Plugged In

That’s a wrap! Omnifest 2019 is coming to a close, and so is a remarkable career that shaped an industry

Friday, February 22, 2019
Posted by
Sarah Imholte

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Mike Day in Tanzania's Gombe National Park during the production of Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees

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Mike on the road with the Tornado Intercept Vehicle, one of the stars of the Tornado Alley film.

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Mike in the projection booth of the William L. McKnight-3M Omnitheater

As Omnifest 2019 draws to a close, the Science Museum is looking ahead to the future.

Later this year, the Omnitheater will say goodbye to film. For the past few years, we’ve been preparing for a conversion from our 70mm film projection system to a brand new, state-of-the-art digital laser projection system. The new system will allow for even better contrast, brightness, clarity, and color – features that you have come to expect in the Omnitheater. It will also open the Omnitheater up to a whole new inventory of digital film content that will become available in the coming years.

The Omnitheater will close in August for the final phase of the conversion. It will re-open in October 2019 as one of the first theaters in the IMAX laser dome community.

Our leadership doesn’t end with the transformation of the theater’s physical space, though.

“The Science Museum has always been a leader in this industry,” says Mike Day, executive vice president of the Science Museum and executive producer of the Omnitheater. “We’ve always been involved in the production and distribution of films. (Editor’s note: Science Museum of Minnesota-produced giant screen films have been seen by more than 70 million people in 35 countries and 159 cities,and millions more have seen them on VHS, laser disc, DVD, and Blu-ray.) We’ve built industry partnerships. We’ve been the beta site for this new digital projection technology, and we will be a leader in content production for the digital world, just as we’ve been in the film world.”

All five films in Omnifest 2019 are original productions from the Science Museum of Minnesota. “From Ring of Fire (1992) to National Parks Adventure (2016), this year’s line-up doesn’t just showcase the films that people keep asking us to bring back,” continues Day. “In Omnifest 2019, we are showcasing the Science Museum of Minnesota’s finest work in this format.”

Omnifest 2019 closes on Thursday, February 28. Learn more about the line-up, view trailers for each of the films, and find show times here.

Goodbye, Mike
With the close of Omnifest, the museum is preparing to say goodbye to more than just film. At the end of this month, the Science Museum – and the industry – will also say goodbye to Mike Day, the trailblazer who put the William L. McKnight-3M Omnitheater on the map and grew the Science Museum’s film production business into one of the most innovative and successful ventures in its history. Mike will retire from full-time work at the museum on March 3.

His face might not be familiar to many museum visitors, but his impact on your experience is enormous.

He opened the Omnitheater in 1978; at the time, it was only the second giant screen domed theater in the world. The theater was an instant visitor favorite, quickly establishing itself as a destination for inspirational, educational stories delivered via an unforgettable cinema experience.

After twenty years in its original location, the Omnitheater underwent a transformation for its next chapter in our current riverfront facility. Under Mike’s direction, the William L. McKnight-3M Omnitheater became one of only a handful of convertible dome IMAX theaters in the world, using one of the most technologically sophisticated theater systems to deliver the signature immersive movie experience that has made it a beloved destination for visitors of all ages. With the upcoming conversion from film to the IMAX digital laser projection system, Mike and his team are ushering the Omnitheater into yet another extraordinary chapter – a digital one.

Film production projects have taken him around the globe. He’s named as producer on 15 giant screen films, including favorites like Ring of Fire (the most popular film ever shown in the Omnitheater and in worldwide distribution), The Greatest Places (1998), Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees (2001), and National Parks Adventure (2016). With the Giant Dome Theater Consortium, of which Mike is the founder, he is currently leading the production of three new films, including the upcoming Cuba, which opens in the Omnitheater on March 1, and Volcanoes and Ancient Caves, which are currently in production.

Over the years, Mike’s focus at the Science Museum broadened to include special exhibits and visitor experiences. He led the teams that brought the blockbuster Body Worlds exhibition to the museum in the summer of 2006, as well as A Day in Pompeii in 2007, Titanic in 2009, The Dead Sea Scrolls in 2010, and King Tut in 2011. In addition to his work with the Omnitheater, Mike leads the facilities management team, and he oversees robust revenue programs that include event sales, parking, retail, and food service.

In a profile that appeared in the Star Tribune in 2004, writer Jeff Strickler wrote, “Day is…the Thomas Edison of his field, constantly pushing for new ways to display large-format movies. He’s a P.T. Barnum, too, never missing a promotional opportunity. And, not to be taken the wrong way, he’s also the Richard Simmons of the group, always bursting with energy and enthusiasm.”

Congratulations on an amazing career, Mike. Your passion and enthusiasm for your life’s work have made an impact on generations of visitors, and those qualities will lead us into the future - long after you’ve cashed in your airline miles for trips to more relaxing destinations!

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