Vancouver planetarium douses lasers after three decades

During 1980s, planetarium staged light shows six nights a week

Laser light shows at the planetarium will fizzle at the end of the month with the last Dark Side of the Moon, Jan. 28.

The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre announced in November that it wont proceed with the shows that have drawn music lovers, stargazers and stoners to the domed-roof venue for more than 30 years.

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People are heartbroken. It is a Vancouver institution, said Craig McCaw, head of Roundhouse Productions, which mounts the multimedia shows. When this first happened, I noticed this in late October, November, seeing a lot of 10, 11, 12-year-old kids in there. People come up and say, Well we wanted our kids to see this Vancouver classic before it disappeared.

Space centre executive director Rob Appleton says the institutions programming aspirations dont leave room for the Roundhouse shows. When the 43-year-old non-profit-run centre completes its planned upgrades, it wants to feature its own events, including increasing its overnight adventure sleepovers for kids in Cubs and Scouts, instead of renting space to what Appleton said has become less of a partner and more of a third party business over the years.

McCaw, guitarist with the 1960s and 70s band The Poppy Family, and Roundhouse co-founder and radio DJ Long John Tanner, first produced astronomy shows for the planetarium in the 1970s before following up with the laser and light shows.

In their heyday in the 80s, the laser and light shows animated the planetarium six nights a week. McCaw said the local production has always boasted the highest attendance statistics among planetariums in Canada.

Other planetariums have spent millions installing HD video technology to lure visitors, and Roundhouse Productions hopes to capitalize on that. For the first time, our shows can travel, said McCaw, whos in his 60s. Weve already got offers from new planetariums that have converted over to this new technology, both in the States and in Canada, that have given us offers to do shows.

Roundhouse stitches together 300 slides in a carousel projector to layer images, star projections and lasers, so its previously been unwieldy to transport its shows.

McCaw also sees the potential for collaborations with musical artists. He said bands Cold Play and Radiohead have helped promote laser light shows, and Roundhouse has been talking to the touring group NKOTBSB, (New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys), about the possibility of creating a daytime show to draw kids to planetariums.

Only 15 opportunities remain to catch the laser light shows at the space centre with Radiohead, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon shows on Friday nights and two Pink Floyd shows on Saturdays.

The PEAK radio station will host the last Radiohead show Jan. 27 for $1.05 entry and Rock 101 will host the last Dark Side of the Moon show for $1.01 entry. Were advising people to get there early because they are lined up out down into the street and they have been selling out, McCaw said.

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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