WASHINGTON — The old city of Jerusalem is the star of a visually stunning 3D Imax film thats bringing new attention to a non-Hollywood type of movie: short films that play in museums and science centers.
The movie, Jerusalem, produced by Cosmic Picture and Arcane Pictures and distributed by National Geographic Cinema Ventures, breaks ground from what are usually educational stories about nature, animals or science. Distributors say the film has had a successful first six months.
It opened in Washington at the Smithsonian Institutions National Museum of Natural History in September and will start showing Saturday in Raleigh, N.C., at the Marbles Kids Museum.
Its already playing in other museums around the country, from Boston to Seattle, as well as Charlotte, N.C.; Tallahassee, Fla.; Lubbock, Texas; Hutchinson, Kan.; and Columbus, Ga. It is already playing in London and Paris.
Jerusalems doing extremely well, said Mark Katz, the president of distribution for National Geographic Cinema Ventures, part of the National Geographic Society. Were very excited about it. Its one of the strongest films in the industry right now.
Jerusalem stands out not only because its so different from the usual educational film found in museums but also because it touches on the hot button issue of the Middle East.
It also has the star power and possibly even sex appeal of narrator Benedict Cumberbatch, a British actor who played Khan in last years Star Trek Into Darkness and also is known to U.S. audiences as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock, shown on PBS stations.
The power of Jerusalem is that it transports the viewer to the city of three religions Muslim, Christian, Jewish and showcases all its beautiful and historic sites, enhanced by the hands-on feel of the 3D Imax format. In aerial scenes, as well as from the ground, the camera follows the labyrinth of the city streets. It gives equal billing to the glistening Dome of the Rock, holy to Muslims as the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and which defines the city skyline; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, sacred to Christians as the burial and resurrection site of Jesus; and the Western Wall, venerated by Jews as the remaining wall of the temple destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.
The movie presents Jerusalem through the eyes of three young women a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian who see the small walled city, which is divided into religious sectors, entirely differently; a home to people of three religions who live side by side but dont connect.
The films box office gross so far is $2.5 million, and by the industry, Katz means the museum cinema business. In industry jargon, theyre known as institutional theaters, and 45-minute films, usually on science or nature themes, attract museum-goers at more than 200 such in-house cinemas. Its difficult to gauge box office grosses for all the movies.
The educational giant screen market does not collect box office data like the Hollywood film industry, said Kelly Germain, a spokeswoman for the Giant Screen Cinema Association in Holly Springs, N.C. Producers and distributors typically do not share their box office information.
Ticket prices run from $5 to $10 for adults, depending on the venue. Movies at these theaters play for months and even years, compared with the average of nine to 10 weeks for a successful run in commercial theaters.
Imax refers to the copyrighted film technology of wider, 70 mm film standard film is 35 mm enhanced by surround sound audio from a 360-degree radius and shown on a giant floor-to-ceiling screen that gives viewers a sense that theyre in the movie.
Its the finest visual resolution available, said Michael Cook, a Santa Barbara, Calif., independent producer of Imax movies who isnt affiliated with the Jerusalem movie. Its an immersion experience.
The films close-up look at holy sites is having a particular impact with some groups that dont traditionally gather to attend such industry films.
Weve found a large audience with church groups and religious groups, said Meaghan Calnan, the National Geographic Societys communications manager. At the Science Spectrum Museum and OMNI Theater in Lubbock, administrative manager James Nesmith said the film had attracted a new audience of older people and busloads of church groups, instead of children and families.
People come as far as two hours away, he said.
Kittie Hamersley, ministry assistant at the First Baptist Church of Crosbyton, Texas, 37 miles east of Lubbock, went with a group of 24 seniors from the church to see the film.
I was just really interested because Ive never been there, said Hamersley, who was particularly struck by the Western Wall. I really enjoyed being able to visualize that.
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