A state-of-the-art film projection system. Plush, high-backed seats. An expanded stage. These are the most visible improvements that Aquarium members will see after the Simons Theatre renovation project.

However, what they won’t see will be just as impressive.

The theater will be closed from January 1 through February 14, 2020, for the replacement of the nearly 20-year-old projection system with an advanced laser cinema projector that will produce razor-sharp and high-contrast images while reducing electricity usage by almost 40%. The new system will provide Aquarium audiences with a wider selection of films, including 3-D films in a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly way.

More comfortable seating and a new 1,800-square-foot stage will be constructed under a giant 80-foot-wide, 43-foot-high projection screen. The new stage area can host presentations, large receptions, corporate events, and other mission-based functions. Even the carpeting we are using supports our sustainable initiatives; its yarns are completely recycled from discarded fishing nets!

Simons Theatre
Above, the Simons Theatre is shown before the renovation project. Below is a rendering of the theater after the work is complete.
simon theater IMAX Renderingdec2019

These improvements will also allow us to expand and enhance our legacy of educating the public about environmental and conservation issues. Since 1972, the Aquarium has been providing free lectures and films by scientists, environmental writers, photographers, and others through the generosity of the Lowell Institute. The theater also hosts daily films with stunning images that take you places you have only dreamed of going.

The new film technology uses lasers that do not heat up. Gone will be the air compressors and water pumps—and their labyrinth of hoses and ducts—that are needed to cool the old system’s xenon lights, which produced a great deal of heat while creating a bright enough light for our film projection.

Going digital will also mean no more film, which will eliminate waste and reduce the resources used in production and shipping.

A new screen and state-of-the-art sound system will be added, as will new 3D glasses and a glasses cleaning system. Like the projection system, the cleaning system will use less water, less electricity, and is smaller.


New England Aquarium members

Aquarium members will be invited to join us for an exclusive look at the improvements at a Members Movie Night in the Simons Theatre on Saturday, March 7.

Additionally, to ensure you are still able to make the most of your member benefits, once the theater has reopened, any unredeemed Simons Theatre passes for members with active memberships (Standard 4 and above) during the renovations will receive extensions.

Here’s how:

Memberships with expiration dates between January 31, 2020, and February 28, 2021, will be able to use any unredeemed passes for an additional six weeks after their current membership expires. Passes can be picked up at Member Services in the Aquarium Lobby starting on the first day of the extension period through the last.

For example, members with a March 31, 2020, expiration will be able to access unredeemed passes from April 1 through May 15, 2020.

Any passes included in new or renewed memberships that start on March 1, 2020, will not be affected. Please contact members@neaq.org if you have any questions.