The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s IMAX Theater will reopen Thanksgiving weekend for seven weeks of spectacular films – including the holiday classic “The Polar Express” – in a memorable giant-screen finale.
The theater has been closed by the pandemic since March 13 and is slated for demolition in 2021 to make way for a federal railroad bridge replacement project. To send the theater out in glory, The Maritime Aquarium will use the theater’s final seven weeks to present as many as 22 fan-favorite movies from past three decades. Special COVID protocols include reduced theater capacity and enhanced cleanings between shows.
“Thanks to these incredible films, Aquarium audiences have journeyed to the bottom of the sea, encountered lions on the African plains, cheered on panda conservation in the bamboo forests of China and rocketed into orbit around the Earth, while also being inspired to discover the diverse wildlife right here in their own backyards,” said Aquarium spokesman Dave Sigworth.
The theater reopening gives audiences the chance to experience these movies one final time in Connecticut’s largest IMAX theater, with a screen that’s six stories high and eight stories wide. With its 70mm IMAX film projection, The Maritime Aquarium’s theater presents the brightest, clearest images at almost 10 times the resolution of standard-projection formats.
From Thanksgiving weekend through Martin Luther King Jr. weekend 2021, IMAX movies are expected to play during the day Thursdays through Sundays. The exception is the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day when movies will play daily. Single tickets will be available, as well as a multi-film pass.
“It’s been a wonderful run of spectacular movies that always have been gorgeous to see but – over the years – also have greatly deepened in their educational focus,” Sigworth said. “The novelty of the new giant-screen format in the 1970s and 1980s gave way over time to movies that were less intent on making audiences nauseous to movies with much more thoughtful content. We went from stocking the theater with ‘barf bags’ to providing schools with rich educational curricula created by the movies’ producers.”
The IMAX Theater has been part of the South Norwalk attraction since the Aquarium’s opening in July 1988. The iconic structure is even part of the city of Norwalk’s logo. But the theater needs to be removed to allow for the coming replacement of a railroad bridge that slots tightly between the theater and the Aquarium.
As the IMAX Theater plays through its final days, The Maritime Aquarium is working to open a new 4D Theater in late January at the opposite end of the facility.
“While we know many of our guests will mourn the IMAX Theater’s demise, we’re confident that they also will find that the 4D films are a very fun, educational and memorable shared experience,” Sigworth said.
With Connecticut operating in Phase 2 COVID-19 restrictions, the Aquarium is reducing the IMAX Theater’s capacity from 310 to 80, with seating in every other row and space between ticketed groups. Additional time is being added between shows to allow for enhanced cleaning of the theater.
Twenty-two different movies are expected to be shown in all over the seven weeks. The 45-minute movies will be presented each week under the different themes of “Land,” “Whales, Dolphins & Sharks,” “Sea” and “Adventure.” Still to come is a determination for who will decide the final film schedule Jan. 14-18.
The first theme – for movies Nov. 27-29 and Dec. 3-6 – is “Land” with expected titles of “Pandas,” “Beavers,” Africa: The Serengeti,” “Backyard Wilderness” and “Born to Be Wild.”
In addition, the Aquarium plans to screen the feature-length animated holiday movie “The Polar Express” on Fri., Nov. 27 and then on four Saturdays and Sundays: Nov. 28-29 and Dec. 5-6, 12-13 and 19-20. All “Polar Express” show times are 4:30 p.m.
IMAX movie tickets must be purchased separately when making the required online advance purchase of Aquarium tickets for timed entry. Film tickets also can be purchased at cashier windows after Aquarium admission.
Except for “The Polar Express,” IMAX movie tickets are $5 per person. Because “The Polar Express” is 90 minutes long, it’s specially priced at $11.50 for adults, $10.50 for seniors (65+) and $9.50 for children (3-12).
Tickets for just an IMAX movie without Aquarium admission also can be purchased online and at the theater. (IMAX-only ticket-holders must enter through the IMAX Theater doors at the south end of the Aquarium.) Because theater capacity is reduced and limited, purchasing tickets in advance online is strongly recommended.
Or film fans can purchase an IMAX Finale Pass, good for as many movies as they want, for $25 per person, or $20 for Aquarium members. Please note that pass-holders must reserve tickets for specific shows in person; advance reservations are not available to pass-holders and seats are not guaranteed.
See the entire IMAX finale movie schedule, view trailers and more – and reserve tickets – at www.maritimeaquarium.org.