Branson’s ‘big’ screen: IMAX offers alternative to traditional shows

1 Mar

I spent a few days in Branson last week, caught a couple of shows and checked out the spring line-up. I’d hoped for a 75-degree day boating on Table Rock and lounging in the sun, but February had another plan. My first morning in town was cold, wet, windy, rainy and 35 degrees — defiantly not pontoon boat and bikini weather.
Looking for a warn, dry and climate controlled attraction in which to while away a few hours, I stopped in at Branson’s IMAX Entertainment Complex, checked out the show schedule and picked up a couple of tickets.
I’d never been to an IMAX theatre and really didn’t know what to expect. The theatre’s offerings surprised me — in a History Channel sort of way — and it was hard to decide what to see. I opted for tickets to “Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West,” and “Hubble: In Deep Space with Astronauts.” All of the IMAX shows run around an hour, so I figured I see “Lewis & Clark,” grab a bite in the complex at McFarlain’s Restaurant and do “Hubble” after lunch.
The theatre’s line up also includes “Ozarks Legacy and Legend,” “Alaska: Spirit of the Wild” and “ Australia: Land beyond Time,” all hour-long, big screen — and, I do mean “big screen” — productions.
The IMAX screen stands six stories tall and 83 feet wide. The theater’s 12,000-watt, 44-speaker, digital sound system shook the theatre’s seats — and my kidneys — at several points during the features. Jim Stafford, Branson’s long-loved funnyman, introduced each movie and put the theatre’s digital sound and lighting system through its paces before each performance began.
My first feature, a National Geographic produced documentary detailed Lewis and Clark ’s two and a half year journey across the untamed American west. It was great. Educational and entertaining, the soaring camera shots and 80-plus foot wide panoramas reminded of the America’s beauty. I wasn’t the only one in the theatre who was wowed.
“We love it,” Daisy Ogden, a Huntsville, Ark. , resident told me after watching the Lewis and Clark feature. “We’ve been season pass holders for years. We come and spend the whole day watching movies.” Dester, Daisy’s husband and a former NASA engineer, chimed in.
“Some of the movies are so patriotic,” he said. “It makes you feel good about being American.”
After talking with the Ogdens a few minutes, I settled in at McFarlain’s Restaurant for a quick bite before “Hubble.”
Soon after I sat down my server brought out a big hunk of cornbread and I ordered lunch. The food at McFarlain’s was outstanding. Not to dwell on the corn bread, but it was the best I’ve every had — Sorry grandma. Fat and happy, I wandered back over to the IMAX theatre just as the “Ozarks Legends and Legacy” show ended. I stopped a couple exiting the show and asked them for a review.
“It is tremendous,” Coleen Savage, a Branson native, told me. “It’s like a movie of steroids. It makes you feel like you are there.”
Thomas, Coleen’s husband, said he loved the Ozarks history and stunning photography, but the technology behind the IMAX experience fascinated him.
“The story is good, but the way it’s shown in special. The technology is amazing,” Thomas said.
The theater also offers first run Hollywood films nightly.
I settled into my seat for a trip into space to learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope. The movie detailed the launch and multiple repairs to NASA’s high tech galactic spyglass and offered a look deep into space and back in time to the beginnings of the universe. The space shuttle crews operated the cameras and documented the Hubble missions.
“It’s phenomenal,” Exie Barber, a vacationer from Ellsworth, Kan., said. “The seating is perfect.”
“It’s very informational,” Pam, his wife, added. “With the rain it’s a good place to spend the day. We come a lot in the winter. When we come to Branson, we always do the IMAX.”

Want to go?
Branson IMAX Entertainment Complex
3562 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway
Call (417) 335-4832 or go to http://www.bransonimax.com
for ticket information and showtimes

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