"The Omnimax theatre is our largest single venue, so the potential to reach a large audience with a single activity is greatest in that space.”
America Wild: National Parks Adventure is an exciting and inspiring film. But as a Canadian science center, Science World British Columbia in Vancouver wanted to show some of the nature, history, and adventure that its visitors could experience in Canada’s own national parks. Science World just happened to be welcoming an outreach team from Parks Canada into the building for the summer, and they both shared similar goals, along with a specific goal of introducing visitors to Canada’s newest national park. Science World took advantage of the lucky timing to achieve both goals with one program.
Science World Public Program Specialist Jesse Brydle says, “Custom presentations paired with films are a great opportunity to link film content to your specific location, and to aspects of your mission that may not be fully covered by the film itself.”
Creating the program required input and involvement from a number of Science World’s departments, including Community Engagement (education), Customer Service, Information Technology, Theatre Projection, and, of course, their partners at Parks Canada.
Parks Canada’s outreach team created a brief visual slideshow and live presentation that were delivered prior to screenings of America Wild: National Parks Adventure. The slide show and presentation linked the American national park system featured in the film to its Canadian counterpart, with an emphasis on the Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve, which was established in December 2014. This program was one among a set of interactive shows and activities presented by the Parks Canada outreach team at Science World, which gave visitors an opportunity to engage with the Parks Canada team after the presentation and ask any questions that the presentation may have inspired.
Successes and Challenges
The presentation was delivered after most of the audience had entered the theatre, but before the scheduled start time of the film. Generally during this time, Science World plays an automated trivia slide show with some background music, but the audience is mostly just waiting for the film to begin. Audiences really appreciated the extra information and compelling images and video, with no additional time investment.
Technology was the biggest challenge. Because of the size of theatre, it was impossible to simply use a remote to control the slide show from the floor. Science World came up with a workable solution, but switching between the multiple projectors and video/audio inputs was more complicated than they would ideally have liked. This is an issue that Science World is working on simplifying in the future.
“For similar programs in the future, I would like to find a way to promote the pre-film program a little better,” says Brydle. “Audiences were informed that their film would feature a short presentation just before the start time, but I think we could have done a better job of communicating to the audience exactly what to expect. The audiences were very receptive to the presentations and largely considered it a welcome addition to the film experience, which was valuable to learn.”
The Parks Canada outreach team used their number of educational contacts as a metric for success. This program allowed them to reach some very large audiences with relatively little staff time and investment.
Science World tracked the number of people who attended the presentations. Science World and Parks Canada also hoped to educate the audiences about the Canadian national park system, and inspire them to visit some of their own national parks, though there isn’t a way to track that success directly.
Although Science World offers a limited set of preshow programs paired with specific films that classes are able to book as part of a field trip, this is the first time they had developed a program intended for the general public. After this program’s success, they intend to develop similar programs pairing films with educational activities for the general public again in the future.
“At Science World, we try to connect science to our visitor’s lives and existing interests in a relevant and salient way,” says Jesse Brydle. “Since the films shown in our Omnimax theatre always deliver such a sensory and emotionally engaging experience, linking educational activities to the film helps to make them more memorable and personal to our audience. The Omnimax theatre is our largest single venue, so the potential to reach a large audience with a single activity is greatest in that space.”
For more information on Science World’s program, contact:
Jesse Brydle, Public Program Specialist