Since opening nearly five years ago, the Maryland Science Center's IMAX Theater has been the site of a series of short films on natural and scientific subjects, ranging from the semi-underwater world of beavers to the broad horizons of flight.
Beginning Friday, however, it will be the scene of something quite different. That's when "At the Max," a full-length, 89-minute concert film shot during the last leg of the Rolling Stones' 1990 "Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle" tour, makes its East Coast premiere on the 55-foot-high by 70-foot-wide screen.
"It's very different from what we do," Jim O'Leary, director of the Science Center's IMAX Theater and Davis Planetarium, says of the film. "We're looking at it as a method of creative financing. What we want to do is raise money to support our educational programs. We're hoping it will take the place of funding levels that have dropped because of the recession."
Mr. O'Leary says "At the Max" is expected to attract "thousands" of patrons during its 10-week run of Thursday-through-Sunday hTC night screenings, and could result in a "six-figure" profit to the Science Center. Three thousand advance tickets, available at the Science Center box office and through Ticketmaster, have been sold for the 400-seat theater since going on sale Nov. 1.
Daytime visitors to the Science Center will hardly be aware of "At the Max," aside from a few promotional brochures, he adds. "Ring of Fire," a film about volcanoes, will continue through Dec. 13; "Race the Wind," a film about sailing, opens the next day.
Andre Picard, vice president of the Toronto-based IMAX Corp. and executive producer of the film, says the Rolling Stones agreed to the project after seeing "Beavers" and then seeing a rough mix of a test shooting of their concert.
Mr. Picard says "At the Max," which was made with the most up-to-date technology, stands out among other concert films in the way it captures the "physical and emotional presence" of a show from "beginning to end." But he also says it is a "study in human behavior" of performers on stage.
It is also a film for which scientific and cultural institutions, which have the bulk of the 75 IMAX theaters worldwide, need not apologize for showing, he says.
"The Rolling Stones are a cultural phenomenon. This film captures for the first time the energy and spectacle of their live performance."