concerns that doing so offends their audience and creates controversy - a move that has some proponents of Darwinism alarmed over the influence of "fundamentalists."
It's a decision that affects not only the network of 240 IMAX theaters operating in 35 countries, but some science museums that show IMAX-formatted films.
IMAX, which bills itself as the "ultimate movie experience," promises to take viewers to "places you only imagined." The 8-story high screens and crystal clear images have made the theaters ideal venues for documentary science films showing the splendor of nature.
Now, however, about a dozen IMAX theaters, primarily in the South, are shunning movies that carry evolution themes, the New York Times reports. Fear of protests by those objecting to films that contradict the Biblical account of creation is cited as the reason.
A dozen science centers rejected the 2003 release, "Volcanoes," because of it speculation that life on Earth may have originated in undersea vents, says Dr. Richard Lusk, an oceanographer and chief scientist for the project.
Because a only small number of IMAX theaters show science films, a boycott by a few can reduce the potential audience to the point that producers question whether projects are financially worthwhile.
"We have definitely a lot more creation public than evolution public," says Lisa Buzzelli, of the Charleston, South Carolina, Imax Theater. "Being in the Bible Belt, ["Volcanoes"] does have a lot to do with evolution, and we weigh that carefully."
When the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History played the movie for a test audience, the responses were sufficiently negative for the museum to drop it from its offerings. Responses like "I really hate it when the theory of evolution is presented as fact," or "I don't agree with their presentation of human existence" doomed the film's chances.
"Some people said it was blasphemous," says Carol Murray, the museum's director of marketing. "If it's not going to draw a crowd and it is going to create controversy," she concludes, "from a marketing standpoint I cannot make a recommendation" to screen it.
The film's distributor says other science museum officials turned him down "for religious reasons" and because "Volcanoes" had "evolutionary overtones" - a claim that makes Hyman Field, a former National Science Foundation official who played a role in its financing, "furious."
"It's very alarming," he says, "all of this pressure being put on a lot of the public institutions by the fundamentalists."
The economics of large-format science documentaries being what they are, it might not take too much pressure for filmmakers to begin avoiding Darwin.
The films "are generally not big moneymakers," notes Joe DeAmicis, former director of the IMAX theater at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. "It's going to be hard for our filmmakers to continue to make unfettered documentaries when they know going in that 10 percent of the market" will reject them.
Bayley Silleck, who wrote and directed "Cosmic Voyage," another IMAX offering that drew religious complaints, expects to encounter criticism on his upcoming project about dinosaurs. While he's critical of "overcaution, overprotectedness" by theater operators, he recognizes that in the end, it's the audience that counts.
"We all have to make films for an audience that is a family audience," he observes, "when you are talking about IMAX, because they are in science centers and museums."
A Gallup poll, released earlier this month, reveals that 81 percent of U.S. teenagers believe God was somehow involved in human origins, with only 18 percent holding a purely secular view of evolution.