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A seven-story screen puts you in the center of action...11 Imax theaters, Seattle to Tijuana.

Imagine you're looking out over the open bay of the space shuttle as it flies 280 miles above Earth. The bright ocean blues and sparkling white clouds of our planet cut an arc across the black of space beyond. A thumbnail moon can be seen in the far distance. Floating free, a space-suited astronaut in mid-bay turns an elegantly slow back flip.

Now project these images onto a three- to seven-story screen, embellish the scene with skin-tingling sounds, and you can start to imagine what watching in Imax film is like. It puts you into the center of the action in a way no ordinary screen presentation can.

Though this was a new concept in film making and film projection just 16 years ago, some 50 Imax films have now been made and 45 Imax and Omnimax (domed, with curved screen) theaters have opened around the world.

A dozen are here in the West; we give their upcoming shows.

Viewer-as-camera cinematography

Named for the Toronto-based company that developed the cameras and projectors needed to shoot and show the films, the first Imax movie was shown at the 1970 world exposition in Osaka, Japan. Another world exposition--Expo 86, opening in Vancouver this May--includes the largest Omnimax theater ever built.

The bigger the film frame, the better the picture quality--so Imax movies are shot on 70mm film with frames 10 times the size of conventional frames. As it rolls horizontally past the lens of the "rolling loop" projector, the film is held firmly against the lens by a vacuum. Hence the already extra-sharp images stay steady in projection.

Imax screens range up to 70 by 100 feet; Omnimax screens curve over the audience's heads. To maximize visual effects, seats are arranged in steep rows relatively close to the screen. Six-channel audio systems envelop viewers in sound.

Here's the list of the theaters and their shows. Call for directions and to confirm times. Ask about projection-room tours.

Three theaters in Washington,

two on former fiar sites

Seattle. Omnidome, Pier 59 Waterfront Park (near the aquarium); (206) 622-1869.

Built in 1979, this 233-seat dome offers free projection room tours on request. Rotating shows include Oceans and The Eruption of Mount St. Helens. Tentatively scheduled additions are Expo-Excitement and The Great Barrier Reef.

Shows run hourly from 11 to 9 daily except Sunday, when the last is at 7 P.M. Cost for a double feature is $4.50 adults, $3.50 ages 13 to 18 $2.50 ages 6 to 12. If you visit the aquarium or the nearby Museum of Sea and Ships, a combination price is available.

Seattle. Pacific Science Center Imax, on the site of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair; (206) 443-2001. Opened in 1979, the converted theater seats 382 people and sports a 34- by 58-foot screen. Screening daily through April is The Dream is Alive, a 40-minute film on the space shuttle program, shot by 14 astronauts on three separate missions in 1984.

Shows are presented on the hour from 11 to 3 weekdays and 11 to 5 weekends, with additional shows at 7 and 8 P.M. Thursday through Saturday. Admission is $3 for adults, $2.50 for ages 17 and under and seniors. Add $1 if you want to enter the center's science exhibit.

Spokane. Imax films first played here during Expo 74, after which the city built a permanent Imax theater in Reiverfront Park. The Dream is Alive shows daily through summer. Show times are hourly from 5 to 9 weekdays, 1 to 9 weekends. Cost is $3.75 adults, $2.75 ages 17 and under. Call (509) 456-5512.

Three in California, including the

world's first Omnimax dome

Santa Clara. The Pictorium, Great America Park; (408) 988-1776. Boasting a 70- by 96-foot screen, the 1,000-seat Pictorium will have The Dream is Alive. After winter closure, the park will be open on weekends onlyf rom March 15 through June 1, then daily through the summer. Park hours are 10 to 9 weekdays, 10 to 10 weekends; shows begin on the hour. Cost is included in admission to the park: $13.95 for ages 4 to 54, $8.50 for seniros. Great America is 45 miles south of San Francisco off U.S. 101.

Los Angeles. California Museum of Science and Industry, 700 State Drive, Exposition Park; (213) 744-7400. Opened in 1984, the L.A. Mitsubishi Imax theater adjoins the science museum on its eastern facade. Shows this month include The Dream is Alive, Chronos, and Speed. Times are about an hour apart from 10:15 to 8:30, Fridays and Saturdays to 10:15. Cost is $4 for adults, $2 for students and seniors.

San Diego. Balboa Park, Reuben S. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center; (619) 238-1233. The world's first Omnimax dome opened here in 1973; this month's fare features The Dream is Alive. Hours are 9:45 to 9:30 daily with shows almost hourly. Cost (including the science center) is $4.50 adults, $2.75 ages 5 to 15 and seniors.

Museum theater in Colorado,

casino Omnimax in Nevada

Denver. Denver Museum of Natural History's Phipps Imax Theater; (303) 370-6300. Renovated in 1983, this 441-seat auditorium features To Fly and Flyers. Show times are every 1-1/2 hours from 11 to 3:30 Mondays, 11 to 9:30 Fridays and Saturdays, 11 to 8 other days. Cost: $4.50 adults, $3.50 ages 3 to 12 and seniors.

Las Vegas. Caesar's Palace; (702) 731-7900. The nocturnally glowing, 367-seat Omnimax globe fronts Caesar's Palace on the STrip. Playing is the 40-minute Speed. Daily shows are on the hour from 11 to midnight. Admission is $3 adults, $2 ages 3 to 12 and seniors.

One in Arizona near Grand Canyon

National Park, one in New Mexico

Tusayan, near Greand Canyon National Park, 80 miles north of Flagstaff; (602) 638-2203. For careeningly close-up views of park scenery, watch Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets in the 500-seat Imax theater in Tusayan, 22 miles east of park headquarters on State 64. It plays on the half-hour from 8:30 to 8:30 daily; $5 adults, $3 ages 3 to 11, $4 seniors.

Alamogordo. Clyde W. Tombaugh Space Instructional Center; (505) 437-2840. This 40-foot-diameter Omnimax features Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets. Times are 10, noon, 2, and 4 daily. Cost: $3.50 adults, $2.50 seniors and children under 18. There's also a 7 P.M. triple feature show (laser show, planetarium show, and movie); all tickets for it are $3.50.

Omnitheater in a park

in Baja California

Tijuana. Tijuana Cultural Center; (706) 684-1111. The 303-seat Omnitheater stands as the focal point of the 9-acre cultural park. Everday at 2, you can see People in the Sun, a 45-minute trip through Mexico (in English). Cost is $2.45.
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Date:Mar 1, 1986
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