MONTREAL — There’s a new museum in town, and this one is out of this world.
After a yearlong-plus hiatus, a move from downtown to the East End and a cost of $48 million (Canadian), the Montreal Planetarium, officially the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, is open for business.
The new planetarium offers a sleek look, high-tech design and a great location in Montreal’s East End — a far cry from its former downtown outpost. Originally opened by Mayor Jean Drapeau in 1966, the Dow Planetarium was once situated across from the Dow Brewery and tucked away near the back side of Place Bonaventure.
The previous space nonetheless received more than 6 million visitors between 1966 and 2011, according to the planetarium’s website. The new location — adjacent to the Biodome, Olympic Stadium and Saputo Stadium, home of the Montreal Impact professional soccer team — seems a natural to attract a larger crowd. Some remnants of the past are soon to follow as the statue of Copernicus and the sundial that once graced the former grounds will make their way to the new digs.
Montreal Planetarium features “Continuum,” a 25-minute multimedia space journey set to the music of Philip Glass, in the new Chaos Theatre. This is one beautiful trip to the cosmos and back.
The round viewing space of the Chaos Theatre makes every seat a good one. Visitors will need to get in line early to grab the most coveted seats of all: comfy beanbag chairs that let you sprawl on your back to look skyward. The remaining seats that line the perimeter are a nice local (enough) touch of wooden Adirondack chairs.
The show opens with an inviting full moon on a summer’s evening — plenty of crickets, frogs and fireflies provide a camp-side chorus to accompany the setting.
The skies soon turn dark, and the trip ventures past the thunderous cloud coverage to planets, asteroids, stars and beyond. In the depths of space, onlookers are greeted to sumptuous supernovas and sidestep solar flares. It’s a dizzying, dazzling display of surreal spiral galaxies and intergalactic constellations.