The Louisiana Arts & Science Museum is reopening the Irene Pennington Planetarium on Friday after three months of renovations and well ahead of an international conference planned here next summer, its director said.
The planetarium will show Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon and Digital Universe on Friday and will add new shows two weeks later, said Jon Elvert, planetarium director.
“In the last couple of years, it’s become apparent that especially the seating was going to have to be replaced,” Elvert said.
Workers also replaced the carpet and removed the original large-format camera equipment, he said.
Although it was considered up-to-par in 2003 when the planetarium opened, planetarium audio-visual technology has progressed a lot since then, Elvert said.
Another problem with the old equipment was that it was bulky and took up much of the center of the theater, Elvert said.
By removing the old equipment, the planetarium has a new front row of seats, as well as unobstructed sight lines throughout, he said.
The planetarium has increased its seating from 143 to 171, adding “some of the best seats in the house,” Elvert said.
“We’re pretty excited about it, and we thought if we’re going to do anything as far as upgrades, this is the time to do it,” Elvert said.
In July, the Baton Rouge museum will host the International Planetarium Society Conference, he said.
The conference was last held in 2010 in Alexandria, Egypt, and is scheduled to be in Beijing, China, in 2014.
Elvert said the conference will serve as an expo for the latest in planetarium creative work and technology, and he said it made sense to do the renovations ahead of its arrival.
“Dozens of vendors and exhibitors from around the world will be there with different hardware and software,” Elvert said.
The renovations over the past three months, which the museum estimates cost $310,000, did not deal with the planetarium’s technology, he said.
The museum is raising money to upgrade its equipment, Elvert said.
He declined to give the fundraising goal or how much has been raised so far, but did say he’ll know in about a month how much money they will have to work with.
“We target the end of the year because we have to order the stuff,” Elvert said. “This equipment is not off the shelf.”
Higher resolution digital video, perhaps 3-D projection, are among the options depending on how much they raise, he said.