Fort Worth to Get a New $21 Million Wonder Theater — New 8K Digitally Immersive Dome to Replace IMAX at Science Museum
True State of the Art Technology and a Little Jimmy Stewart to BootBY Courtney Dabney // 04.17.23
The Jane & John Justin Foundation Omni Theater will represent a giant leap forward complete with the latest technology.
A cutaway view of the new LED projection dome and seating inside Omni.
The Jane & John Justin Foundation Omni Theater will bring major upgrades to the historic theater
The dome will provide even more immersive viewing for live events, educational and regular films.
Images will come alive like never before in the new Omni Theater at Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
Jimmy Stewart exhibit opens at Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. Ramona Bass, Debbie Johnson Head, and Jane Schlanker help with the ribbon cutting. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
Jimmy Stewart works with Jane Schlansker of the Witherspoon Agency on the 1977 short film. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
The world’s first 8K LED digital dome of its size is going to transform the Omni Theater at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. The $21 million project means a complete redesign of the space — and is anticipated to take 16 months.
The newly revealed Jane & John Justin Foundation Omni Theater is receiving its major funding from The Amon Carter Foundation, The City of Fort Worth, The Jane & John Justin Foundation, Leo Potishman Trust, Tarrant County, The Burnett Foundation, William F. Scott Foundation, The Paul E. Andrews Foundation and The Ryan Foundation.
Originally opened in 1983 — yes, some 40 years ago — the Omni Theater utilized IMAX projection technology until it closed for good in 2020 during COVID. Visitors to the Omni Theater may recall beginning every journey being taken on a “Fort Worth Flyover” where everyone gasped right on cue as the floor seemed to fall out from under their Bell Helicopter as it flew over the Omni’s marvelous dome.
In fact, The Museum of Science and History has been an integral part of Fort Worth life for generations, having been founded in 1941. Generations of kids, including myself, were inspired by hands-on education at its Museum School.
“The Omni Theater is an integral part of the history of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History,” Fort Worth Museum of Science president Orlando Carvalho says in a statement. “We are excited to bring extraordinary learning to life through the installation of a brand-new, next generation digital 8K LED dome together with a much-needed modernization of our theater thereby delivering a complete transformation of the guest experience.”
Some may recall a previous plan called for the installation of a 4-D, fly-through-style installation called V-Drome, which was scrapped in favor of this new $21 million vision.
“The V-Drome experience would have required a complete demo of the Omni Theater,” Fort Worth Museum of Science and History marketing manager Abigail Hofbauer tells PaperCity Fort Worth. “After hearing from our guests, members and the Fort Worth community about their experiences and love for the Omni, we decided a complete renovation would allow for the nostalgia of an Omni visit but with an updated experience in technology.”
The original building reopened in 2009 with its vividly hued Sonoran Dessert palette, a $60-million redesign courtesy of Mexico City-based Legoretta + Legorreta, which included that hallmark golden tower. But the wing housing the Omni Theater went largely untouched at that time.
The planned upgrades will also bring the Omni Theater up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. The original building was created before ADA existed. Along with making it an ADA-accessible space, there will be a new lobby and a completely digitized 8K LED viewing experience, powered by Cosm Technology. Byrne Construction Services, the builders of the original Omni IMAX Theater, have been selected as the general contractor for the project with Bennett Partners providing the architectural design services. The 16 month redesign will begin next month.
“For so many, the Omni Theater is synonymous with nostalgia, community, wonder and fun,” Carvalho says. “This renovation will bring all of those emotions to our future guests and continue the museum’s tradition of interpreting the science and the stories of Texas and the Southwest.”
Jimmy Stewart Joins In
The new theater is not the only thing happening at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. A unique exhibition dubbed “An Unexpected Friendship: Jimmy Stewart’s Love for Fort Worth” is running through September 1.
On view is a rare collection of featured photos, scripts and artifacts from the legendary actor’s time in Fort Worth, beginning with his role in Strategic Air Command, which was filmed on location in 1954 at the then Carswell Air Force Base. Carswell was actually one of the original seven bases chosen to house the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command (SAC) capabilities between 1946 and 1992.
Visit Fort Worth utilized a short film called Fort Worth: The Unexpected City in its newest cinematic marketing campaign. The film was first captured in 1977 by Jane Schlansker while she was at the Witherspoon Agency. She later owned her own Fort Worth-based PR company called InterStar Public Relations. The film features many iconic Fort Worth faces (including Steve “Cowboy” Murrin) and places (like the famous Water Gardens) along with the casual and reassuring voice of Jimmy Stewart.
“When I was approached by Visit Fort Worth, I was actually in the process of closing down my office,” Schlansker tells PaperCity Fort Worth. She notes that she had retained all the old film footage, including outtakes and never before seen footage that could be utilized.
This new Jimmy Stewart exhibit came out of a collaboration between Visit Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the Fort Worth Zoo and the Fort Worth Aviation Museum. Much of the personal memorabilia is on loan from Debbie Johnson Head, who has been their keeper ever since the passing of her grandparents F. Kirk and Bess Johnson, who were longtime friends of Jimmy Stewart.