President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the first and only IMAX theater in Hawaii at the Church-owned Polynesian Cultural Center to the showing of unique films "which will bring people closer" to the Lord "that they might live and labor together in harmony and love."
The dedicatory ceremony was held Jan. 18 and was attended by several hundred special guests including Church, state and civic leaders, as well as tourist industry executives and others.At the ceremony, President Monson praised "those who had the vision to dream great dreams and then dared to fulfill them" in bringing the cultural center's new 600-seat HAWAIIMAX Theater to reality.
"It's one thing to have a theater, but it must have equipment," President Monson told the audience. "I thank Almighty God that the inspiration has come to men's minds to design and invent and to bring to reality equipment which makes this theater such a unique facility."
IMAX, a registered trade name derived from "image maximization," is the largest film format in commercial usage. It uses 700mm film that is run horizontally through a special IMAX projector, resulting in extra-large motion pictures. The screen at the center's HAWAIIMAX Theater is 65-feet high and 96-feet wide.
Seating tiers in an IMAX theater are much steeper than in a regular theater so all viewers are relatively closer to the screen, enhancing the perception of being in the picture. Additionally, HAWAIIMAX Theater features a six-channel surround-sound system with more than 50 speakers and more than 15,000 watts of power to complete the audio-visual spectacle.
"You can't have the spirit that we are planning to have in this theater without a film, and that had to come under the inspiration of heaven," President Monson explained.
The Polynesian Cultural Center features its own new 40-minute IMAX film, "Polynesian Odyssey," which was shot on location in Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, Tahiti and Easter Island. In epic proportions, it will transport the center's nearly 1 million visitors a year to those fabled islands and dramatize life themes that led ancient Polynesians to explore and populate all the major islands long before Columbus discovered the New World.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Kieth Merrill, a member of the Church who has also done other IMAX films on the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and the Alamo, produced and directed "Polynesian Odyssey" for the center. Merrill, along with Ralph G. Rodgers Jr., a former general manager of the cultural center, co-authored the film's script. Merrill Jenson, another Church member, composed the music.
"We are mindful of our responsibility to present in the films in this theater that which will be uplifting, that which will be ennobling, and that which will make us better people. We're going to see, we're going to hear, we're going to feel the message of this film as it surrounds us and engulfs us in a way that we have not experienced before," President Monson said.
The dedication ceremony for the new theater was held in conjunction with the Polynesian Cultural Center's board of directors meeting. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve and chairman of the center's board, who conducted the dedicatory ceremony, explained the rationale for building the facility:
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns and operates the Polynesian Cultural Center to preserve and showcase the cultures of Polynesia, to assist young men and women in the sacred work of learning, to support the great community in which they live, and to showcase our message - the message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, about His atonement and about the brotherhood of men everywhere.
"We are thrilled that the HAWAIIMAX Theater increases our capability to provide jobs and support for the students of BYU-Hawaii, and jobs for members of the community and support for the economy of Hawaii," Elder Oaks continued.
"The Polynesian Cultural Center is a great instrument for accomplishing all of these objectives; and that instrument becomes stronger because of this theater and because of the film that we'll see and other films that will be prepared in due course to be shown here."
Other speakers on the dedication program included Benjamin L. Cayetano, lieutenant governor of Hawaii, who read a message from Gov. John Waihee: "This innovation will only serve to enhance the superb entertainment and educational experiences offered at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Congratulations to those who have made this exciting addition to the center a reality."
James P. Christensen, president of the Polynesian Cultural Center, recalled a breakfast meeting recently with Gov. Waihee. "He said one of the things we need to do in Hawaii is to preserve and present our culture better. And tonight, we have partially fulfilled his request."
Following the dedication program, which also included participation by several center employees and a Tongan community choir, the audience enjoyed the gala premiere showing of "Polynesian Odyssey," Then, in typical Polynesian style, the guests boarded canoes for a torch-lit trip down the center's lagoon to a special luau-style reception.