Editor’s note: This story was updated on Feb. 3 to correct the date “Anaconda”. It will be shown at the Wilmette Theatre on March 28 at 7 p.m.
WILMETTE – The Wilmette Theatre’s new Science on Screen film series will provide North Shore residents a unique opportunity to delve into scientific topics while enjoying an entertaining movie.
The Wilmette Theatre partnered with the Field Museum of Natural History to pair popular films with notable scientists to present and lead discussions on relevant scientific topics such as the environment, evolution and protecting wildlife and endangered species.
The theater was awarded a grant from the Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to present Science on Screen, a national program that pairs screenings of classic, cult, science fiction and documentary films with presentations by notable science experts. Wilmette Theatre is one of only 35 nonprofit theaters across the country to receive this grant in 2016 and the only theater in Illinois.
“We are really excited about the opportunity to do something like this,” Wendy Sharon, director of the Wilmette Theatre, told DailyNorthShore.com.
Sharon learned about the grant at a conference for independent art house theaters and was intrigued. She thought Science on Screen offered a unique opportunity to reach families in the community by providing a program both entertaining and educational. “We feel this is something that will bring a lot of value,” she said.
The grant provides a list of movie options that participating theaters can select depending on local audiences and scientific expertise. “What’s nice about the grant is you can tailor it to your audience and the expertise in your community,” Sharon said.
When Sharon saw the film The Birder’s Guide to Everything was one of the film selections, she knew immediately it would be a perfect choice for the Wilmette Theatre. The film features actress Katie Chang, who is from Winnetka and trained at the theater’s Actors Training Center.
Sharon contacted Mary Hennen, director of the Chicago Peregrine Program, who also works at the Field Museum, to see if she would be interested in presenting at Birder’s Guide. Hennen was enthusiastic about the idea, which ultimately led to a partnership with the museum for the entire program. “It just really came together for us,” Sharon explained.
The opportunity for a small nonprofit theater to partner with the Field Museum is not lost on Sharon. “It is very exciting to me to have the opportunity to work with them,” she said. The Field was interested in Science on Screen partly because it presented an opportunity to reach more suburban residents, according to Sharon.
The series includes three films. “We tried to select films that would be entertaining and link the science portion of it,” Sharon said.
- Crowd-pleaser Jurassic Park kicks off the series on February 4 at 2 p.m. Dr. Peter Makovicky, who chairs the Field Museum’s Department of Geology, pairs Jurassic Park with a presentation. Dr. Makovicky’s research focuses on dinosaurian evolutionary history.
- The horror film Anaconda is second in the series and will be shown on March 28 at 7 p.m. It is paired with Lesley de Souza, a conservation biologist and explorer.
- Birder’s Guide will complete the series on April 22 at 2 p.m., when Hennen plans to bring a live falcon to the theater.
Sharon views the Science on Screen program as an opportunity for families to spend time together and learn something new. Two of the films will be shown in the afternoon, specifically with families in mind. She also thinks the series serves the theater’s broader mission to serve the community and has plans to continue it in the future.
“We see the (Wilmette Theatre) as a place to have fun and build community spirit,” she said.
For more information about the program and to buy tickets, visit www.wilmettetheatre.com.