Ron Harris of the Airlie Beach Planetarium.
Ron Harris of the Airlie Beach Planetarium. Peter Carruthers

Big screen now bigger, better. But you'll have to wait to see it

CYCLONE Debbie has dashed his dreams for an Airlie Beach cinema at Beach Plaza, but Ron Harris's grand plan for a local planetarium and cinema is still in orbit.

Mr Harris said the "cyclone made a mess” of the building at Beach Plaza, and the focus had since been on repairing the damaged building.

He said he had not be able to move ahead with his plans for a 360-degree dome cinema in the complex, but had instead constructed a five-metre theatre dome which fit just under the four-metre high ceiling of his "hangar” home at Shute Harbour Airport.

The dome encases a cinema and planetarium.

"When you're in there, you can't tell how big it is.

"The screen is a planetarium screen which is overhead. We've also got simulated ski jump rides.”

Mr Harris, who has been working to finalise the $100,000 set-up, said he was now planning to buy land where he could establish a 12m cinema and dome planetarium that would show regular films as well.

"It's quite a big idea and we're in the early stages of it.

"We (my wife and I) love it all, it's fantastic.

"The films and videos are so immersing.”

He said the current residential dome fit well in his 16m square hangar - alongside his two helicopters.

Mr Harris, who has a background in computing, said he has two 360-degree cameras outside the planetarium, but he was planning on using them in the dome.

"The dome is like a big circus tent with an outside shell and an inside shell,” he said.

"The inside fabric is very intricately sewn, and joins with the outside fabric.

"A fan creates a vacuum between the two, which creates a perfect hemisphere screen on the inside.”

He said some of the components and projectors were sourced locally, while the dome had been bought from Fulldome.pro, imported and assembled.

"We have a lot of dinosaur shows and planetarium shows and explanations about the universe and the sun.

"I'm also planning to buy a 16-inch telescope so we can simulate a night sky, and we can look at it live, but from inside the dome.”


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